On The Cover: Recognizing Artist Bob Hainstock

Anna Horsnell

Something new but perhaps long overdue. Over the last several months, visual artists from Windsor to Annapolis Royal were invited to nominate a fellow artist who they felt deserved recognition for both their art career and their contribution to the Valley art community and community at large. What followed were very thoughtful nominations acknowledging those artists who go above and beyond, artists who share their creativity, and their time and effort to make a difference.

To be recognized by one’s peers is perhaps the sweetest of achievements, to be acknowledged by those who do what you do, those who understand the challenges of art-making. Multiple nominations added up for several well-known artists. Special mention must go out to both Ron Hayes and Tacha Reed, recognized by many for all that they do. Know that your efforts are very much appreciated.

The artist who received the most nominations however was described eloquently in several of many tributes: “innovative painter and printmaker, award-winning author, generous educator, and long-time promoter and supporter of the artistic community in Nova Scotia,” and, “a person who has worked hard at his craft, produced and shown his works with great drive, and pushed hard to get a cooperative gallery going in a challenging area.” They describe Mr. Bob Hainstock.

His resume tells the tale of a boy from the prairies, first enamoured by the written word and then by art, drawn to Nova Scotia by a job opportunity that would eventually lead to an art degree from NSCAD University. As with any success story, what has followed are years of hard work, many exhibitions, teaching positions, accolades and awards, and a dedication to sharing his love of art with fellow artists, but more importantly instilling that appreciation for art in his community.

The Printmaker Studio and Hainstock Gallery perches on the edge of the North Mountain with a mesmerizing, eagle-eye view of the Valley below and no shortage of inspiration. Hainstock and his wife Judy welcome visitors with generous smiles and hospitality. Visiting recently to pass on my personal congratulations, we sat down amidst the prints and paintings, the brushes and printing press, to discuss art and community, having no regrets, and doing what you love:

First, congratulations once again! What does this peer recognition mean to you?

I have to admit that I struggled with the news of being singled out for this kind of recognition—a situation made more awkward by the fact that I had made a list of 4-5 deserving artists and my name wasn’t one of them. But I also had trouble picking a single individual who stood well apart from the others— so many artists contribute to our community that it’s almost impossible to shine a spotlight on just one. But, of course, I do appreciate this kind of peer recognition and it means more than any other kind of award. It also provides an unexpected satisfaction at this late stage of a storytelling career, as well as an opportunity to remind everyone how important a supportive partner can be in the uncertain, unusual, and unpredictable world of art. Without Judy’s encouragement and practical support, there would be no art school, no studio, no crazy ideas that actually turned out alright sometimes.

Looking back over your art career here in the Valley, what events or accomplishments stand out in your mind?

A lot of twists and turns but the most important for me was the decision at age 47 to give up a solid management career to enter the Nova Scotia College of Art and four years of working alongside younger, more gifted wanna-be artists. I learned quickly that pure stubbornness and extra layers of skin acquired in journalism and business, can make up for lesser abilities or artistic gifts. Since NSCAD, my time has been divided almost evenly between trying to build my studio reputation in Canada, but also using business and management experience to help organize and build opportunities for larger groups of artists. I think of things like helping form the first regional arts council for Kings artists, or helping shape the concept and early years of Uncommon Art, or helping form the artist-owned Tides Contemporary Art Gallery in Kentville, or helping launch the Atlantic region’s first printmakers association. And while those things made a better arts community, it was teaching printmaking and painting to different generations that provided unusual and unexpected satisfactions—younger kids in elementary schools around the province, or summer classes at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts; or older students at Acadia University and Valley and city high schools, or the adults who come to my studio every Wednesday night for printmaking classes. I’m amazed at the jump in energy and ideas that I experience in the days after every class.

What inspires you in your work and keeps you moving forward as an artist?

I have lived almost half my 76 years in large cities, but a larger part of life in small towns or farm country. I’ve travelled to many countries as a journalist or tourist and my eyes tell me a simple but convincing truth: what Judy and I have here in the Annapolis Valley is unique, inspiring, and shareable. Trying to capture a small bit of this visual sanctuary in a crazy world becomes a daily test as realities of mobility, memory, and mortality are no longer abstract concepts. Or, so I’m told…

What’s next in your career? What goals or plans would you care to share?

In an ideal world, I will continue for many, many years to paint and explore new ideas and techniques of printmaking. But I also want time to complete at least 20-30 short stories and a few novels. Outlines have been written—some going back 30-40 years. I have always lived with the deep belief that a busy person can only do the things that he or she truly believes to be important. We can talk all day about what we want to do, but at the end of it, we end up giving time and energy to only the really important stuff. Stay tuned for our next chapters.

Would you share one thing folks might be surprised to know about Bob Hainstock, the artist?

Not certain if anyone really wants to know this but I’m a human faucet when it comes to pretty pictures, sad movies, treacherous books, or any slight mistreatment of dogs. And because I have an identical twin, I get to watch an almost perfect reflection of myself blubbering away at sad stories or sudden images. What makes it unexpected is the reputation or self-image that Clay and I had as tough, fight-ready junior hockey players, but he’s become a visual artist, too, and maybe we’re just trying to overcompensate for our earlier jock images.

The Printmakers Studio and Hainstock Gallery are located at 1688 Brow of Mountain Road in Centreville. For more information on the artist and his work, please visit hainstockgallery.com.

Photo courtesy of Bob Hainstock.