From Commercial Artist to Cowboy Artist
For Cowboy Artist Gary Niblett, life has come full circle. Born and raised in Carlsbad, N.M., Niblett’s earliest influences include unspoiled Western landscapes and working ranches. From his youngest days, art was always a part of his life.
“I used to do horse portraits in high school, and I always enjoyed doing them,” he recalls. “I figured I would have to go into some kind of commercial art to make a living.”
And that is just what he did. For eight years, he worked for Hannah-Barbera Studios in California as a background artist. His projects included beloved classics, such as Scooby Doo, Charlotte’s Web and The Flintstones.
“It was a whole lot of fun back then,” he laughs, “and we really enjoyed it.”
While at Hannah-Barbera, he met and married a Polish woman named Monika who worked in the special effects department. They celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in 2010.
During those happy years in California, Niblett never lost sight of his true passion: Western American art. In his free time, he began painting and sent those works to galleries to try to sell them.
“During my lunch hour, I remember reading about the Cowboy Artists in art magazines and saying to myself, ‘This is right up my alley,'” says Niblett.
In 1973, he had saved enough money from selling his paintings to make the move back home to New Mexico to pursue making a living from his art. The couple lived in Sedona, Ariz., for a few years before heading to Angel Fire, N.M., for a few more. In 1979, they settled in Santa Fe with their young daughter who started school there that fall.
The Niblett home is situated in the northern part of Santa Fe in a private area with views of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Their home houses their collection of Western and Native American artifacts, which double as props for Niblett’s paintings.
“We have saddles and guns and Indian war shields hanging all over the house,” describes Niblett. “I like to be around all that.”
The house contains two studios where Niblett works. The larger one is where he does his oil paintings. His second, smaller studio is where he designs his paintings and does watercolors. He puts in full days during the week with the occasional Saturday in the studio, as well. He prefers to work with few distractions, although he often listens to classical music as he paints.
Niblett finds his inspiration in the field. He has visited the Navajo Reservation many times over the years, as well as wagon train reenactments for material for historic paintings. He visits local ranches to capture the modern-day cowboy in action. He photographs what he sees, and then works from several photos to create a design for a painting.
While he has enjoyed great success as an artist, Niblett is constantly reading and observing other artists to try to improve his techniques. “The thing about being an artist is that it’s an on-the-job training occupation,” he explains. “I’m still learning and trying to reach another plateau.”
One thing that’s certain is Niblett is very much at home, in both his life’s work and the picturesque vistas of New Mexico.
~written by Julie Wilson, JFW Communications