From the ranch to a canvas: Cowan captures images from working ranch in paintings
Evanston – Ranch life is a part of who Amanda Cowan is, and the inspiration provided the roots of her art career.
Since her youth, Cowan has been involved in the agriculture industry.
“I grew up on a farm and spent my time in the corrals drawing horses,” Cowan explains. “I was obsessed with horses. Drawing and riding was all I did in my spare time.”
From the beginning
“On the farm, I would draw for hours,” Cowan continues. “I’ve always loved animals, and I love drawing them.”
Cowan attended Snow College and earned a degree in agriculture, but she says, “I snuck in a couple of art classes during my college years – just for fun.”
Following college, she moved to her current location 20 miles south of Evanston, where she lives with her husband and two dogs.
“We work the ranch alongside my husband’s brother and his wife,” Cowan continues.
Her art career has blossomed with her work on the ranch.
“Ranch life is my painting,” she comments. “Everything around me is the ranch. Whether it’s cows, horses, family or friends, my life is full of beauty and inspiration.”
“My love for animals hasn’t changed over the years,” Cowan adds. “I love animals, often more than people, and when people can gain an animal’s trust, it’s awesome to see. The relationship that exists between animals – specifically horses – and people shaped my world and my work.”
Capturing a relationship
Painting provides an opportunity for Cowan to capture the relationships she sees in nature.
“I really enjoy when I hear people say they can ‘feel’ what is happening in a painting,” she says. “If I can get a feeling across to another person through my work, then I’ve really accomplished my goal.”
When given the choice, Cowan paints horses.
“But, I really love when I can capture a relationship between a horse and rider,” Cowan describes. “My favorite pieces are a few where I’ve painted my sister-in-law Tina and her horse Kate. They fit so perfectly together, and I love being able to capture their relationship.”
Cowan utilizes both oils and watercolors, but she prefers working with watercolors.
“My painting process begins outside when we’re working,” she explains. “I take my camera along while we are moving cows or feeding behind the team of horses in the winter and capture the dusty, sweaty and sometimes bitter cold moments of ranch life.”
She continues, “I take a million pictures as reference for my paintings later.”
Cowan laughs that sometimes, though, she is so busy working that she forgets to take photos for reference.
“Most of the things that could be seen as challenges on the ranch give me ideas and inspiration,” Cowan says.
While the summer months are busy with ranch work, Cowan says she makes time to get some painting in.
“During the winter, I’m busy with an endless amount of memories to paint from,” Cowan says.
When she gets the chance to work on a piece, Cowan starts with a sketch, reworking the lines until she’s satisfied with the product.
“Sometimes I have a piece that I’m totally into, and I can get it done in a few days,” she comments. “Other times, I have a piece that I like, but it takes me longer to get into ‘the zone’ where things flow easier.”
Cowan’s artwork is primarily displayed on her website, amandacowanart.com.
“I also do a few shows, including the Heber Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Heber City, Utah. I can’t miss that show,” she says. “I also go to the National Cowboy Poetry Festival in Elko, Nev., too”
She has success in exhibiting her paintings around the world.
In 2007, Cowan was honored as People’s Choice Award Winner at the Western Art Roundup in Winnemucca, Nev.
“I’ve also been part of the San Dimas Art Show in San Dimas, Calif., the Phippen Art Show in Prescott, Ariz., the Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and the Red Bluff Art Show in Red Bluff, Calif., to name a few,” she says.
Cowan has also sold paintings to buyers in Australia, France, Korea, Canada and the U.S.
Recently, she illustrated two books for rancher and cowboy poet Pete Cornia.
Eyes on the future
As she looks toward the future of her painting career, Cowan says she has too many plans and goals to list, but overall, “One goal is constant in my life. I always want to keep improving my work.”
Regardless of the amount of ranch work required, she will always continue to draw and paint in her spare time.
Cowan comments, “Painting the horses and the hard working men and women I work with – and the occasional wild critter – is my way of recognizing and showing gratitude for all the beautiful real life things I get to experience in my little corner of the world in Wyoming.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.