Friday, April 27, 2012
Monty Graham, Cowboy Artist
“If I didn’t ride, I’d still have a horse, because it’s just part of my nature."
GLADEWATER A fond love for horses is immediately apparent while driving up the tree-lined path to the ranch of cowboy artist Monty Graham. His appreciation for their graceful beauty is displayed in gentle care and enjoyment as he observes their interactions.
“If I didn’t ride, I’d still have a horse, because it’s just part of my nature. I think they are one of the most beautiful animals that there is. They’re very intelligent. Just like people, they have their own personalities,” says Monty.
When asked how he decides on subject matter, Monty says, “I’ve always had horses my whole life, so that was a no brainer. I like doing horses. People don’t realize I do people, but I do portraits. My biggest field is commissioned work of horses and people.”
As a child, as soon as he could pick up a pencil, he began drawing. His interest in art continued all through school. While taking numerous art classes in high school, an art teacher recognized his talent and encouraged Monty to enter competitions. As a result, he won several college scholarships. After taking many art classes at Kilgore College then Stephen F. Austin, Monty received his college degree.
“I ended up going into the Navy after I graduated. I was an illustrator/draftsman in the Navy,” says Monty. “When I got out of the Navy, I went into commercial art and ended up being an art director for Hughes Aircraft and a couple other major companies, including Service Merchandise in advertising.”
While in the Navy, Monty’s paintings were shown in galleries in California where he rubbed shoulders with some big name artists. He was invited to exhibit in a juried western art show. Using that show as a gauge to see whether or not he could compete in that genre, Monty entered the drawing competition. He ended up winning first place in that category. That convinced him to get serious about Western art.
“From there was the stepping stone that I used to keep going with it in watercolor, oil, pencil drawing, pen and ink, charcoal, and pastel. I’ve done it all,” says Monty.
Eventually, he made his way back to Gladewater and operated his own gallery for a few years until 2006. Among his accomplishments that he’s most pleased, he lists the ten years he designed Gladewater’s limited edition rodeo posters. He was recently approached by Joan Sturkie, an art collector and connoisseur in the area and owner of the Whisenhunt Center in Gladewater, to help develop a Western art exhibit. Monty’s extensive experience, both as an artist and former gallery owner, made him the perfect fit to help establish the art exhibit, Western Art Round Up. Gladewater Center for the Arts, Inc. is located in the Art Elite Annex at 110 North Main in Gladewater. The show will feature high caliber local and regional artists in the Western art genre and coincides with the 75th Gladewater Round Up Rodeo.
“If I’m going to be involved in it,” says Monty, “I want it to be obviously successful but enjoyable and fun. We have 16 artists lined up for it. I want it to be interesting and entertaining. We try to communicate with the community to understand the importance of art and help the artists.”
The purpose of the Gladewater Center for the Arts, Inc. is to promote the arts, educate, the public and help art students in the area.
“It doesn’t matter what art genre you’re talking about, but it’s to help the students with scholarships. Our main goal is to present students with scholarships to continue on with their art,” says Monty.
Monty wants the show to be an event that includes refreshments, music and decorations with a western ambience. He is calling it the biggest Western art show in East Texas, with 80 or more pieces of art to feast our eyes upon. Feel free to come in your Western hat and boots, and you’ll fit right in with the artists.