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How The West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie’s Art

How The West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie's Art

By: Linda L. Osmundson
Publisher: Pelican Publishing
Publication Date: January 2011
ISBN: 978-1589808843
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 12, 2011

He was a real, authentic cowboy who worked long days rounding up cattle and breaking horses. He traveled through the West, meeting Indians and rogues. He also had a love of painting, drawing, and sculpting and when he wasn’t working he capturing what he had seen that day through his artwork. Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was a true cowboy artist and in the new book, How The West Was Drawn, author Linda L. Osmundson carries the young reader through this amazing man’s career and life.

Unlike most artists of his era who captured western life without ever having lived in the wide-open expanses of the western states, Russell knew the open plains of Montana intimately. Born and raised in Missouri, he left school and headed to Montana at the age of sixteen to work on a sheep ranch. Within a few years he switched to working cattle. Russell carried his paints and pencils in his saddlebags and drew whenever he could. If he didn’t have a canvas or paper, he would paint on cardboard boxes. When there were no painting implements, he’d take some mud and make a sculpture. In short, Russell was a man who loved to draw, paint, and sculpt.

In How The West Was Drawn, author Linda L. Osmundson presents twelve of Russell’s paintings (and one very cool wax figure self-portrait). For each painting, she asks several questions to get kids thinking (can you find the saddle, river, something hidden in the grass, if the picture came to life, what would happen next, etc.). Along with the questions, the author gives a brief overview of each painting, what makes it unique, when/why Russell drew it, how it was received by the public, and little tidbits about the artist, such as how his signature changed over the years.

I found this book to be an excellent introduction to the works of “Cowboy Charlie.” The selection of paintings was quite interesting and while there were other paintings of Russell’s that might be better known (Bronc to Breakfast, The Scouts), the author chose a nice selection that gives a good overview of the various subjects Russell drew. There is an introduction that gives great suggestions on how to use the book to best advantage, as well as a chronology of Russell’s life at the back of the book.

Quill says: Budding artists and fans of western art will find this book interesting and informative.

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