Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Cowboy and the Bird...



Dad was a wonderful artist. His love of wildlife and the old west was evident in his artwork. His artwork said so much about his thoughts on life. One picture was of a mountain man holding on to what was the first barbed wire fence he encountered. He had a very sad look in his eye like he knew that the world was changing. Another, and my personal favorite, was an old cowboy sitting at a table teaching himself to read which dad titled "The First Grade Reader".

Not only did dad love the west and wildlife, he loved using people he knew as the models for his pictures. Every face he drew in his work was the face of one of his Game Warden friends. He didn't ask them to "model", he just used the features of the men he worked with every day. His work was such a reflection of himself. Always a tough old cowboy doing something that showed the softer side of a hard life.

His medium was pen and ink. I remember him spending hours and hours on pictures. Using a large, lighted magnifying glass on a stand as he toiled strategically placing tiny dots from an old ink well and pen. Thousands and thousands of tiny dots. He was blind in one eye from an accident with an air mattress, thus the magnifying glass.



For many years, dad would draw something, then tear it up and throw it away. I have a few of those that were fetched out of the trash. Until finally, we all told him how wonderful his work was and that we thought he could sell it.

When he died, his work all sold out. One of his prints was used to raise money for the reward fund for the capture of Claude Dallas. Some we had set aside were used as donations to charities for fundraisers.

It's time, now, after his death 28 years ago, to bring back everyone's favorite of all of his work. We had 100 printed and will sell some, give some to the grandkids, and again, as dad would have wanted, donate some to charities to help them raise money.

We're selling the prints for $75. If you're interested in one, let me know.

16 comments:

Dee said...

To this day I am still amazed by his incredible talent and sensitivity. He didn't have any art training----he just drew.
And he did use the faces of friends and his own hands. I love looking at the hands in his drawings as those were his hands.

tallulah said...

What a beautiful artist and from your description....a beautiful man. What a wonderful way to keep the legacy of your Father alive!

Linda said...

He also used his possesions in his drawings. The reins over the cowboys arm there, are the reins off the bridle he used on his own horse. And of course he owned the 'First Grade Reader' book and the old coffee pot from that drawing. And the mirror and comb from "Lady Friends Coming" was Grama Cornwalls set. There was just a lot of Dad in each drawing.

kate said...

It really is amazing, his talent with no formal "training". He is proof that you don't need no stinkin' art degree to be an artist. He had a gift...a truly beautiful gift.

I did not know that about him using his friends/coworkers. So who is this cowboy? Because I think he looks hispanic (I know, I know...).

Dee said...

I can't think of his name but the "Moutain Man" with barbwire is Don Beach, John Beecham is one----this one? Jodi, do you know?

Dee said...

And , yes, Linda, you're right. He used his own "old stuff" that he found in the desert and other belongings.

Dee said...

Phil Swanstrum-----that's the name I was trying to remember----I think this is him-----he lived around the corner from us on Canal St.-----a FUNNY guy----F & G.

Jodi said...

Yes, this was Phil Swanstrom. One of the original "good ole' Game Wardens". John Beecham was used for the First Grade Reader, and Don Beach's face for the Mountain Man.

kate said...

Right! I remember Phil Swantstrum, and his wife was Rosie. He was a character!

Anonymous said...

Bill was an amazing artist. Actually, isn't Steve a pretty good artist, too? I have the Mountain Man picture. I would love to buy the Cowboy Feeding the Bird.
Thanks for bringing them out again. What a great gift to his family.
Terry McCarthy

Fancy Schmancy said...

What a wonderful way to be able to remember him. That drawing is beautiful.

Alicia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alicia said...

Is the offer for prints still available? If so, I would love to get one for my daughter to give to my husband on her 1st Christmas. He told me once that he used to have a copy but it was lost when he moved back to Michigan from out west. I would love to display it in our home...Thank you for considering my inquiry! -Alicia alicia.sheill@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Phil and Rosie Swanstum were friends of my parents. On my 21st birthday, sitting around a campfire in the woods around Warren, Idaho, Phil recited "The Cremation of Sam Magee" for my for my birthday. A bottle of whiskey, not far away. A memory I will always remember. Yes, he was a character! Great sketch, and it does look like him. Kathleen Menasco

Jodi said...

Phil and Rosie lived just around the corner from my folks. He was one of dad's favorite co-workers. I'll always remember what a kick Phil would get out of himself. Quite the character!

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather was Phil Swanstrum. I was thinking about him and thought I would google him (not something around when he was alive) and this is what came up. It is now 2015, so many years later but this brought a tear to my eye. Phil died suddenly in 1999 on a hot Wednesday in August of a stroke, and Rosie, who had a long fight with ovarian cancer died that Friday. We knew after 56 years of marriage that he could not be without her. To hear people remember him by his story telling is like the legend he was lives on. He was a jokester, a prankster, an animal lover (shown here!), a poet and story-teller and actually, an artist himself, preferred medium was pen and ink as well. This is a beautiful sketch of him. I would love to buy one (or more) if they are still available. And thank you everyone for sharing your fond memories of my Grandpa Phil and my Grandma Rosie.