Artist Studio | Bill Moomey

Bill Moomey

By Wolf Schneider

You live in the other Vail … not the posh ski resort, but the hamlet south of Tucson?

This Vail is a tiny town, and the Vail Brothers years ago owned all this property.

Are you surrounded by saguaro cactus and bobcats?

Bobcats, mountain lions. One of my neighbors claims this week to have seen a jaguar! It could be. A jaguar could’ve wandered up from Mexico.

Wasn’t it a mountain lion that mauled that mountain biker in California?

When civilization and animals try to split the habitat, something’s gotta give.

Are wild cats the ultimate predators?

Around here, I’d say the mountain lion is the chief dog. The carnivorous animals prey on the grass-eating animals.

You’ve painted everything from cougars to cowboys to cityscapes.


You name it.

Is the wildlife of the West your main thing?

Yes, it’s almost the only thing.

At 77, you’ve been a hunting guide, wildlife filmmaker, wrestler, rodeo director, Quarter Horse breeder, painter, and sculptor. What’s been the most fun?

Oh, hmm. I love painting, but in the old days I would’ve liked to have done more in motion pictures.

And what’s brought in the best income?

Art. The most lucrative art was designing. I did almost all the packaging for Lakeside Toys. And I’ve done more wine bottles and beers and boozes.

When you worked for Coors and Schlitz, did you sample the product much to appreciate it?

Of course. That was a tough thing!

Tell me about your home and studio on the X9 Ranch.

A friend of mine I knew on the Quarter Horse circuit owned the whole thing. Before he died, he split it up. We back up against 500,000 acres of wilderness. It’ll never be built, there will never be a road on it, which appeals to me. We have a lot of interesting people here too—Andy Weil, the health guru.

Dr. Andrew Weil! You call him Andy?

Yes, he’ll go out of his way to find you books. Then there’s Michael Blake, who wrote Dances With Wolves. I have the most interesting conversations with him down at the dumpster. He comes down in his beat-up truck with his kids and dogs. And Howard Terpning is here.

What’s your studio like?

It’s about a block from the house. It’s an adobe building. It has skylights I put in. And a balcony on top of a hill. I go out on that balcony and sip a Coke and have the world there. Deer! Javelinas! I’ll tell you, 10 minutes of that is like eight hours of sleep.

Do you have a totem animal you relate to most?

It has to be the mountain lion, because I know them so well.

So what are you into painting these days?

Mountain lions. Cowboys.

What’s your monthly output?

I probably do two a month.

Got a lucky color?

Blue. Blue jeans, blue skies.

What’s Tucson’s best asset—the sunshine, the saguaros, or the margaritas?

[Laughs] That’s a loaded question. I’d say, the blue skies.


What’s your mantra?

Live for the moment.

On what occasion do you fudge the truth?

Not for my benefit, but if it’ll help someone—like, to encourage them.

Which artist, living or dead, would you most like to trade a piece of art with?

Rufino Tamayo, a Mexican artist who I think is great.

Which artist would you most like an hour of advice from?

Probably Giotto—he was at that pivotal point in art between Byzantine or primitive art and the sophisticated art we know now with perspective.

What’s the range that your work sells for?

From $2,000 up to $150,000 for the bronzes.

Oil, acrylic, or pastel?

Oil. It’s the easiest, you can scrape it out.

What does an artist need most: a good accountant, a good truck, or a good red wine?

[Laughs] Oh, boy. Wine obviously is part of anybody’s existence.

But I’m going to say a good accountant, because accounting is just a necessary evil.

Moomey is represented by McCue Gallery, Naples, FL; Arms Akimbo, Chicago, IL; Di Tommaso Galleries, Jackson Hole, WY, and Scottsdale, AZ; Max Gallery, Tucson, AZ; and Patagonia Gallery, Patagonia, AZ.

Featured in “My World” June 2004