Bob Pitzel’s Art of the Vanishing Prairie

B. Pitzel, Redline (2009)

Our fresh snow cover here this morning sent me looking for some wintery inspiration, which I happily found in the wistful watercolors of Saskatchewan artist Bob Pitzel.  Pitzel’s art captures the stark and vanishing rural landscapes of western Canada, typified by imposing grain elevators, graying farmhouses and sheds that dot wide expanses of  prairie, and weathered fences erected more as barriers against the elements than to fence in or out people or creatures.

While Pitzel’s subject matter ranges beyond winter settings, it struck me while surveying his masterful work that many of his scenes are rendered with the coldest of seasons as a central element.  In the biography on his site, I love the ethos of humility, practicality and community that he expresses when noting that given the remoteness of rural life “we had to help ourselves out of the corners our inexperience got us into.”  More broadly, the following observation by Pitzel suggests some further inspiration for the muted emotional feel and sense of isolation conveyed in much of his winter-themed art:  “As the human race, we fool ourselves that we’re in control. But look at global warming, and history. At the end of the day, we’re only spectators.”

More about Pitzel and his wonderful watercolors can be found on his artist site here.

B. Pitzel, Trackside (2014)

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B. Pitzel, Deep Snow and Treeline Study (2010)

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B. Pitzel, Fresh Snow (2012)

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pitzel-pioneer-grain-lake-lenore

B. Pitzel, Pioneer Grain, Lake Lenore (2007)

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B. Pitzel, Maybe We’ll Start Her Up in Spring (2007)

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B. Pitzel, No Glass Left (2005)

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pitzel-six-in-a-row

B. Pitzel, Six in a Row (2014)

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pitzel-fuel-storage

B. Pitzel, Fuel Storage (2005)

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pitzel-regular-or-premium

B. Pitzel, Regular or Premium (2016)

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44 responses

  1. These could be painted around my area of northeastern New Mexico also. I have photos that match some of the scenes you posted. To me this area is beautiful, although some people find it to be too stark.

  2. Wonderful paintings of the Canadian prairies – they convey a real sense of the open landscape during the winter. And I feel cold just looking at them!

    When I was nine my Dad was transferred to Edmonton, Alberta – not really a prairie city, but very cold in January when we arrived. It was minus 32 Fahrenheit on my first day of school and I got frostbite – welcome to the west!

    Thanks for posting these great images, Brett!

  3. These photos are all great,my favorite one is the old truck … maybe we’ll start her up in the spring.. I’m debating whether that’s wishful thinking or hope. 😄 Still it brings a chuckle.

  4. I really liked the winter art scenes. That snow fence did not hold back all of the snow though, some blew all the way down here to South Dakota, where it was a -30°F yesterday morning. I’ve been here on the Prairie for 76 years and still enjoy it, trouble is I can’t get outside anymore to roll around in the snow or to make a tunnel into a big snowbank or even make a snowman for that matter. I always enjoy your art postings from Canada. Thanks

  5. Hi Brett. I am most drawn to the paintings with snow fences in the foreground. The expanse of space beyond feels calm and isolated to me. Air crisp and biting against my cheek. Silence absolute. Perhaps it speaks to my introverted side.

    • Gwen, wonderful observations. The idea of a snow fence is itself something fascinating to contemplate, partly because it suggests an ability to tame something on a vast sale that is inherently untameable. Wintery expanses conjure such thoughts.

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