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Woodworking artist finds inspiration in daily life

Third Stampede win in a row

By Dan Singleton
MVP Staff

Award-winning Olds woodworking artist John (Jack) Smythe says he finds his inspiration in the things he sees and experiences in his daily life.

There is lots of inspiration these days and what I’ve learned is that artistic design is all around you every day,” Smythe said in a Gazette interview.

“That is the key point. It might be something in nature or I might pick up a magazine or a newspaper and see something that has nothing to do with art and I’ll think maybe I can do something with that. And some of it is your history.”


John (Jack) Smythe shows off his award-winning vessel, as well as three wooden antique oil cans he carved and also entered in the 2015 Calgary Stampede. – Joseph Ho/MVP Staff

Smythe took a first-place ribbon for his work at the 2015 Calgary Stampede Western Showcase arts and crafts competition – making it the third straight year that he has come away with a top ribbon.

This year he was awarded the first-place ribbon for his turned and pyrography (also known as wood burning) decorated vessel in the feather theme western category of the woodworking section.

The entry was also awarded second place in the overall woodworking section.

The vessel was turned from a B.C. big leaf maple tree burl, and the feathers were drawn and burned into the wood.
He explained that it took a couple of weeks’ work to complete the vessel in his Olds workshop.

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The Mighty Bighorn

      Not too far from where I live is Ya Ha Tinda located in the front ranges of the Alberta Rocky Mountains. A relatively short drive west and you can find yourself in very picturesque country. Along the way you may come across some of the famous wild horses that roam the area. Many people come out here to camp, fish, raft and trail ride with horses.
     The picture below is of Bighorn Falls. After parking your vehicle, a short walk up the creek in the canyon will get you to the bottom of these beautiful falls. Although well known to locals, these falls fortunately, still feel relatively secluded not being over run with tourism. Thanks for looking!

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Koby and Jennifer – Wedding Photography

Koby and Jennifer

Congratulations to Koby & Jennifer!

On July 4th, 2015, Koby and Jennifer had a beautiful wedding in her parent’s yard. The weather for the service was lovely, but it didn’t quite cooperate with our plans for taking photos at a nearby beach. A storm started blowing hard once we got there so we retreated back to the house and had a good time taking photos there.

We managed to sneak the wedding couple away at sunset for some photos in the hilly countryside of the Erskine area of Alberta, then back to the house for some fireworks. A wonderful end for a fantastic day!


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Mountain Madness

The mountain landscape is, for many people, the most beautiful type of scenery on the planet. I personally really enjoy being out in the mountains. The unpredictable weather, the rugged geography and the immense size of some of these pointy rocks make for amazing landscape imagery. Couple these grand vistas with great light, calm lakes, and fast flowing rivers and waterfalls, you’ll have photographs that will make all your friends ooh and aah.
That being said, many photographers want to take it to another level. Hanging out of helicopters, kayaking over waterfalls, and being attached to sheer cliff walls by thin ropes tied to small screws, photographers are able to record scenes that few will ever witness with their own eyes. As a photographer, I am constantly amazed and inspired by these photo explorers; adventurers; nutcases. While I am all for exploring and finding new ways to photograph our wonderful planet, I will only go so far. Will I take a risk? Absolutely! The one mistake and your dead kind of risk? Never! Make a mistake and break bones? Not likely! Fall down and scrape up your butt? I could handle that.
That takes me to the image below. Bow Lake and Crowfoot Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta. Easy to get to and easy to photograph. There is a lodge that you can stay in just steps away from the shores of the lake. My car was about a 2 minute walk away from where I took this shot. Search the internet and you will find all kinds of images from this beautiful location……… but not like mine!

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Josh and Jolene – Wedding Photography

Josh and Jolene

Congratulations to Josh and Jolene!

Over the last couple years I have gotten to know Jolene at work and have enjoyed her gentle, quiet and God-centred spirit. This same spirit was on full display for her wedding day, and a beautiful day it was.

It was also a very hot day (for central Alberta), and we were thankful for the cool shade under the trees at Camp Little Red, a Christian camp Jolene has been involved with for many years, and a path in the woods near her parents’ home. We pray for all the best for Josh & Jolene as they start this life together. Thanks for asking us to photograph your special day.

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Create 5 Art Challenge — Day 3

Today’s Art Challenge entry — a necklace. Fire on Water is a fused glass pendant by a Vancouver Island glass artist. The dichroic colours are so rich. All it needed was a simple chain to complete the look. Tagged: Art Challenge, chain, fused glass

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Sheepy ! in pastels

After MANY abject failures at painting sheep, I was inspired by an example in Fiona Peart’s new book about water media.  I am greatly pleased with the results of challenging myself in several ways.  For starters, I don’t like working with pastels !  Then I used the canvas board to get lots and lots of tooth for the pastels to use.  Throw in that I don’t enjoy drawing, ( and what else can one do with a pastel stick ? ), and you may have the answer to the lack of inhibition I came up with.  At least it is recognisable as a sheep–even if it is a bit blue in the face.


What next ???

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Well hello there, Macro


Yesterday I received my new Sigma 105mm Macro lens. I haven’t used a macro for a couple years, and I have sorely missed it. Having a good macro lens opens up a whole new kind of photography, one that I really enjoy. You can see common objects around you in a new way, revealing hidden beauty otherwise missed.

This is my second Sigma lens, and I have really enjoyed them. The construction quality is great, and the optics rivals, or beats the Nikon equivalent often for lots of $$$ less. See these test images from

This is going to be lots of fun.

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