It has been my custom to share some of my favorite art on Thanksgiving. While the paintings that follow are not Thanksgiving themed, they do take me back to my younger days. As a kid growing up in Huntington, on Long Island, we lived near wooded areas. We also watched TV shows about cowboys, and there were even small forts that were built in those nearby woods. So it is no surprise for thoughts of the west to stay with me all these years later. In those days, a good many films were produced that featured Cowboys and Indians. In fact hiking in the woods has stayed with me even as an adult.
These days, I don’t live in the west except through art. And here in Sarasota, Florida, there are neither hills or forests. We do have some hiking trails and those help somewhat. While I like horses, the last horse I rode was near Shenzhen in China. And it wasn’t that many years ago; maybe in 2008. So you shall see a good number of paintings that include horses. But that’s not all – some of the paintings will take you back to the days of the Old West, or others will be family oriented as is this holiday.
If you can remember the Thanksgiving holiday from when you were a child, you will note that those family gathering have changed. Families do get bigger, but they also get smaller with the passage of time. So thinking about those good old days will be good for the spirit. I have a good many paintings for you, so let’s get started. NOTE: Following the end of the text – there is a link to a video I made of almost all of these images.
I’ll lead with Of Many Paths They’ll Take by Steve Hanks. I don’t think I was this small when I started to navigate pathways. And I didn’t have a small sister either. But doesn’t this painting have an aura of wonder to it. We don’t know where these kids will end up. Nor do they know how their lives will turn out. As a companion to the above painting, Steve Hanks also did one (below) involving a walk down a different path and he called it A Path to Follow.
Speaking of paths, beside those that wend through a forest or the country, there are pathways to people’s hearts. But there are also warpaths.
This next one is called –
On the Warpath – Lakota. I’m struck by the attention to detail.
Note how the entire painting seems wind-aided, and did you notice the war paint surrounding the horse’s eye? The artist is James Ayers. Mr. Ayers grew up in Boston. Decidedly not a city known for being in the west. He didn’t go west for an education either – unless the Rhode Island School of Design has moved. Ayers has said:
As a person with a multicultural background, I am deeply aware of the importance in accuracy when portraying a specific culture. I take great care to make sure the American Indian cultures I represent in my paintings are authentic and respectful–not only to the historical figures I paint, but also to the living descendants of these people.
Next is Over the Pass by Bill Anton.
One rider, two horses, the higher they go, the further they’ll be from the lake below. It will also get colder. Anton is from Chicago, and has said: I do not see myself as a biographer of the cowboy. But the focus of my work has always been mood and passion. I want the viewer to feel the drama of atmosphere and the mystery of a western night. I want the volume and portent of a cloud to be evident in the calligraphy of a brush stroke. The pack of the muscle below a horse’s shoulder should be energized by the gestural application of paint.
We can easily see the strength of the horses in this painting, and the thought occurs to me how valuable a friend the horse has been to mankind.
This next one is called Evening Exodus. The artist is Billy Schenk.
I love the colors in the painting as well as the motion. Every thing is headed in one direction. Where the woman is looking, the small flock she is shepherding, and the clouds. Schenk has said that he got into cowboys and the west after watching the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. Others have said that Schenk’s works are a blend of the western landscape and pop art. Bill Schenk has been called the Andy Warhol of western artists. So you won’t be surprised to learn that at one time Schenk was employed at the Warhol Factory.
I love the stillness in Captured Power by J.D. Challenger.
Mr. Challenger grew up in Oklahoma, but now resides in Taos, New Mexico. Once he established within himself that he would paint Native Americans, he still had to deal with his feelings that his paintings might offend the very people he so admired. His wife encouraged him to show his work to his friends and ask for their reactions. A Kiowa holy man told him: There needs to be messengers, the creator chooses his own messengers. They take many forms. You are a messenger, your path is to tell the stories of the native people to those who do not know what has happened in the past or what is still happening today. You make them see who we are, that we are real living human beings and that we are still here.”
I like Challenger’s style of still backgrounds and strong colors. This portrait is called Red Ochre, and isn’t it striking?
Our next one is called Counting His Blessings by Alfredo Rodriguez.
