Second Chances

I decided to focus the subject of my art on the American West.  Right away, I knew I wanted to do some paintings of cowboys, but I didn’t have any particular stories in mind. However, I decided to go ahead and arrange a photo shoot and felt the painting ideas would come. This approach is completely backward for me. Usually, I first start off with an idea, then I arrange and pose models for that particular painting. I asked several people I know who had horses, or friends with horses, but I had no success. In fact, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find anyone who owned horses, who was willing to let me come over and photograph with them. They were all too busy and the excitement just wasn’t there. 

One day, a few months ago, I learned about someone who might be just who I was looking for. My sister, who lives a few hours away, told me about a coworker of her husband, named Cody. He had eight horses, and she thought he would be interested in posing for me. She asked, and not only was he interested, he was really excited to do it. 

When I spoke with him on the phone, he mentioned he had never done anything like modeling for a photo shoot before. I told him it was not a problem, I was scared of horses and also knew nothing about them, so we were both in for something new!

As the day of the photo shoot approached, I traveled up to the Cache Valley where Cody lives. I spent a couple of days painting plein air paintings in and around Cache Valley to help prepare me for the shoot. Cache Valley, by the way, has got to be about as close to heaven as I could imagine.  I called Cody and asked him not to do anything with the horses beforehand, I wanted to photograph the whole process of saddling the horses, riding them, and also caring for them after the ride, thinking that anything could provide inspiration for pieces I wanted to paint.

When my brother in law, who works with Cody, my wife and I arrived at his home, Cody had pulled out two horses for me to choose from, his horse, Beau, and his wife’s horse, Cash. Immediately I knew that the horse I wanted to work with was Cash. She was beautiful! She had this magnificent, perfect dark, brown coat, she was tall and very well defined and in the evening sun she had this warm amber glow about her that I knew would be amazing! 

As I asked, Cody had done nothing except pull them out.  I took pictures as he got everything ready. I asked a lot of questions about what he was doing and why. He answered my questions as he worked. I learned a lot about horses, tack, saddles, chaps, blankets and so much more.  Usually I plan on about 30 minutes to an hour for a photo shoot, but we all were having such a great time that we ended up spending quite a bit longer.  After taking a lot of pictures from every angle we could think of, changes in his apparel (duster, chaps, etc.), several different poses and even some action shots as he rode around, and using both horses, Cody treated us at the end as he even shoed both horses, which means I can even do a Farrier painting, too!

I titled this painting “Second Chances”, because I really wanted to tell the story of the mare, Cash, about her opportunity at a second chance at life after her career ending injury. Cash started her life as a pure bred race horse with champion blood running through her, Cody told me who her mother is, but I don’t remember off hand. Unfortunately early on in her career she was accidently injured by a cut just above her right hind hoof. Not enough to cripple her but enough to end her racing days.  Cody bought her for his wife and brought her home to a loving home and family. For her, it was a second chance at a new life. I also felt a personal connection, since we all have had some time in our life when we are given a second chance. We were saddened to learn that just a few weeks after the photo shoot, Cash passed away suddenly from kidney failure. We feel very grateful at being able to provide Cody and his wife so many ways to remember her and the joy she brought to their family.

I’ve donated this painting to a charity auction in Texas. With the theme as the American cowboy, I knew that the story of Cash and her second chance would be perfect in raising money to help others also receive a second chance.

For me, painting westerns is a chance to tell the stories of the American west and in particular the American Cowboy. To show how the west is Lived, through the spirit of the American west.