Painting the West

Everyday moments of the working cowboy become works of art thanks to Western artist Jason Rich.
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Everyday moments of the working cowboy become works of art thanks to Western artist Jason Rich.
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From his small farm in northern Utah, artist Jason Rich (www.jasonrichstudios.com captures on canvas the everyday moments of cowboy life: tightening a cinch, working the alley, resting at a waterhole, coiling a rope.

Rich has been artistically rendering the West since he was a young boy on his parents’ ranch in Idaho, where he rode, trained, and drew his family’s horses.

“I’ve always loved painting horses and the cowboy life,” he says. “There’s just an endless variety of subject matter, from dusty corral scenes to dramatic mountainscapes. And there’s so many great elements—human, horse, and landscape. People relate to all three things in so many ways.”

Rich has come a long way from sketching horses on the family spread. After getting an art degree from Utah State University, Rich found a small gallery in Jackson, Wyo., to showcase his work. Now, his paintings hang in galleries throughout the United States. In 2007, Rich was honored as the featured cowboy artist at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s National Day of the American Cowboy event, which celebrated John Wayne’s 100th birthday. And in 2011, Rich was invited to become a member of the Cowboy Artist Association.

“It’s a great honor to be part of the CAA,” he says. “Their whole mission is to perpetuate the American West and its way of life—a way of life I’ve always lived and painted.”

In order to best represent his subject matter, Rich rides alongside the cowboys at work, whether they’re moving herds, branding, or packing.

“I may not be great with a rope,” he jokes, “but I’m out there. You have to be in the thick of the action. You have to be there to smell it, hear it, and feel it.”

In addition to his undeniable artistic talents, Rich is praised for his attention to detail and accurate depiction of cowboy life. His incredible attention to nuance and authenticity has earned him many prestigious awards and accolades, including the Best Portrayal of a Cowboy Subject award, given by the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association.

“The cowboy way of life is changing rapidly, and as an artist, I’m documenting history in a way,” he says. “I want to make sure I represent the life as accurately as possible.

“It’s important to keep the cowboy way of life alive. The cowboy is a symbol of freedom, hard work, ingenuity, and the ability to make it in this country. The cowboy is such a great icon of what America represents. It’s good for people to see that.”