Now I have featured Mr. Rodriguez and his prospectors before. And I still love the incredible detail of his work. In the painting, every where you look is rendered to incredible depths of detail. It is no wonder that Alfredo Rodriguez is considered a master of classical realism. Just look at the boots, the rocks, the grass, the dirt in his pan, and even the reflection from the shovel. And what of the twine wrapped on the handle of his pick axe.
Robert Duncan has been featured on my pages before, including a video of his works set to music. In the paintings the subject were all mid-western, or Mid American types who lived in rural places and maybe they had farms and raised animals. The spirit in his work is unchallenged and best described as warm, and happy and decidedly family oriented.
This painting is called Dusk, and it seems that Mr. Duncan has traveled further back in time, in his art ,to the times of the trappers, and settlers, and homesteaders, and of course, the Native Americans.
What strikes me is the color and the idea beyond the painting. Two Indian braves, and a small gathering of elk off in the distance. It seems as if the elk have spotted them, and are preparing to take off as soon as the horsemen make their move. A brilliant painting.
Now Andy Thomas has captured another Thanksgiving tradition. Football. He calls this one Fall Football,
and if nothing else, it brings to mind, my own football games played on the Thanksgiving morning. This was of course when we were too old to watch parades, and too energetic to sit around, and still young enough to have no other options on this day, and above all, happy to be waiting for the Thanksgiving meal. So we played football. Thomas’s painting has all the charm that our own games did including, the trees and the twigs, and the neighboring homes. What we didn’t do is play with helmets.
Next I have a trio of paintings by Fred Fellows
A Prairie Garden – how brave! Notice her rifle still in the saddle. Of course the spaces look wide open, so no one should be able to catch her by surprise.
The Broken Star Quilt – looks like the same woman as the previous painting. Same scarf at least. After a hard day on the trail, she looks happy to unwind with the quilt-making.
Time to Care – This one is all about sharing some time with our four-footed friends. I like the way the sunlight creates the shadows that appear in this painting.
I’ve selected the three above paintings to show you that I like paintings without men and horses as much as the next guy or gal. Fellows is from Oklahoma and is the longest standing member of the Cowboy Artists of America. But he wasn’t always an artist. He moved to the LA Area with his family at the age of 8, and eventually, with encouragement from his Dad, became a commercial artist. Later he became the Art Director for Northrop Aircraft.
But the cowboy in him never left, nor did the dream. Fellows has said: I saved my money for a few years and then moved to where every artist must go, Taos New Mexico. When the money ran out I went back to Los Angeles for another grubstake. After a couple of years I went off on my own again to Bigfork, Montana, and stayed for forty years.
Back to Robert Duncan, we have another magnificent western themed picture called Frozen Sunrise.
This one is so striking because even if you don’t know the title, the art conveys exactly what the title conveys. The riders and their ponies are not only the subject, and the central focal point of the painting, but the sparsely background amplifies everything in the forefront of the work.
Game Plan by June Dudley is next. I’ve featured Dudley before. She knows this cowboy and tiny cowgirl-to-be. In another painting she has called them Craig and Maddie. Notice how attentive the dog is. June has this to say about her splendid art:
I describe my paintings as poetic landscapes. My colors are somewhat impressionistic and my scenes are realistic so I describe my work as impressionistic realism.I believe that my feelings and love for what I paint shows in my paintings. I don’t know how this passion flows through my brushes onto my canvases, but it does. Somehow my passion for art shows through my work. I have many people tell me they can see and feel it.
Amen to that June Dudley.
Subtle Shift is by Glenn Dean.
As a young man, he was attracted to the old Masters of Western Art and has said: Their work emphasized the importance of seeing the color of light combined with interesting compositions and seemingly effortless designs, while carefully observing the simple and basic characteristics of a specific location. From my perspective, Glenn’s work is truly about color and light. He’s not overly concerned with conveying detail. One could consider that their paintings revealed the spiritual element of the landscape, which he feels should be the goal of the landscape painter.
Another by Billy Schenk. This one is entitled In the Land of Warriors.
Aside from the spear the Indian brave carries, this one is really most un-martial. But what you can gather from this painting is that Schenk works aren’t about the blending of the colors, they don’t merge and progress to a different color or shade where the starting point is totally lost. Rather his work has clear points of color demarkation. One ends and another begins. Simple as it is, it doesn’t result in a lack of power at all.
