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Tales told in paint, leather and voice

Newhall artist Wade Hatch reveals his painting talents during the first showing of his work

Posted: July 18, 2009 8:31 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hatch fine tunes the fur of a buffalo in his painting. Hatch fine tunes the fur of a buffalo in his painting.
Hatch fine tunes the fur of a buffalo in his painting.
Wade Hatch is a Newhall artist who paints scenes from 1800s west, like this Yosemite landscape. Wade Hatch is a Newhall artist who paints scenes from 1800s west, like this Yosemite landscape.
Wade Hatch is a Newhall artist who paints scenes from 1800s west, like this Yosemite landscape.
Wade Hatch likes to tell tales — with a paintbrush, with leather tools, with his voice. He conveys scenes of the 1800s west, when men were men and working with your hands meant taking care of the land, not texting on your Blackberry.

“I’ve always loved that period, the cowboy lifestyle,” Hatch said. “I grew up in Utah ranch country and it never really left me.”

That passion shows in the Newhall artist’s renderings of scenic landscapes, the animals that lived in it, and the men who tried to tame it. Hatch’s work will be shown through the month of July at Tesoro Adobe Historic Park in Valencia.

It’s his first show, though Hatch has been creating art as far back as he can remember.

“I’ve done pencil work all my life and started oil painting in junior high school. In 1991 or ’92, I created an oil painting as a Christmas present to my father — of me and my brother in buckskins. My sister took one look at it and asked if I could do a painting for her,” Hatch recalled.

The familial commission started the self-taught artist on a path to perfect his oil painting, turning to Mike Powell, owner of Saugus’ Artist’s Touch Fine Arts Studio, as a mentor.

“I needed to know how to do faces,” Hatch said. “I didn’t know how to paint flesh. There’s a lot more nuance to portraits than scenery.”

Whether he’s painting people or places, Hatch’s signature bright colors are always prominent. He’s currently working on a Yellowstone scene with dramatic shades of gold, green and blue.  For this oil painting, Hatch is using a photo as inspiration, which he does often.

Sometimes it’s a thought or memory that motivates Hatch. “There’s a story behind every one,” he said.

The paintings can take anywhere from a week to months to finish. Hatch takes commissions, starting at $300 for a 16” x 20” canvas.

Hatch is also an experienced leather craftsman and saddle maker, with works ranging from belts to intricate book covers and saddlebags. His leather goods start at $50.

A creative arena where Hatch really shines is storytelling. As a nonprofit camp director for more than 15 years, he’s had plenty of time to hone his craft in front of young audiences.

“People tell me they’re amazed that I can hold kids attention for 40 minutes to an hour,” Hatch said. “The trick is, you got to have something funny in there every 30 to 60 seconds. Otherwise, you lose them.”

Hatch reaches back to his own childhood experiences for material with a moral message, delivering it dressed in 1800s period costume.

He illustrated a story he calls “The Wrap and Slap.”

When he was 10, Hatch practiced his roping skills with a long lead tethered by a sock stuffed full of sand. He chose to use his 9-year old sister as a substitute calf.

“I’d laugh and tell her to get up, then I’d do it again,” he said.

At one point, the rope got away from Hatch and broke a patio lamp. That’s when his sister made her escape.

“She told my mom that I was roping her,” Hatch said. “So my mom came out, took the rope from me, and told me to run.”

His 5’ 2” mother was surprisingly strong and adept, not only catching Hatch, but “wrapping and slapping” him up like a calf. After she untied him, Mrs. Hatch had her son cut up the entire rope into 1” lengths.  He never practiced on his sister again.

“People today might call that child abuse, but I learned a valuable lesson that you don’t pick on the weak and you don’t mistreat women,” Hatch said.

Hatch is currently working on a unifying theme for presentation to organizations and guests as a keynote speaker. His moniker?

The Motivation Wrangler.

“I think the real message is going to be to be who you are and don’t give up. Learn to weigh yourself up and develop the skills and talents you need,” Hatch said. “When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a high-up manager, but that didn’t make me happy.”

What does make Hatch happy is his art and his family, including his wife Ethel of 27 years, seven children, and two grandchildren.

“ I’m just a dumb old cowboy, sharing my skills, my stories and my message,” he said. “That’s fine with me.”

View Wade Hatch’s art through July 31 at Tesoro Adobe Historic Park, 29350 Avenida Rancho Tesoro, Valencia. Open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free. Hatch can be contacted directly at (661) 476-1516 or


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