Charlie Russell is special because he combined artwork with authentic cowboys, Indians, history and a drink or two. Good man, that Charlie.
For Charlie Russell and His Characters, the bartender is the only character not from a Russell painting because he is Sid Willis, saloon owner and art patron.
When True Blues was used as a clue on Jeopardy! I felt a sense of irony. In 1969, my father was a contestant on Jeopardy! He lost his $300 winnings by missing Final Jeopardy. I got it back. They paid me $300 to use the image.
Seeing my Ronald Reagan painting in Hector Mendoza’s office for Netflix’s House of Cards is a great conversation starter at cocktail parties. I don’t go to cocktail parties.
More people should know about Old West artist Will James. His supposed autobiography, Lone Cowboy, was pretty much a fabrication. His real life of cattle rustling, mysterious bad deeds and great drawings would have made a better story.
Norman Rockwell’s realism taught me two things. First, I learned to enjoy a storytelling painting. Second, I have learned how incredible his skills were. He was a genius.
The strangest Old West narrative I have come across is John Dunn Hunter’s Memoirs of a Captivity Among the Indians of North America. Now, how much is actually true….
Working as vice president of marketing for a Fortune 500 company (Leggett & Platt) was actually fun. I always thought I had the best job in town. I still think that.
Both my hands got severely injured from a shop explosion while experimenting with a mold for a sculpture. That incident, and a few others, convinced me that painting is the only activity that protects me from myself.
For Custer at Little Big Horn, my bandaged left hand became my painting hand because the right one was in worse shape. Painting as a southpaw was tedious, but not as tedious as day television.
Having Wild Bill Hickok biographer Joseph Rosa as a fan of my Hickok art means plenty to me. He’s a great writer and a thorough researcher.
Presidents playing poker came to me by a phone call. It was suggested to me, and I couldn’t resist the challenge. Many of my paintings have been suggested to me. I try to keep an open mind.
The tale I am looking to paint next is a tough one. I’d like to do a memorable painting of the 1876 Battle of the Little Big Horn from the Indian point of view. The research is intimidating.
This year’s C.M. Russell Museum benefit auction will have Sundance and the Wild Bunch Hit the Union Pacific both in an oil painting (mine) and a bronze (by Greg Kelsey). Greg and I decided to do the same moment.
To tell a story visually requires a lot of small touches. I was told that the great illustrator Howard Pyle said, “If you’re painting a man in a sword fight, don’t paint his hand gripping the sword, paint his hand gripping the sword as if his life depended on it.”
What most people don’t know about me is I’m not much of a horseman. Let’s say I can’t ride like the people I paint.
ANDY THOMAS, ARTIST
The newest member of our True West family, Andy Thomas has applied his Fortune 500 marketing acumen to his paintings of the Old West. Not only will his work be featured at the C.M. Russell Museum’s annual benefit auction in Great Falls, Montana, this March, but he also will have a retrospective show at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this April. Featuring the largest body of his work ever displayed, he calls it the “highlight of my career.” The father of six children and grandfather to nine, he lives in Carthage, Missouri, with his artist wife, Dina.