Back to Glenn Dean again. This one s called Sundown.
And it blows me away. While Dean eschews detail, he’s the anti-Afredo Rodriguez, his paintings are still amazing. If you can take anything away from Sundown it is easily to define and explain. Both horse and rider are exhausted, utterly worn out. This is impossible to miss, and what’s more you can see it instantly.
Leaving in the Rain by Steve Hanks is a painting I’ve written about before and it seems to be all about Thanksgiving.
If you didn’t already know this – the Thanksgiving holiday results in the sale of more bus tickets, train tickets, and airlines tickets than any other holiday. I’d venture to say, that gasoline stations also have big days. As far as Leaving in the Rain, I don’t recall doing that, but on one particular Thanksgiving holiday – my train down from Hartford to New York was cancelled because of snow. I ended up taking a bus to Manhattan. Look carefully and all the ways down the track you can see the headlights of the approaching train. Marvelous isn’t it?
How about a great pair of artworks from Howard Dubois. We could say one is coming and the other is going. A man, a horse or two and a dog.
High Country shows the man returning from a trip. That must be his home ahead. He might be a hunter. In fact, he must be a hunter, as you just don’t stumble on to elk horns of that size without the use of a powerful rifle.
Pardners shows a man, two horses and a dog again – this time they’re coming our way. These are just great works. Thank you Mr. DuBois.
Speaking of men, horses, and dogs. How about Leaving Cold Water Canyon by Jason Rich.
He’s a man from Idaho, and he grew up on a small farm. Since then, for the last 18 years or so, Rich has made the ways of the cowboy his specialty. How do you do this is a question that might be forming. Jason Rich has ridden alongside cowboys working the corrals or packing through the mountains. He then combines the experience, his imagination and research to depict authenticity of the cowboy way.
Now if you want to talk about technique, or rather unique technique, then we must include a John Nieto painting. I’ve written about Nieto before in a piece called Colors: Past & Present. This one is entitled Two Archers in the Sunset.
John Nieto isn’t about detail at all. His subjects may be important in some of his works, and in others, like this one – the work isn’t only about the subject; it is also about the technique. Now take Two Archers in the Sunset; in this fabulous piece of art – we must examine the way the colors impact us. Your eyes will naturally land on the two archers, but then they’re overtaken by the enormous colors in the sky. Almost forgotten, at the bottom, is what I will call a stream. The blue leaves us no other choice, does it? The magic of this work is that the two archers are the only specific and immediately identifiable objects. Both the sunset and the stream are only suggested.
Knee Deep in the Poppies by June Dudley is next.
I love this painting because the model has her head down and with that hat being large-brimmed, it’s impossible for us to see her face. There are flowers everywhere, and note the changing colors of the grasses. This is the wonder of an artist capturing the very essence of light and all that light gives us. Without light, there’s only blackness.
Now two by Logan Maxwell Hagegee. The one below is called Light on the Round Clouds.
Note the bold colors of the blankets the people have wrapped around them. Also notice how simply the clouds are defined. While they do not look like any clouds we see with our own eyes when we are out-of-doors, in this painting it is unthinkable for those rounded objects to be anything but clouds.
The second painting by Hagegee is called Navajo Patriot. The magic of the painting is the rocks or boulders behind the old Navajo are suggestions, much like the clouds in the previous painting. Again, Hagegee makes the blanket in bold colors. But what separates this painting is the identifiable headdress in the style of an American Flag. Navajo Patriot is the title. And there could not be any other title more apt than that.
Miners At Lunch by Alfredo Rodriguez doesn’t have a Thanksgiving theme in it.
It is just some guys taking a break for lunch. From the looks of where they are, and how they’re dressed, I don’t think they got take-away sandwiches from Jimmy Johns, no matter how freaky fast they are. For us in this modern world, we have places to buy food, or eat food prepared by others usually no more than a few minutes away.But for Thanksgiving, many of us have traveled great distances to partake of food with our families. Makes you feel for those prospectors in the Rodriguez painting. But let’s not forget who these men were. They were the brave men who helped forge the way into this country’s west.
