Montana-based artist AD Maddox paints wild denizens of the West, from the water to the range.
Cowboys & Indians: You were born in Nashville and grew up in an artistic home. What was your childhood like, and when did horses come into the picture?
AD Maddox: It was such a beautiful place 30 or 45 minutes outside of Nashville proper in country. I had older sisters and brother, and we were a very close family. My mom was so free-spirited that she always wanted us to go out and play. The answer was always yes. She’d kick us out of the house. She inspired me to paint. I was drawing at 4 and painting at 6. I grew up with horses and started riding them early. We had limited TV. We were allowed cartoons on Saturday and The Lone Ranger on Sunday. Mom encouraged us to create. We’d get bored if we weren’t.
We moved to Fort Smith when my dad took an oil and gas job. I was 6 years old and had an art project drawing animals and writing about them. I drew animals in crayon and knew I was a really good artist above anyone in my class. I was always exceptional with art. My teachers were in awe of my drawings and creations. They’d just sit back and watch. I never got invalidated. I was admired. That plays a role in why I turned to my art to make my living.
C&I: In our November/December issue, we talked to you about your remarkable paintings of trout. You don’t just paint flyfishing subjects but also other wildlife, notably wild mustangs. When did horses come into the picture, and what attracts you to painting them?
Maddox: I started painting the trout to expand my following, but long before I did trout, horses were my first subject. I started out drawing horses at 5 and 6. Horses are the first major animal I came in contact with besides family pets. So much goes into horses. People who are into them know there’s so much freedom and beauty in being able to ride them. But they are also pets: There’s an emotional bond with the animal. I had an emotional bond with many horses on my granddad’s farm. A trout you might kill and eat or release, but horses are relationships. People pay for the horse, the barn, etc. One of my earliest jobs in 7th grade was mucking stalls at an Arabian horse ranch in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Later, I’d also help with training of show horses. I even got to ride, and I got to watch one giving birth. It was five days a week after school. It was fun, and I was getting paid cash.
C&I: How do you approach the mustang paintings?
Maddox: I go out and do the photos. Last summer I went to Cody, Wyoming, where there’s a range of wild mustangs that I’ve photographed in the McCullough Peaks area. We had to carefully chase them down over really rough terrain in high winds to be able to zero in and photograph. What I love about mustangs is that they are so rugged and wild. They’re not in stalls. They are in the wild, fending for themselves. The Warrior is a painting I did of a horse off by himself. He had blood coming down his leg. With mustangs, you don’t know if they are going to die or not, that’s how rough the world is out in the wild. We have no idea what it’s like to live out there. It’s brutal. Few of us get to experience it — maybe people in survival shows. I’m captivated by animals in their wild habitat and bringing those images to my audience who would otherwise not see them. I’m stuck on the easel by myself, but the balance is I go out in the wild and bring that part of my world to my audience.
C&I: You’re passionate about issues affecting wild rivers and wildlands, fish, and horses. Tell us about that.
Maddox: My viewpoint is that of common sense really. Leave places as you found them. If you pack in waste, then take it out with you. If you’re catching trout, then release them properly. There’s nothing wrong with exploring and enjoying the great outdoors, but be responsible. You are not the only one that lives on this planet. There are others, and we are in this together. Think of others always.
Visit admaddox.com for more on the artist, original artwork, limited edition giclée prints, rugs, greeting cards, notebooks, and fly boxes. Find AD Maddox clothing line at fincognito.com and AD Maddox fly boxes and mugs by Montana Fly Company at montanafly.com.
Photography: (All images) courtesy AD Maddox
Cover image: Mustang Series #6