Inge Sybrandi works on the Ponoka Ag Centre’s mural in her Ponoka basement.

Mural a big job for artist

Art is often a journey for its creators.

PONOKA — Art is often a journey for its creators.

But Inge Sybrandi’s latest artistic journey is measurable — 100 feet to be exact.

The 29-year-old Ponoka artist behind IngesArt recently landed the biggest commission of her career, a history of rodeo in 24 panels that will run the length of a wall in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame, located in the new Ponoka Ag Event Centre.

Sybrandi was approached by hall of fame organizers at last year’s Ponoka Stampede art show and asked if she was interested in doing a large mural.

But it was only when she stood in the hall and looked up at the space they wanted covered that the scale of the endeavour hit her.

“Holy crap,” she remembers thinking, laughing at the memory.

But the commission had some key things going for it. It gave the artist, who was well known locally for her pencil skills, a chance to tackle a major painting project, and it gave her a giant-sized billboard to get her name out to more potential clients.

So, in true grabbing-the-bull-by-the-horns spirit, she said yes.

“I always wanted to paint. It was just getting there,” she says. “Just getting this job, (it) was really where I wanted to be.”

“At least after this when I’ve done 100 feet, I can call myself a painter.

“I’ll be a painter — or crazy — one of the two,” quips Sybrandi, in her basement studio where the first five panels took shape. They were ready in time for the grand opening of the hall of fame on June 30.

It is a daunting task she has set herself — how to capture the drama, pageantry and history of rodeo in oil and acrylic paints.

Not to mention the challenge of creating two dozen compositions that must stand alone as individual paintings while forming a cohesive theme.

Sybrandi is no greenhorn when it comes to bringing the world of horses and rodeo to life, having completed four calendars illustrated with her detailed pencil renderings of western scenes and memorable individuals.

Her resume also includes numerous other commissions for individual customers.

It will take about a year to complete all of the 1.2-metre-by-1.5-metre panels.

Each has already been created in smaller scale in pencil and are transferred to a larger format using a grid.

She admits to being nervous at times about the scale of the project she has taken on. However, a little stress can be useful in spurring an artist to push beyond their comfort zone, she says.

“You just have to push through it and you’ll get there.” Reproducing the history of rodeo is more than an artistic challenge, it’s an exercise in getting it right.

“People pick out the details, so it has to speak to them. Otherwise, I don’t feel I’m doing my job.”

A few have seen the works in progress and early reviews have been encouraging.

Research has been a big part of the project. Sybrandi was able to drawn upon a lot of the digging and photo collecting she did for the last calendar she produced, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Ponoka Stampede.

Her past work has taught her the importance of attention to detail. Cowboys know when the stirrups aren’t right or a rider’s posture looks wrong.

That’s one of the reasons she makes the effort to get out and see what life on the farm is like. Recently, she went out to a local ranch, camera in hand, for branding day. Cattle producers love seeing her take the time to see how things are done.

Sybrandi comes by her country credentials honestly. She grew up on a dairy farm and immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands when she was 13. She completed the Olds Equestrian Science program, has worked for a thoroughbred breeder and spent a couple of years on the crew of chuckwagon racer Troy Dorchester.

Art always remained a part of her life, though.

She is grateful to have reached the point in her career where her art, and a custom framing business she runs, provide enough income to pay the bills.

“It’s so hard making a living as an artist. People always say that — but it really is.”

On top of those pursuits, she organized the Ponoka Stampede art show and a live auction, while working to complete the rodeo panels.

“I’m living on coffee at the moment.”

While the trail ahead remains long, Sybrandi has already passed a milestone.

“I have learned this is definitely what I should be doing in life. For sure.”

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