Cowboys, Indians, and More!
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***"Gallery-Wrapped" describes images on stretched canvas painted on all four sides, making additional framing unnecessary.***
This wasn't my first rodeo, but it was the one that piqued my desire to begin depicting rodeo subjects. The resultant imagery in this pivotal work is actually a combination of small vignettes that I had observed at all of the rodeo events I'd attended: that moment when everyone in the stands and the arena grow silent as a blessing for the safety of all involved; both human and creatures, is asked.
Men remove their hats and place them over their hearts, while bowing their heads. Of course, I couldn't resist watching the cessation of action all around me...how else was I going to be able to paint what I perceived if I didn't sneak a good long look?
When it came to actually composing this piece, I took a lot of time and care with selecting the various elements. I toyed with the notion of simply sketching and then painting the central line of cowboy contestants as they sat in a row in the middle of the arena. I figured that might communicate what I was wanting to share with subsequent viewers of this particular work, or at least part of it, anyway.
Because I chose to place the flagpole leaning to the left, it automatically led the eye in that direction, too, and pointed to the figure next to it. Therefore, he needed to be visually strong and so did his mount. I painted that cowboy on his good using horse with him facing forward toward the flag, and the horse glancing to the left, the angle of its head echoing the slant of the flag bearer's arm, and also providing a nice variety of horse head views.
ABOVE: Even though there's a softness about this painting, since that's how I generally view the world around me; still, I chose to have each and everyone of the figures: human and horse, be expressive. I frequently marvel at just how patient and long-suffering domesticated horses truly are, standing quietly, as in this case, almost all of them neither fidgeting or stamping their feet. Most of them were planted four-square and simply waiting to be cued by their riders into whatever activity was asked of them.
Honestly, I don't have it in me to be as noble as most horses that serve humans with their obedience, loyalty, and stunning work ethic! Note the the flaring nostrils on these rodeo horses: they'd just circled the arena several times at a gallop during the Grand Entry and were blowing from all that effort. That's another thing I love about painting this subject matter: getting the details right!
LEFT: In the background, behind that white-shirted cowboy and to the left of the flagpole is another important element of this composition, albeit an almost blurred one, since I didn't want to distract attention from that line of cowboys up front.
Barely discernible as another cowboy; still, he has his hat in his hand and on his heart as he's perched on the back rail of the alley where the broncs have been loaded in the order of how they'll then be directed into the chutes in readiness for their contestant riders. If you look closely, you can see that the bay bronc is even rolling an eye toward the flag in the arena.
Some viewers never
notice details like that figure or the horse way in the background; however, if they weren't there, a sense of something missing would be felt.
Rather like when people tell me they can't find me in the many episodes of Longmire that I worked in as a background actor. Well, and that's the point...in that position, I'm not meant to be seen. Once spotted, though, viewers will never not see me there again! And so it is with my artwork...I'm like a film director who can envision the entire scene, or an orchestra conductor who knows instinctively how much or how little detail to add to the music so that it is pleasantly balanced with a sense of wholeness.
RIGHT: Here's another instance of a "background actor", up on the far rail of the alley; head bowed over his white hat, hand on his heart. There's also another bay bronc below him, this one calmly looking forward, its eye dark in contrast to the white blaze on its forehead.
There! Because I pointed him out, both figures are now seen and important. You'd miss them were they not where they are.
LEFT: Of course, it's our national flag that carries the day and is the original reason why this painting even exists. Those bold stripes and field of stars grab the attention, as they should. The reverence I always feel during this moment; the last silent one before the action begins, was something I so wanted to capture, even before it became a fad to display irreverence and disrespect toward the American flag at sporting events.
Note: contestants from all over the country had gathered for this rodeo, as is evident by the variety in hat design.
So, there it is, a closeup look into a few of the reasons why I was initially inspired to create this singular work of art, and a bit about my thought processes as I edited what to include and what to merely suggest. I could actually write a small book about each of my works: the choice of colors, shapes, light and dark, textures, etc. The art teacher in me is always raring to share about this remarkable occupation of mine, although some might call it an obsession. Perhaps it is; nevertheless, I am blessed by my desire to always find and focus on beauty in this life.
As for "provenance", or its history, this piece is also one of those that quickly took on its own path as soon as I first shared an image of it with others. In this case, "AMERICAN RODEO: It Always Begins With A Prayer", served as the official poster artwork for Rodeo De Santa Fe, a PRCA sanctioned event in June 2014! I will say that it was a real thrill to see this painting around town on the backs of buses and on billboards and bumperstickers, come rodeo time in Santa Fe, New Mexico!
Now that it's been part of my personal collection for the past several years, though, I have a strong feeling that "AMERICAN RODEO" is destined to become part of someone else's collection and is now available for purchase. Please "Contact Us" with inquiries for more information about this or other of the artwork on this site! Thank you for your interest.
"AMERICAN RODEO: It Always Begins With A Prayer"
11" x 14", Oil on canvas
Framed Size: 16.5" x 19.5"
Copyright Rush Cole
(Official 65th Annual PRCA Rodeo De Santa Fe 2014 Poster.)
+The sturdy wooden frame was hand-painted and finished by the artist to enhance and harmonize with the artwork.