To understand where I have come from as a painter, it helps to know something about those who have had the greatest influence on my own career. From time to time, I’d like to talk about those giants. I’ll start with Tom Lea, a legendary Texas artist/author. Tom was a family friend in El Paso. As a teenager, I read his novel The Wonderful Country and copied many of his pen and ink chapter illustrations. When I graduated with a painting degree from Washington University in St. Louis, he graciously welcomed me to his studio to see my portfolio of school work. It gave me my first exposure to the workplace of a professional artist other than that of my commercial illustrator uncle in New York whom I visited the summer I graduated from high school. Tom knew the hard road I had ahead of me and went out of his way to help. He facilitated several portrait commissions, a contact with the King Ranch to make a mural proposal for a bank in Kingsville,Texas, and book illustration assignments with Little Brown & Company and The University of Texas Press. When I applied to graduate school, he wrote such a strong recommendation it probably resulted in my quick exit after a single quarter so I could eagerly get on with my own career. It’s scary to imagine where I’d be without Tom’s wonderful help early on.
At least once a week, but often twice, Iris and I go very early to our training less that fifteen minutes away. We have most of the elements we need–open pasture, willows, cattail-choked draws, and water! Year ’round, we can keep her in tune both physically and mentally. Iris loves her work, and I get great pleasure seeing her succeed. On top of that, her stylish retrieves are great fodder for future paintings.