Artist Brian Asher has worked on the most prestigious ranches in Texas — the Masterson, Waggoner, Tongue River, and Four Sixes, to name a few.
Looking at one of Brian Asher’s drawings, it’s hard to imagine 1) that it’s not a photo and 2) that those delicate strokes were created by the calloused hands of a man who has spent nearly a half-century as a working cowboy.
The son of a private corporate pilot, Asher grew up in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, and felt drawn to the cowboy life from an early age. In high school, he worked the late shift four nights a week at the Fort Worth Stockyards; then he headed to what is now West Texas A&M to study agricultural business. In college, his job at a nearby feedlot occupied most of his time, and after three-plus years and little academic progress, he left school to cowboy for real.
That decision would lead Asher to some of the most prestigious ranches in Texas — the Masterson, Waggoner, Tongue River, and Four Sixes — as well as to his future wife, Karen, whom he met while working briefly at a ranch in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Cowboying fulfilled Asher’s dream, but it didn’t pay the bills for his growing family. Having left the Masterson Ranch and now day-working, he began drawing to occupy some of his newfound free time. He soon had some drawings that were good enough to have limited editions made. “They went over pretty well, just by word of mouth getting around,” he says. “It kind of took off from there.”
Now 61, Asher still does day work on local ranches and typically carries a camera with him on horseback. “I might take 1,000 pictures, and out of the 1,000 pictures I might find two I think might make a good drawing,” he says. “If it’s a major work, it usually takes 200 hours. I’ve put as much as 317 hours over a six-month period on one drawing.”
That extraordinarily time-intensive piece he’s talking about is Four Sixes’ Herefords ... A Scene We’ll See No More. One of his best-selling limited editions, the drawing holds special significance for the artist. The Four Sixes Ranch was long known for its Hereford cattle, but during the 16 years Asher day worked for them, they began running black cattle. His drawing depicts one of the final roundups of Four Sixes Herefords, the last of which were shipped in 2007.
Documenting the livestock and cowpokes he works with has turned out to be not just Asher’s livelihood but also his calling — getting down the life and times of the contemporary working cowboy, one pencil stroke at a time.
See Brian Asher’s work on his website and Facebook or at the shows he regularly attends: Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas (May 6 to 9); Summer Stampede in Lubbock, Texas (June); Bosque Art Classic in Clifton, Texas (September 11 to 24); Trappings of Texas in Alpine, Texas (September 16 to 18).
Photography: Images courtesy Brian Asher, Signature Image
From our January 2021 issue.