At almost 8,000 feet in the foothills of the Uinta Mountains in southwest Wyoming, Grant Redden is at the easel in the 800-square-foot studio above his garage. Out the window, he can see aspen trees, a chicken coop, his garden, and a greenhouse. “I used to be able to see the forest just south of us in Utah about 4 or 5 miles away, but the aspens block my view in summer now,” he says. “It’s still pretty though.”
Redden makes his home on 120 acres of land that was part of his family’s summer range. He might have grown up to take over their big sheep and cow outfit, but he got a degree in economics and began working as a real estate appraiser as something to fall back on while he tried to figure out how to be an artist full time. “I always wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t always believe it was possible,” he says. “It just kept bugging me. If I wasn’t working at it, I was thinking about it.”
He eventually saw a path forward, thanks in large part to painter Jim Norton. “Jim Norton had just become a Cowboy Artist,” Redden recalls. “I called him and said, ‘Hey, I want to be an artist.’ He kind of chuckled and said, ‘Bring some of your stuff down and we’ll take a look.’ So I took some stuff, mostly watercolors. He sat on a chair and just looked at it all without saying anything. It seemed like forever, but it was probably only about 10 minutes. Then he said, ‘Well, they’re better than I thought they’d be. This is what you need to do if you want to be an artist: Start painting outdoors.’ He turned me on to some deceased artists to learn from and said I should take some workshops.” The guidance was key, and Redden’s art progressed to the point that in 1997 he let his real estate appraiser certification expire and devoted himself to painting.
At another career juncture, it was Norton once again who pointed the way, encouraging Redden to submit work for membership consideration in the Cowboy Artists of America. “I was reluctant because I never thought I was good enough,” Redden says, “but Jim encouraged me and said, ‘Give me some images I can show the guys.’ On their spring trail ride, the CAs look at images of artwork by prospective new members and take a vote whether they want to see originals by the artist. If three-fourths vote in your favor, they contact you and invite you to bring originals to the fall meeting before the CA show. I brought five original works to the 2012 fall meeting and they voted me in.”
At the time of our interview, Redden’s at work on an as-yet-untitled piece for November’s Cowboy Artists of America exhibition and sale. “It’s 36 by 36 and has a cowboy on a horse with some Navajo ponies behind him — a conglomeration of some photo references I’ve taken over the years. I can tell you exactly what it is now, but in a month it might be totally different.” (Eventually titled Navajo Ponies and completed in time for the publication of this article, the painting is on page 59.)
He’ll stay busy painting for the CA show and working on commissions. And he’ll be spending quality time with his wife. When he takes a break from the easel, they might just head outside: “There’s a little pond on the property, and we go down and paddle around in a canoe looking for frogs.”
See Grant Redden’s work at the 55th annual Cowboy Artists of America Sale & Exhibition November 6 – 7 at the former Oliver Loving Ranch, Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, and at the 2021 Woolaroc Retrospective in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Redden is represented by Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles; Mockingbird Gallery in Bend, Oregon; Wood River Fine Arts in Ketchum, Idaho; Wilcox Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming; Simpson Gallagher Gallery in Cody, Wyoming; Wild Horse Gallery in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and The Grapevine Gallery in Oklahoma City.
Images courtesy the artist
From our October 2020 issue.