~ BIOGRAPHY OF BILL OWEN ~
BILL OWEN 1942 – 2013
At the early age of seven or eight, Bill began drawing with pastels, beginning the never-ending process of self-education in art. Later, while working on numerous ranches, he wouldn’t realize until years later that those experiences provided him with subject matter for his future endeavors, and more importantly, first-hand knowledge. He knows what he draws, paints, and sculpts, because he’s lived it.
Although Bill was a “starving artist” for a few years, he did not consider it to be a sacrifice. When he was accepted into a gallery in the late 1960’s, he was encouraged, knowing he finally had an opportunity to make the leap to becoming a full-time professional artist, which he believed to be his destiny.
Since that time, Bill has earned a total of 31 medals and awards at the annual CAA Show, which is organized by Men's Arts Council and held each October at the Phoenix Art Museum. Bill has served as CAA President three times. He won the Men's Arts Council Award - Best of Show in 1975, 1977 and 1978; in the eight years the award was presented Bill was the only artist to receive it more than once. He won the CA Award in 1984 and did not repeat that until 2003, which was Bill's 30th year with CAA. This highly coveted award is decided by a vote of the active CAA members for the best body of work (a minimum of five pieces are required to be eligible), so although other CA Awards are extremely rewarding, the nods of approval from his peers this award represents are especially meaningful to him and he greatly appreciates them. Bill won the CA Award again in 2005, which was the 40th anniversary year of CAA, and for the fourth time in 2008, at which time he also won the first Traditional Cowboy Arts Association Award for the Best Portrayal of a Cowboy Subject.
Bill has exhibited at the Whitney Museum in Cody, Wyoming, the Grand Palais in Paris, France, and the Western Art Show in Beijing, China. In 1991 he was voted into the National Academy of Western Artists. In 1993 he became a member and staff artist of Rancheros Visitadores and was awarded the Frederic Remington Award for Artistic Merit by the Cowboy Hall of Fame. In 1996 the prestigious Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma honored Bill as their Rendezvous Artist. Bill was the first recipient of Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award presented at the 2003 Prix de West Invitational Show, and his most recent recognition came at the 2008 C. M. Russell Art Auction when he won the Honorary Chairmen’s Award.
To date, the organization has approved over 200 awards totaling in excess of $300,000. While the many accolades and awards Bill has received throughout his career are wonderful testaments to his talents, the success of this organization is a personal reward. Bill is grateful to the generous artists and individuals who have donated in support of him and ACSO. That support has enabled him the pleasure of giving something back to many of the same people he has portrayed in his art: the individuals who perpetuate the lifestyle that has meant so much to him throughout his life.
Striving for Precision
Bill will probably forever feel that each one of his creations is another piece of the learning process puzzle for him. Without any formal art education, Bill continues to develop his God-given talent through hard work, being observant, and learning from other artists. Two artists he credits with being most helpful throughout his career are Joe Beeler and Tom Ryan. The burning desire within Bill has been to continue to learn about technique, composition, color and design - the elements he feels must be present in a really good piece of fine art. He is incapable of feeling satisfied or becoming complacent with the knowledge he has acquired. All of these feelings combine to keep each piece of art Bill sets out to create stimulating, exciting, and fun for him. He will never be one of those artists who sit down at the easel wondering what to paint. He knows there is no way he will live long enough to paint all the paintings he envisions, and feels extremely blessed with a God-given talent that will never bore him. After all these years Bill absolutely loves what he does and knows that if he couldn’t make his living at art he would still have to do it; proof-positive he's doing exactly what he was born to do.
|Bill and Valerie Owen on Government Springs Ranch, Globe, Arizona|
Government Springs Ranch was located outside Globe, Arizona and ranged in elevation from 3,000 to 7,000 feet. There were miles of dramatic variations of landscape including desert saguaro, century plants, barrel cactus, mesquite, and ocotillo nestled among very unusual and beautiful outcroppings of rock formations. There were large boulders and canyons, as well as creeks, springs, and ponderosa pines in the upper elevations. The rugged terrain, much of which could only be reached on small trails by horseback or mule, and the existence of wild cattle, some who had never laid eyes on a human, created a uniqueness found on few ranches of today’s times and demanded that it be worked in the old-fashioned way.
Within the spectrum of men known to be a true “cowboy,” there are only a special few left with the skilled experience necessary to meet the tasks of working in rough, brushy country, catching wild cattle and leading them in. Bill believes it is quite possible this type of cowboy will disappear within his lifetime or shortly thereafter, and why he considers them to be the true “endangered species” of our time that he feels driven to record. Bill considered himself to be a truly fortunate man to be able to pick and choose from these special few to come work roundups at the ranch, providing him with fresh, new, and endless ideas in subject matter. However, these cowboys already had jobs or ran their own ranches, and Bill soon learned that finding good, dependable, permanent help was a problem. Therefore, most of the time the Owens had the ranch they ended up working it by themselves, which kept Bill out of the studio much of the time, defeating the original intention and purpose for buying it.
Further complicating their lives, the inability to communicate handicapped their dealings with family and personal matters and made conducting business in a timely, reliable, and efficient manner virtually impossible. So in spite of the fact that they had some wonderful experiences on the ranch and will forever miss some of the beauty that surrounded them there, they sold it and moved to Wickenburg, Arizona in 2001, very happy to have all of the modern conveniences at their fingertips once again. In 2007 they realized their dream of building a home together in Kirkland, Arizona, where they hope to live out their lives.
Bump in the Road
Back in the Saddle
As a result, Bill presented his first sculpture in thirteen years at the 37th Annual Cowboy Artists of America Show, held October 18, 2002 at Phoenix Art Museum, and it was very well received. Now that Bill Owen, the sculptor, is back, look for "The Longhorn" to be joined by thirteen years of fabulous sculpting ideas as they finally become reality.
While Bill continues to gather research for his art on numerous cattle ranches throughout Arizona and Texas, he has missed having his own ranch. Riding horses simply for the sake of riding doesn't appeal to Bill. He prefers to have a purpose when he rides. Early in 2003, he was thrilled to be presented with the opportunity to enter into a partnership in the Puro Corriente Cattle Company with his friends, Dean Cameron and Clay Tyree. As a result, Bill once again enjoys having a purpose to ride and especially enjoys the camaraderie the three partners share.
Clay Tyree is an outstanding cowboy who has been portrayed in many of Bill's pieces over the years and was one of the special few who came to Government Springs Ranch to help out during roundups. Dean was portrayed in "Desert Morning," Bill's oil painting that won Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award at the Prix de West Show in 2003. Dean is married to an artist, Shawn Cameron, who participated in that same Prix de West Invitational Show for the first time. Dean is a long-time Director on the Board of Bill's scholarship organization and Shawn consistently supported the cause by generously donating pieces of her art to be auctioned at the fundraisers held to benefit ACSO throughout the years.
For several years Puro Corriente Cattle Company ran their cattle on the DG Ranch, located about 20 minutes north of Wickenburg. Recently, the herd was relocated to the 7-Up Ranch in northern Arizona. These ranches have and will continue to provide Bill with wonderful western scenery, and the appearance of the Corriente cattle only adds another colorful element.
Copyright © 2008 Bill Owen. All rights reserved. | Site by: Tomko Design