ELKO — For one artist at the Silver State Stampede, the creation of Western art was never a choice — it was always a necessity.
“Artwork was always in the back of my mind, I mean constantly,” Buck Taylor said. “I like to spread that word of our heritage and the values of the cowboy way of life — respect — (where) a man shakes hands with you and looks you in the eye.”
Driven by a passion to preserve and celebrate the heritage of the American West, Taylor uses his reputation as a Hollywood actor and internationally-renowned artist to do just that.
It’s a theme he’s found resonates across the West, and one celebrated this weekend in Taylor’s featured artwork for the Silver State Stampede’s Centennial Celebration.
“Buck is a legend, just on his own, with everything he’s done from being an actor to an artist,” said John Wright, with J.M. Capriola Co., who added Taylor was a natural choice to create the artwork for the event’s theme “The Legend Lives On.”
Known for his own movie and TV work, Taylor has starred and appeared in a number of shows, including “Tombstone,” “Dallas” and “Gunsmoke,” as well as the 2011 western science-fiction film “Cowboys and Aliens.”
The son of actor Dub Taylor, Buck grew up in California surrounded by cowboys, in “a movie community that dealt with making Western movies.”
Intertwined with the Western way of life from an early age, Taylor dreamt of owning a ranch and rodeoing as a young boy. Over the decades, he’s achieved both, and incorporates these personal experiences into his artwork.
“His style is something that stands out and it’s unique,” said Wright. “He can relate to the paintings and the artwork that he does.”
Though Taylor says artwork has always been in the back of his mind — he studied art at the University of Southern California — it wasn’t until 30 years ago he decided to dedicate himself to art in earnest.
He found inspiration in French impressionists, Winslow Homer and William Matthews — and realized a challenge in the medium of watercolor.
“It’s difficult. It’s unforgiving. I throw a lot of things away,” he said with a laugh. “It’ll never turn out exactly how you want it, and you can’t change it too much either — it has a mind of its own and you have to let it.”
As he creates, Taylor works to achieve a successful melding of abstract and realism — realistic enough that a viewer knows what’s being portrayed, but abstract enough that brush strokes are noticeable.
It’s a tact noticeable in his artwork for the Silver State Stampede, which he created by researching the history of the event, and obtaining photographs from the days the stampede was just beginning.
He learned that, in its first year, 17 competitors attended the rodeo — 15 men and two women.
“Each one was an individual — a lot of character,” said Taylor, who added he instantly knew these men and women would be a pivotal part of his painting.
“They’re going to be looking at you saying, ‘Y’all still doing this? A hundred years later, you’re still doing this rodeo?’ and we’re going to say, ‘yeah, we’re still doing it.’”
It’s a fitting tribute to the stampede, Wright said, as the founder of the Silver State Stampede G.S. Garcia himself is incorporated into Taylor’s painting.
“Nothing’s changed in the arena, it’s all the same — it’s always tough,” said Taylor. “It’s one of the few sports where you have to pay to enter ... and you take your chances — it’s purely American.”
Taylor’s artwork will be featured at the Elko County Fairgrounds throughout the stampede, and a number of limited edition prints, original paintings and Silver State Stampede posters can be viewed and purchased at his booth, where he’ll be on hand each day from 5-10 p.m.
“I’m really fond of this one, I wanted it to be different than anyone had ever done,” said Taylor. “I’ve got the legends, so it’s living on.”