Tuesday, September 20, 2016

West Texas Ranches by A Resident Painter


I was a visual artist before I took up writing. I trained at the Minneapolis School of Art, later renamed the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. My major was fashion design, not because I wanted to design clothes, but because of the three hours a week of instruction in fashion illustration. Painting was my elective and I hoped to one day be a serious painter.

After graduating, I worked as an illustrator in two different local department stores, and later taught general drawing and fashion illustration for Art Instruction Schools, known for their “Draw Me” heads in TV Guide and other magazines. For various reasons, I never achieved my dream of becoming a famous painter.

 
However, I still love beautiful art and today I’m going to tell you about a Texas artist I came to admire through a book of his paintings. His name is Mondel Rogers. He hails from Sweetwater, Texas, about forty miles west of Abilene. The book title is Old Ranches Of The Texas Plains. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Old-Ranches-Texas-Plains-Paintings/dp/0890960194 Since I own a copy of the book, I uploaded the cover. Sorry about the fuzzy lettering.

Rogers is at least a fourth generation Texan. His ancestors moved to here from Tennessee in the 1830s. In his introduction to the book, he mentions his “very old” great-grandmother who entertained him with stories about her girlhood on the West Texas frontier. She recalled bear hunts and seeing Indians silhouetted against the moon. Both of his grandfathers regaled him with adventures from around the turn of the 20th Century when they worked as hard-riding cowboys on large ranches.
 


The “real West” was in Rogers’ blood, and living on the Texas plains, he personally experienced “choking sandstorms, frigid blue northers, electrifying thunderstorms [and] ‘cyclones’.” He also saw plenty of relics from the past studding the land: hitching racks (posts?), fences from yesteryear and other ranch landmarks.

 

Rogers holds a degree in architecture from Texas Tech University – “the M.I.T of the plains” to quote Mitchell A. Wilder, former director of the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, in his forward to the book. In his paintings, Rogers combines his architect’s knowhow with his innate love of ranch history. He is a master of light, color, texture and the wide open spaces he grew up absorbing.

I wish I could share some of the artist’s work with you here, but I fear that would be copyright infringement. All I can do is highly recommend his book. It contains seventy-six plates (prints), some black and white, but many in color. My favorite is #66 on page 90. Titled “Prince of Sylvester”, it depicts an abandoned mansion, all that’s left of the town of Sylvester in Fisher County. Several prosperous ranchers built their headquarters there, where their lands touched.

This information is included at the back of the book in “The Artist’s Comments on His Paintings” where he gives a brief history of each of his subjects. Fascinating stuff for history buffs, especially authors!

Find my books here: http://amzn.to/Y3aotC

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11 comments:

  1. You've written a special post, Lyn. I had no idea you were an artist, too. I can't draw a stick figure, but I always wished I could paint...and sing...can't sing either. I think both are special God-given talents. I do love the way you worked your own experience into your historic text. This always makes an interesting piece to read.
    Well done!

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    1. Celia, I was a bit leery of including some of my personal story, but it seemed like a good lead-in to the post topic. I'm glad you found it interesting. Many thanks!

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  2. I, too, enjoyed your post, Lyn, because not only was it interesting to read, but we learned more about you personally. I would love to see some of your own artwork, no copyrights infringement worries then!

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    1. Cheri, I'd love to include my own art -- if I had anything pertinent to the old west. Sadly I don't. All I kept are some of my fashion illustrations from ads in the Mpls. newspaper, a few abstract works from art school days and some pencil sketches.

      One reason I gave up on art and turned to writing is the deteriorating condition of my hands. Due to a genetic disorder, my right hand became too shaky and constricted to wield a pen for illustrating. And to be very honest, I just didn't have a strong talent for painting. Thankfully, I can still type using my pointer fingers - plenty fast enough for writing.

      I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. glad you liked my post!

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  3. Lynn, thank you so much for sharing about this artist and his book. You forgot to mention that Sweetwater is also the home of the spring Rattlesnake Roundup and was once home of the world's largest cotton compress and storage. I am ordering the book and so appreciate you mentioning it. I love western art, but have about run out of room on our walls. I'm sure I could fit in another two or three. :)

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    1. You are a font of Texas history, Caroline. I'm sure I heard about the rattlesnake roundup but not the cotton compress. Thanks for sharing that tidbit.

      I hope you enjoy Mondel Rogers' book as much as I have.

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  4. We have a lot in common, Caroline. I started out in visual arts and went to college for two years majoring in fine arts. Then I moved to Utah where I hoped to paint landscapes in watercolor. Instead I became a writer.

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  5. Charlene, you're putting your art background to good use with your cover designs. Landscapes are my favorite type of paintings, especially those of Claude Monet and J.M.W. Turner. The cool thing about writing is we can paint our landscapes with words just the way we imagine them. :)

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  6. Hi, Lyn. I was a Home Economics major and took both Fashion Design and Housing Design. Loved both classes. My professor for FD drew fashions for the Dallas Morning News before pictures took over. The subject fascinated me and though I've done some oil painting, I've never had a desire to be an artist. It's never to late to give it a try.

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    1. Linda, that's quite a range of study. Cool that your fashion prof was an illustrator. You're smart for not pursuing an art career. It's very competitive, but then so is writing, as we all know.

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  7. You could just knock me over with a feather, Lyn, when I read that you dreamed of becoming a successful artist. I would have loved it if you had posted your work.
    Julia Cameron wrote in her book The Artist's Way, that creative people usually have more than one creative endeavor. I find this is so often the case. I consider my writing my number 1 love, but I also enjoy playing musical instruments, photography, and using flowers, leaves, and so on to make cards and pictures. I always wished I could do visual art, but it's just not a talent I possess.
    So, it should come as no surprise to me that you aspired to become a renowned artist. Sometime I hope you will write a post and include your art. I enjoyed reading this article even though I was so focused on YOUR art I all but forgot about Rogers.

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