Striving for authenticity: Wyoming artist recreates Western scenes
Thayne – Star Valley-based Western artist Clark Kelley Price, who created the cover art on this year’s Rocky Mountain Horse Edition, says he’s drawn and painted Western scenes from the time he was young.
“My dad exposed me to the outdoors when I was a little boy, and he took me hunting and camping. I was always interested in things like that,” says Price of his earliest days in the art world.
Although he didn’t grow up on a ranch, Price says his father grew up on a ranch in southern Idaho, so Price grew up visiting and working in that part of the country.
“The first painting I can remember selling was a little pastel drawing of a deer that I sold in junior high school for $1.76,” remembers Price, who went on to obtain an associate of arts degree from Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho and a bachelor of arts degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Today, Price says he visits new ranches and new areas for ideas for his art, and he also refers back to his own experiences working on ranches.
“I also refer to experiences some of my friends have told me about,” he adds.
To paint his scenes, Price imagines how they would work and how they would look, and then he uses a combination of photographs and his memory to paint.
“Sometimes I paint strictly out of my mind, and sometimes I use photos for reference for things like the landscape,” he says.
“I enjoy creating a scene that is reminiscent of something I’ve seen or done, or reminiscent of things I’ve read or heard about,” says Price, mentioning he enjoys historical scenes. “I like the idea of recreating things that have happened.”
“The challenge in Western art is creating scenes that are authentic,” he continues. “They need to look and feel real, especially the animals and people, and not only their anatomy and structure, but also the way they look and their expressions – especially with horses. Many people can paint horses from a photograph, but there’s another element in painting not just how they look, but how they feel, and their personalities. That’s the most challenging and difficult part of Western paintings – making them feel right, and making them feel authentic.”
A 24- by 36-inch painting can take him one to two months to complete, while smaller works can take a week to two weeks, says Price.
“I usually have at least three and up to seven paintings going at one time,” he says. “It depends how much pressure I’m under, but that works best for me, because if I work on only one at a time I get jaded and tired and start seeing cross-eyed. I like to set my paintings aside after a couple days, because a change is as good as a rest, and in painting that’s really true.”
Price says his favorite medium is oil paint, although he also works in watercolor, pen and ink and some sculpting.
“My main thing is oil paint, because I can cover all up my mistakes,” he says with a smile.
Price says he doesn’t even know who many of his customers are, because he sells most of his work through four main art galleries in Florida, Arizona, Texas and Wyoming. However, he says he also has quite a few customers who buy directly from his studio in Star Valley.
“I’ve sold paintings overseas in foreign countries – you never know who will be interested in Western art,” he says.
He also does commission work for customers from coast to coast who ask him to paint a specific idea.
Patience and endurance
“I love being an artist, and I’m glad I can do it for a living,” notes Price. “It’s very rewarding, but it’s also quite taxing. Painting is hard, and requires a lot of patience and endurance.”
However, he says he believes paintings are a special thing that add richness to people’s lives.
“When they have paintings, they can go back and look at them every day. I’ve had customers say they enjoy something new about my paintings every day, and that’s very satisfying to me,” he adds.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.