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Artist, actor and director all in one

By Robert Massey, High River Times

Rosebud has a true multi medium threat living within its town.

Royal Sproule is an actor, director, musician, photographer and most of all an artist.

Sproule is a pen and ink artist however he has heard his art being called sketches, pictures, renderings, illustrations, and line drawings. But he figures any of them fit.

His art work has been displayed in various places including all the originals being on display at the Sproule Heritage Bed and Breakfast, which is owned by his parents.

Most recently Sproule's artwork was on display at the Strathmore Municipal Library.

"This display was unique," he said. "It was kind of like a homecoming display."

It was unique in the fact that not only did it feature Sproule's pen and ink work but it also featured his mother's quilts and some of his father's wood working.

Sproule also loved the fact that it was in Strathmore. "It's kind of like a second home to me."

Sproule gets his inspiration from things that have been left behind in the past, such as historic buildings, old photos, pretty much anything from the pioneering age.

"I always liked this old stuff," he said, "dried out wagon wheels, cracking wood and rust. There's something about the pioneering." He pulled his hands towards him, making it seem as though the pioneering was drawing him to it.

Sproule's favorite artistic medium is ink. He used to work with a quill pen and Indian ink but after a terrifying moment where some ink fell from his quill and landed in the middle of a sky line he decided to switch over to the pen.

He says it's a lot safer but there's some motions that are way harder to do because a pen doesn't have the give that a quill does; however, that loss of motion is worth it so he does not lose an entire piece of art over one little mistake.

Working with pen and ink means you only have one shot to do something right and if you do it wrong there is no going back.

"Sometimes I curse the day I discovered the quill pen and India ink," he says in a little pamphlet about himself. "It is a most unforgiving medium."

"You really have to focus," he says. "I like the unforgiving properties but I also hate them."

To draw Sproule starts with something simple, like a blade of grass, and then continues on to the harder things once he is feeling relaxed and ready to go.

Currently Sproule's work is making a tour of various libraries in Southern Alberta, with the next stop being in Cochrane. Sproule calls this the library tour and it was arranged by his manager Karen Kimpinski.

"I think she has a real flair for this," said Sproule. "I just keep seeing the circle getting bigger and bigger and bigger."

Sproule met Kimpinski while directing The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, a role he just kind of fell into.

"The true story," he said, is that the current art director and the first man to play Christ were sitting in his living room and Sproule mentioned how he thought this huge play that was losing momentum could be changed.

I wanted to add music to underscore the play in a Lord of the Rings or Narnia kind of way, he said. And I wanted to rework the script and everything.

He said it more as a this is what I would do scenario and didn't think much more about it until a week later when the artistic director came back, told him that the best actor in Rosebud was in to play Christ and asked him to rewrite the script and to create some music.

"We worked our butts off," he said of himself and the musical director in Rosebud, Randel Webe. Together they reworked about 90 per cent of the music in the play.

This was four years ago, and during this first attempt at the new show Sproule was brought in as assistant director, but as rehearsals continued he began to take on more of the director's roles and by the end the director and himself had pretty much switched places.

"Truthfully the job title said assistant director but..." Sproule let the sentence hang there before continuing on. The next year they officially asked him to direct the play.

"It's a beast to direct," he said. "It is something else to direct 200 people."

Sproule figures this year's passion play was the best yet and thinks they must have had a 20 per cent increase in sales.

If this keeps going, he said, were going to sell out no problem next year.

This wasn't Sproule's first foray into the performance world; he had been an actor for 20 years before doing this.

As for his artwork Sproule is currently in the process of revamping the old post office in Rosebud and turning it into an art gallery.

The Royal Sproule Art Gallery will be opening up this fall and all Sproule can do is hope that he is ready to operate a small business.

It is located right on Main Street, just half a block away from the Rosebud Dinner Theatre and he will be looking for four local artists to display one at a time.

Sproule is going strong with his art work and hopes that between the library tour and his gallery he can get his name out there a little more.

To find out more about Sproule and to see his art work head to or go to the Sproule Bed and Breakfast located just 10 kilometres East of Strathmore.

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