CONCEPT TO COMPLETION "Reflections of a Passing Day" By Jennifer Denison-Western Horseman January 2011
CONCEPT TO COMPLETION, "Reflections of a Passing Day"
STORY BY JENNIFER DENISON
Created to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Western Horseman, this painting by Tim Cox was sold at the 45th Annual Cowboy Artists of American Sale & Exhibition last fall.
When the Western Horseman staff began discussing the cover painting for the January 2011 issue, we knew it had to be something special to kick off the magazine’s 75th anniversary. It needed to fit our special fold-out format. It needed to reflect on the past, yet relate to the present and future. It needed to convey the deep connection between a cowboy and his horse. It needed to evoke emotion and show a scene in sharp, photographic-like detail. Most importantly, it needed to be memorable.
These are pretty lofty ambitions to incorporate into a single painting, and we were on a tight, six-month deadline, but we knew artist Tim Cox could handle the challenge. Tim’s work first appeared in the Western Horseman in 1981, and it’s been on the cover 13 times since then. Though he’s first and foremost an artist, he has worked on ranches, trained cutting horses and has respect for and knowledge of horses, ranching, the Western landscape and cowboy traditions.
“It meant a lot to me to be asked to do this cover,” says Cox. “I have always felt I owned something to the magazine for furthering my art career, and I was happy to return that loyalty and share it with the readers.”
As with all of his paintings, Cox used 40 to 50 photographs he’s taken on various ranches as reference material and to cultivate his ideas. The result was Reflections of a Passing Day, depicting a cowboy crouched beside his horse, looking into the water as his horse drinks. The title not only describes to the scene in the painting, but also relates to Western Horseman’s 75-year heritage, the evolution of the stock-horse industry from agriculture to recreation and the way each is adjusting to changes and looking toward the future.
The painting’s complexity is found in the metaphors and line and color details. On the left side, we see a cowboy who we can assume makes his living horseback. The simple act of watering his horse, as well as holding the reins, shows his unity with and compassion for the animal. The cowboy’s calm, somewhat somber expression, amplified by the mix of warm colors, reflective light and the way he’s gently running hand in the water, evokes mixed emotion. On the one hand, he appears to be looking at his reflection in the water and wondering where time has gone and how many more mile he and his horse will ride. In the background, the and on the right side of the painting, the horizon appears colorful and endless as if symbolizing the future.
“I worked hard to connect the cowboy to the future,” Cox says. “There are going to always be ties to the past. I also wanted to express the also peace and tranquility of the Western lifestyle and a sense of calm with horses in the background and the warm colors.”
Notice that the cowboy’s face is partially hidden. Cox intentionally created a nondescript cowboy so that viewers can see themselves in the scene and reflect on what they’ve seen and done in their lives.
“If I put a face on the subject, viewers tend to look at the face and not put themselves in the scene,” Cox explains. “Also, you don’t know if the cowboy is a cutter, rancher or team roper. I want everyone to relate to him, whether they’re trainers, trailer riders or everyday horse-lovers.”
Cox has a unique ability to paint water with uncanny realism and clarity. He believes the water and reflection represent present and the cowboy’s inner self. It also gives his paintings a “Wow! factor.”
Creating a composition that would work on a fold-out cover was the biggest challenge Cox faced when creating this painting. Since the piece would be for sale at the 45th annual Cowboys Artists of the Americas Sale & Exhibition in Phoenix, Arizona, he needed to not only paint something that would fit the cover format but would also be of reasonable size, subject matter and style to which his collectors are accustomed.
“In the first version I had the cowboy and horse centered in the painting,” Cox says, “But I needed to move them to the left to fit with the cover format. Then I had to add the horses and mountain to the other side while still keeping the painting balanced and not static. It really pushed by boundaries as an artist and made the painting better.”
Cox added a curve to the horse’s spine to draw the viewer’s eye into the painting. The cowboy’s right arm and hand aim back toward the horse, keeping the connection between him and the horse.
The painting is not only an expression of how Cox sees the world around him, but it also includes many personal details. The bit in the horse’s mouth, made by Jerry Clapper, was a Christmas gift to Cox in 2009 and is his favorite bit. The horse portrayed in the painting is Cox’s personal horse, Montoya Mirror, or “Monty,” who he bought as a weanling and trained him for ranch work.
“He’s by my stallion, Hot Buns Doc and out of a T4 Ranch mare,” Cox says. “I take him to ranches to work and use him for trail riding.”
Cox’s close ties to the Southwest landscape and lifestyle he paints, and his accurate portrayal of tack, equine conformation and other details has made his work sought by real cowboys. Just as Western Horseman has been a constant chronicle of the evolution of stock horses and the ranching industry, Cox takes his role as documenting contemporary horses and cowboys seriously.
“I feel like I’m painting history,” he says. “In the future I hope people will look back on my paintings and see how it was like I do now with works by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington.”Cowboy Artists of America president Tim Cox painted the cover of this collectible issue of Western Horseman.
ARTIST: Tim Cox
HOMETOWN: Resides in Bloomfield, New Mexico, but considers Eagle Creek, Arizona, his home.
FAMILY: Wife, Suzie; daughter Calla; and son Jake, his wife Carmin, and daughter C.J.
MEDIA: oil on Masonite (a smooth-textured, wooden board)
ARTIST STATEMENT: “Aristotle said something about the soul never thinking without an image. I paint the images of my soul and record the impressions of what I’ve see and felt in the West so it’ll be there for generations to come.”
AFFILIATIONS: Inducted into the Cowboy Artists of American in 2007 and is the organization’s current president.
RECENT RECOGNITIONS: In 2009, Cox was awarded the Ayudando Siempre Alli Award from the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association. he also received the Prix de West Purchase Award in 2003, and the Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award given during Prix de West in 2004 and 2007.
UPCOMING SHOWS: Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition & Sale, June 10-11, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
REPRESENTED BY: Settlers West Galleries in Tucson, Arizona, and Trailside Galleries in Jackson, Wyoming, and Scottsdale, Arizona.
WEB SITE: timcox.com