Bill Owen, CA
(1942 – 2013)
Bill Owen, born and raised in Arizona, his mother an artist — his father a cowboy, it isn’t any wonder that he became a legendary member of the Cowboy Artists of America in 1973 and served as its President three times and earned numerous medals and awards. A good day of leather, dust and a herd was all the inspiration he needed. When he wasn’t in the saddle or mending fences, there was a paint brush in his hand.
Bill’s work was exhibited at the Whitney Museum in Cody, WY, the Grand Palais in Paris, France, and at the Western Art Show in Beijing, China. In 1993 he became a member and staff artist of Rancheros Visitadores and was awarded the Frederic Remington Award for Artistic Merit by the Cowboy Hall of Fame. By 1996, the prestigious Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK, honored Bill as its Rendezvous Artist. And, in 2003, at the Prix de West Invitational Exhibition & Sale he was honored as the first recipient of the “Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award.”
While practicing for a rodeo in 1989, Bill survived a freak accident which resulted in the loss of sight in his right eye. It affected his depth perception and forced him to relinquish sculpting. He didn’t allow himself to consider the loss a handicap, but greatly missed the medium for thirteen years. His grit and tenacity paid off, and he was able to successfully resume his craft in 2002.
For all of Bill’s artistic achievements, he was most proud of The Arizona Cowpuncher’s Scholarship Organization he founded in 1995 which provided educational scholarships for individuals from Arizona’s ranching communities.
Bill’s brand was his calling card… “the Cowboy Artist” …and he lived the life he painted.
The Ride Home
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (2008) | Image Size: 18”h x 34”w; Framed Size: 32”h x 48”w
Bill Owen’s interpretations of ranch life in the Southwest capture the reality of all aspects of the subject. He depicted the landscape in a realistic manner and paid careful attention to the nuances of color, light, and shade and portrayed horses with equal skill. This painting of horses quietly waiting for their riders at the end of a long work day contains all of those elements. Obviously, his Cowboy Artists of America colleagues thought so too when they awarded him the CA Artists’ Choice Award for his body of work at the 2008 CAA Exhibition & Sale when this piece made its debut at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Cowboss Scattering the Hands
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1996) | Image Size: 38”h x 48”w; Framed Size: 45”h x 55”w
This large painting of several cowhands receiving their instructions for the day is the quintessential Bill Owen painting. The subject, the life of the working cowboy on a modern ranch, is one that Owen painted often and was one of the best among contemporary western artists. Here the cowboys and wranglers form a semi-circle around the cow boss who is mounted on a white horse in the center of the painting under a brightening sky that is streaked with the brilliant pinks of a sunrise. Owen keeps the viewer’s eye focused on the cowboss by having each of the cowboys’ horses face him. The pink clouds above him form a triangle that further serves to accentuate his position of importance. It is a serene instance, a moment of quiet anticipation prior to the start of a long day. Owen has perfectly captured the mood of the morning, the beauty of the western sky and the authenticity of the assembled hands. Each detail of clothing and gear adds a sense of reality to the painting. This was Bill Owen’s domain, and he painted it with skill and first-hand knowledge.
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1979) | Image Size: 24"h x 36"w
The life of the modern cowboy can be a hard one filled with long hours of work in the saddle. Equally it can be as tough for the horses who are required to spend long hours on the range. In order to ensure that a cowboy’s mount will be fresh and prepared for the tasks at hand, they often change horses at midday. And in Bill Owen’s “Noon Change” cowhands are engaged in the process of doing just that. Captured under a blue, cloud-filled sky, we are reminded of the many tasks a cowboy faces each day and the methods used to assure that his work is done effectively.
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Pencil (1973) | Image Size: 12”h x 9”w; Framed Size: 16 ¾”h x 13 ¾”w
“Cool Thoughts” is another rare Bill Owen historical Indian portrait. In this drawing, Owen presents a Plains Indian warrior wearing a headdress. The weathered face of the Indian looks directly at the viewer and occupies most of the space of the painting. Owen focuses on the man himself and not accoutrements, such as the headdress, which is only partially shown. The pencil drawing was done early in the artist’s career, prior to his induction into the Cowboy Artists of America.
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Pencil/Pastel (1973) | Image Size: 12”h x 9”w; Framed Size: 16 5/8”h x 13 5/8”w
“Cavalry Scout” is an early and atypical Bill Owen piece. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Western art genre, Bill Owen rarely portrayed Native American subjects or images that reflected historical content. In this well-executed portrait of an Indian Scout with his face turned directly toward the viewer, he successfully captured the personality of his subject and gives the viewer insight into the man’s character. While he did not continue in this subject vein and primarily focused on contemporary ranch life, he most definitively possessed the talent to work in this arena.
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1981) | Image Size: 24”h x 36”w;
Framed Size: 34 ½”h x 46 ½”w
In the west, water is an ever present issue particularly for ranchers who are dependent upon a steady supply to keep their cattle alive. Many ranchers rely on stock tanks to store and water their herd. Here, Owen depicted lingering drought conditions; note the layers of water line recessions complete with a muddy ring. By using a palette consisting mostly of browns and tans, the dry condition was accentuated. The attending wranglers were placed under a hazy sky partially obscured by a cloud of dust kicked up by the approaching cattle. The implication left by the image is that in the not too distant future the tank will simply be a depression in the land.
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Watercolor (2006) | Image Size: 10”h x 9”w; Framed Size: 16 5/8”h x 15 7/8”w
Having a Cool One
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1991)| Image Size: 30”h x 40”w; Framed Size: 40”h x 50”w
Bill Owen excelled at realistically capturing scenes of everyday modern ranching while executing extraordinary landscape imagery. “Having a Cool One” is a prime example of his insider working rancher knowledge who sincerely appreciated the beauty of nature.
Effectively horizontally bisected, the lower half of the canvas is devoted to a quiet scene of a cowboy looking after a string of horses stopped to take a long drink of cool water while the top portion of the canvas flaunts a vividly colored sky complete with a full array of clouds reflecting the pink glow of the setting sun.
Moving the Remuda
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1996) | Image Size: 22”h x 36”w; Frame Size: 36”h x 50”w
Ropin’ One In
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1991) | Image Size: 18”h x 24”w; Framed Size: 27 ¼”h x 33 ¼”w
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Bronze (1983) | 9”d x 13”w x 27”h; Edition #4 of 40
His Band of Mares
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (2005) | Image Size: 24”h x 48”w; Framed Size: 36”h x 60”w
Blood, Sweat & Burning Hair
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: (1973) | 40”h x 30”w
II Perils of the Range
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)
I Perils of the Range
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)
Worn Out Rope
Artist: Bill Owen, CA (1942 - 2013)Description: Oil (1973) | 24” x 30”