Gallery Tour: Artist Jim Rey
Left panel of Sandhills Spring, a triptych by Jim Rey
Jim Rey chuckles, “The problem with painting animals is that they don’t stand still.” As a result, this Western artist has developed a unique technique to capture his equine models. “When I see a position I like, I paint it very quickly in cobalt blue. As the horse moves, I might sketch three different head positions and eight legs. Then I stand back, settle on a final pose, and turn my attention to color.”
The painter’s career began when an 18-year-old Rey, enraptured by the images in The Saturday Evening Post, enrolled in a correspondence course on the great illustrators of the ’40s and ’50s. His artistic training was rounded out with in-the-field observations of human and animal anatomy and movement, beginning with summers spent working on his family’s California cattle ranch growing up. Later, when he moved his young family to Durango, Colorado, he rented the main house of a working ranch and lent a hand when he could. Currently Rey and his wife live on a small farm in the Nebraska Sandhills, where he continues to help neighboring ranches start colts and handle cattle.
Rey’s most recent work, Sandhills Spring, is a large triptych documenting a single morning when 35 local ranch hands branded 1,500 cattle (left panel shown above). “What’s going on in the central panel, despite the chaotic appearance,” Rey explains, “is everyone knows their job and they’re doing it with the utmost skill.” In contrast, the two side panels feature close-ups of solitary figures roping calves. “When you’re out there roping the heels, all the other stuff going on around you is gone,” Rey says. “All you’re aware of is the cattle and the other ropers.”
GALLERIES: Claggett/Rey Gallery, Vail, Colorado, 800.252.4438, www.claggettrey.com. Expressions Galleries, Ketchum, Idaho, 208.928.7728; Scottsdale, Arizona, 480.424.7412, www.expressionsgalleries.com. Keating Fine Art, Aspen, Colorado, 970.925.7042, www.keatinggallery.com.