Where Art and Life Converge
It doesn’t get any more authentic than working a sculpture from a live animal in a barn on a ranch. For CAA member Fred Fellows and his artist wife Deborah, that is all in a day’s work.
The Fellows family lives at the Adobe Walls Ranch just north of Sonoita, Ariz. There they run a working ranch, complete with a dozen horses, a burro, six head of roping steer and their own roping arena. They tend the ranch themselves, with their livestock doubling as models, fitting for artists who double as ranch hands. The Adobe Walls Ranch is surrounded by the scenic Empire Ranch that dates from the 1870s and is set against the backdrop of the Santa Rita Mountains.
There, Fred and Deborah have two studios. The main studio is next to the house. With its 25-foot ceilings and huge doors, this studio will accommodate the transfer of a monument-size sculpture. It boasts natural light from skylights and large windows, as well as fluorescent and incandescent light that allow Fred to imitate the lighting of a museum.
“Over the years, you hone your environment,” he says. “Too much light in the studio will make the painting look dark in a home. I try to paint in the right light so when the painting goes somewhere, it reads well.”
The second studio is in the barn with high windows for natural light. There Fred and Deborah can tie a horse to use as a live model, providing the ideal environment in which to create a faithful portrayal of an animal.
“Like many artists who started painting in a bedroom or a garage, it is a luxury to have a nice, big studio so you can stand back and take a look at your work,” explains Fellows.
His large collection of saddles, Sharps buffalo guns and more – in addition to his thousands of reference books – completes the studio and provides props to ensure accurate representation in his paintings and sculptures.
Fred and Deborah often work side-by-side in the studio. Deborah, an artist in her own right, is a member of the prestigious National Sculptor Society and participates in Prix de West. In the early evening, they enjoy a glass of wine and head back into the studio to discuss their artwork.
“It’s a great way to end the day,” Fellows concludes. “It’s like having four eyes evaluating your art.”
After that, they feed the animals and turn in early, ready to embrace their unique union of art and ranch life and start again the next day.
~written by Julie Wilson, JFW Communications