TEXAS WILD BUNCH, 1979 top row: Al Richardson, George Boutwell & Russell Cushman
bottom row: Randy Souders, Harley Murray & John Cogan
I have found over the years that I was able to take most of what he taught me to the bank, so to speak, and have caught myself quoting him many, many times, as I have passed on what he told me. Lately I have found myself at a crucial professional crossroads, and I sometimes, even now, ask myself, “what would George say?” I guess I got tired of wondering, and I went to see him recently at a one-man show he was having in Richland Mall in Waco.
When he recognized me, we engaged immediately, as if we were still at a mall art show thirty years ago. I told him I needed to talk to my old mentor. I think he had absolutely no idea what kind of impact he had on me so long ago. I told him I had some new questions. He met them with a ready smile. George is a very generous person. He has always been that way with other artists as well.
He used to tell me that he was glad to tell us everything he knew. He knew that after we saw how much work it was to be a successful artist, he had nothing to fear. And he was right. Few artists would or could walk a mile in his moccasins.
Texas Wild Bunch cutting up at Alamo Village in Brackettville, Texas:
Charles Chupp, David Nicolas, Jack Cannon, Ernie Roche & Harley Murray.
I'm the dead one.
When I ran with George, we were herding (like cats!) a bunch of Texas artists into an art show circuit called the Texas Wild Bunch. The loose knit group of western and wildlife artists had been the brainchild of Harley Murray, another of my early mentors, who envisioned an artist’s co-op where artists promoted shows for each other in various parts of the state. I might put one together at a Houston bank, or Memorial Mall (photo above), Harley might arrange one at the LS Ranch in Bosque County, or the Thistle Hill Mansion in Ft. Worth. This concept never worked for me financially but I had a lot of fun and made some valued friends.
Soon I was learning how George did it. On the road. All over Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana. Malls and festivals. Almost every weekend out of the year. And soon my wife was concerned how we were ever going to make a home and a family with me gone all the time. I had to choose my wife, and my life in Plantersville over the weekend art circuit. It was an easy decision, as sales for me were pretty flat most of the time, and I was always having to hustle or rustle money or materials or something. I prayed for God to provide me a different way to make it as an artist where I could be home and go to church on Sundays. And eventually He did. But still, I missed those valuable conversations with the man at the top of the mountain...