White Horses of Fall by R.Tom Gilleon is about a home.
A place that could be moved to the next place to hunt and fish and find nearby firewood. Gilleon has made a career of paintings like these. Like Nieto, his greatest strengths are not in the details but the colors. But he’s not only about the dwellings like the one you see in the painting. He has said: I believe that this simplicity and strength is the key to fine art. Light, color, value, composition and line are paramount in importance. A good work of art is so much more than a photograph copied. In elimination the unnecessary elements and being as direct as possible, an artist has the opportunity to tell a story, to guide the viewer’s eye and emotion.
Of course this is true. While this is a painting of a dwelling., the title tells the story of the painting. The White Horses may not have all the details your eyes will see in a horse. But on the canvas, even with their small size, you can’t miss seeing them and enjoying their presence.
Reflections of Love by Sandra Kuck is not about Thanksgiving or cowboys.
There’s no horses, or dogs, or men in this work. It is a simple story of a mother and a very young child who is getting a first look and feel of the sea. It matters not where the location is. It could be any sea, or any coastline. Sandra describes herself as a romantic realist. She also says, Capturing emotional moments on canvas is my life’s work. Indeed.
Riders of the West by Wayne Baize is next.
Baize is a cowboy artist and it shows. The elegance of the horses, the 4 men in cowboy hats and gear, all look just great against the background. It is no surprise as Baize comes from a long line of family ancestors that lived and worked close to the land. The easiest way to describe Baize’s art is to say that his work focuses primarily on contemporary ranch life where he usually works in oil, painting mares and colts, cows and calves.
One more from Robert Duncan? How about this one called When Meat Gets Scarce.
This painting doesn’t show a desperate man, but we can easily assume that to be the case. This rider and his horse are coming out of a place that was and is inhospitable.
So much so that this painting brings to mind David Lean’s epic film Lawrence of Arabia, when Omar Sharif rides toward Lawrence across the shimmering desert.
Our next painting is called Sentinel, and the artist is Edgar Sotelo.
Edgar is a 4th generation Mexican artist who studied at Texas Tech University. His specialties are ranches, rodeos, western landscapes and portraits. I like this work because this painting creates a question for the viewer. What do this horse and rider see? What is out there beyond our view?
Stepping Stones by Steve Hanks
is another family oriented painting that may not bring Thanksgiving to mind, but certainly can make you think of either family or childhood friends. I like the way the sunlight shines on the middle girl, and the small boy at the end, stepping to the next rock is not all that easy for him.Hence the support offered by hand is all the more important. I think a painting like this is quite touching and warms the heart. It is also familiar in many ways.
In The Lead Horse by Frank McCarthy,
I am struck by the immensity of that huge Boulder behind the riders. Given that the riders are heading up a slope, we can safely assume that the rock came from further up, from a higher altitude. I am also delighted by the beautiful light-colored grasses. Those riders look like they’re wearing military uniforms – to what fort are they heading, or who are they following? Questions can arise in many forms from this painting. But there’s one thought that is above any question – the excellence of this work.
Just three more.
The Mestenera by Andy Thomas,
the same Andy Thomas who painted Fall Football above. This time we can all but hear the thunder of the horses hooves as they race away from or toward something. This painting, like the Fall Football is all about the motion,. Certainly, it is a successful rendering of speed, and motion, as well as power.
In the next work called When Wolves Speak,
artist Martin Grelle is conveying more than just 4 Indian braves and 4 horses. The title tells us more, When Wolves Speak. is a painting about men using the wolf as a signal or guide. The wolves themselves may be just going about their business, either unaware or unconcerned about the men. We are onlookers, and we don’t have the same tracking skills as the men in painting do. We drive to the supermarket for our meat. These men may have to fight off the wolves for their dinner. Or maybe it is something else. The howl of the wolves may signal that other men are in the area.
Our last painting is called Shelter For the Heart. I’ve split the art work into sections – showing you the top,
then the middle
before revealing the entire image.
Of course this is a Steve Hanks. I will use this inspiring painting to bring this Thanksgiving art festival to a close. One last thought, following the last image you will find a link to a video. I’ve collected almost all the images in this post and set them to music. The video runs for about three and a half minutes. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.
Link to the video: