Bud Helbig’s home state of Montana nurtured his early dreams of becoming an artist and also provided a lifetime of inspiration for his paintings and bronzes. One of his early heroes was Charles M. Russell, another Montana artist. Helbig’s annual participation in the auction at the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls was one of the accomplishments he was most proud of and most enjoyed.
Helbig grew up working on a ranch in the Bitterroot Valley, steeped in the lifestyle portrayed in Russell’s paintings. His art education took him to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he studied at Mills Academy, and then on to Chicago, where he was a student at the Academy of Art. After completing his studies, Helbig worked in Chicago as a commercial artist for twenty years. During this time, he never lost his love of cowboy life or his native state. Urban living and commercial art were necessary at that stage in his life, but he always intended to move back to Montana and pursue a career as a Western artist. In 1969, he did just that. Three years later, he joined the Cowboy Artists of America and often said that being accepted into the CAA was the proudest moment of his life.
After moving back to Montana, Helbig worked full time as an independent Western artist, but his commercial art background served him well. Not only did it provide a strong work ethic, driven by deadlines and varied assignments, but it also allowed him to become an expert in a wide variety of media including watercolor, charcoal, oil, and bronze. Helbig worked frequently in each medium. In fact, determining which medium was most appropriate for the particular story or scene he was portraying was in integral part of his creative process. Helbig’s primary focus was the depiction of modern working cowboys, those that worked on ranches and those that rode the rodeo circuit. He once said that he wanted to paint the “real life” of the cowboy; the moments of high drama, and the quiet times of reflection.
Collections: National Center for American Western Art
CAA Member from 1972-2001
Born: March 7, 1919
Education: American Academy of Art