Award-winning Gordon Snidow is a cowboy artist to the core
Gouache works displayed at Hoffman Exotics
May 19, 2017
Visual artist Gordon Snidow has lived amongst cowboys and ranch hands for most of his 80 years, and his art shows it.
"He has an uncanny ability to capture a spirit of a person or the spirit of an animal and put it on his palette," his ex-wife and manager Grace Snidow said during an interview with The Park Record. "He often says he has been to the biggest ranches in southern Texas, to the biggest ranches in northern Montana and everywhere in between. I think he wanted to paint the life in which he lived."
Grace Snidow spoke with The Park Record in her ex-husband's stead because he is suffering hearing loss.
"Gordon spent the time with these people, not just showing up and photographing them for reference, but getting to know them and learn about why they loved that life," she said. "The funny thing is he wouldn't put any film in his camera for the first three days, because the cowboys would go to town, get haircuts and cleaned up because they knew he was going to take pictures. Gordon would wait until they got dirty again to take photos so he could paint them in their everyday life."
Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art, 4207 N. Forestdale Drive at Quinn's Junction, is showing some of Gordon's works.
"We've known Don Hoffman for more than 10 years and he has sold some of Gordon's works up there in Park City," Grace said.
Gordon, who started painting professionally more than 50 years ago, is known as a trailblazer in contemporary cowboy art.
"One of his challenges was wearing cowboy boots and blue jeans because they were looked down on during the beginning of his career," Grace said. "As he has told me many times, there were no galleries that would even consider hanging his art."
Gordon's works have become world renowned over time, and Grace said it was because he held steadfast to his dream of being an artist, much like Frederic Remington and C.M. Russell.
"He just never let go and persevere, sometimes under chastisement," she said. "Once someone told him they would have bought a painting if the cowboy had a cowboy hat and not a baseball cap. And Gordon said, 'I paint what there is, not what there ought to be.'"
Some of Gordon's recognitions and awards include the Coors Cowboy Collector Series, the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the 2003 Artist of the American West by the New Mexico Legislature and being an honored guest at the C.M. Russell Show in Great Falls, Montana.
"He has opened things up for some of the artists who come on the scene," Grace said.
One of those artists is Wilson Hurley.
"Wilson told me it is because of Gordon and what Gordon got on his boots that he is able to have his murals hung in the Cowboy Hall of Fame," Grace said.
Gordon's medium of choice is gouache, pronounced grr WASH.
"It's a difficult watercolor medium to work with," Grace said. "It applies as one color and then dries as another. And after he puts on a finish, it becomes another color."
The finish Gordon uses is a varnish, which brings out the color.
"He has to paint knowing what the medium will do," Grace said. "He has told me that there have been days that he has mixed 1,000 colors, because he constantly mixes to get that exact color of skin, or rope."
During one session, Grace watched Gordon work with his paints.
"He would mix the color and start to paint, and then used his mouth to bring the brush back to a point," she said with a laugh. "I said, 'Oh my God, Snidow, you're eating paint.' And he said, 'Yeah, and you know what? Green tastes really bad.'"
Not only does Gordon paint cowboy figures. He also paints horses, bulls and deer.
"He is just an avid lover of wildlife and animals," Grace said. "He does have a bachelor of fine arts, so he did study the different muscles and bone structure of animals.
"He used to ride, and I would say that him being out there has helped him so much."
Although Gordon has garnered many rewards and accolades, Grace said his biggest reward comes when he finishes a painting.
"People have asked him what his favorite work is and he always says, 'It's the one I'm working on,'" she said. "He falls in love with each work and has said that his art is like his children."
One of Gordon's biggest honors was a 2003 retrospective exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute Arts and Industries building in Washington, D.C., which Grace helped organize.
"It started in Ruidoso, New Mexico, with 120 works and moved to Kerrville, Texas," she said. "Then it moved to Washington, and was on exhibit for three months."
Grace wanted Western Art writer Peter Hassrick to write the book about Gordon for the exhibit.
"I called him, and Peter said he doesn't write about living artists, because they will tell me what they want me to write," she said. "I heard Gordon say, 'Peter, I'm not going to tell you what to write, because I have already painted my story.'"
These days Gordon is content in collecting all of his originals in one place and painting the remaining works that are still bouncing around his mind.
"I can say he's an absolute perfectionist, especially in the field he is in," Grace said. "He's 80 and still passionate about his work. It's just part of his soul."
Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art, 4207 N. Forestdale Drive at Quinn's Junction, is currently showing Gordon Snidow's works. For information, call 801-349-5026 or visit http://www.hoffmansfineart.com.