It’s been quite a ride for artist Maxwell Newhouse lately.
Formerly of Cultus Lake and now living in Harrison Hot Springs, the local painter recently had nine of his RCMP Musical Ride paintings gifted to the RCMP Heritage Centre’s Historical Collections Unit located in Regina.
“It’s one of the greatest honours to be put into a collection like that,” said Newhouse.
The nine pieces were purchased about 15 years ago by movie director and art collector Brad Turner. The paintings made up three-quarters of the 12 images printed in his children’s book The RCMP Musical Ride in 2004.
He found out about the donation earlier this year, around Canada Day. It was Turner who gifted the paintings to the RCMP Historical Collections Unit.
“They were thrilled to get them,” says Newhouse.
Newhouse was thrilled, too. He’s ranked it in the top-three lifetime accomplishments as an artist.
“I have a bottle of scotch and I only take it out when I think I’ve scored big.”
He had a drink from that same bottle of scotch when he was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Illustration in 2006 for his book Let’s Go for a Ride, and Newhouse had his second drink when Canadian composer John Burge wrote a symphony inspired by his four-piece painting Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag.
“Those are my three big accomplishments,” he says. “I think ‘OK Max, you’ve finally reached another plateau.’”
Newhouse has painted nearly 100 Musical Ride pieces. The figure eight patterns and straight lines of Mounties on horseback move gracefully through each brightly-coloured painting. Backdrops include Parliament Hill, the wintery north and small-country fairs.
“When I paint [the Musical Ride] I’m focusing on them, but the crowd is really important on every one of them. It’s always about the crowd.”
In one painting, Newhouse shows a bird’s-eye view of a circular stadium packed with thousands of people, while other pieces show smaller crowds including a Hutterite colony, and yet another with fans cheering the RCMP on as they parade through the mighty Rocky Mountains.
The RCMP Musical Ride theme came to him in 1997.
It was that year when he badly injured his right hand and was not able to work in his trade as a plumber.
“I was really, really depressed, almost suicidal.”
That same year, shortly after his injury, his then 12-year-old daughter was begging to see the RCMP Musical Ride in Abbotsford. Money was tight and he felt like the family couldn’t afford the tickets at $10 each. But, he finally relented and took her.
He was blown away with what he saw.
“I was crying my eyes out. It was so beautiful, I just wept. I was overwhelmed,” recalls Newhouse.
That’s when, Newhouse says, he felt he had something to really live for. Being left-handed, his injured right hand did not affect his ability to paint.
“From that day on I painted and painted and painted on the same theme. I painted the whole book.”
Fast forward 15 years and he now feels like those nine paintings are at home in the RCMP Heritage Centre’s Historical Collections Unit. They are not currently on display, but they will be in a future exhibition.
“It’s better than being in the National Gallery [of Canada] because, to me, something about the Heritage Centre has substance. Art has substance, but it’s like a place… my work fits somewhere.”