Artists’ Studio | Fred & Deborah Fellows

Text by Wolf Schneider; Photos by Carter Allen

Deborah Copenhaver-FellowsSo, you’re married, you’re both artists, and you share a studio in Sonoita. Deborah, you’re a sculptor, raised on a ranch in Idaho, and you work in the tradition of Remington doing equestrian and pioneer sculptures?

DEBORAH: Now I do. I got a fine-arts degree and initially was doing significant war memorials, like the Montana Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and portraiture. I started where I could make a living, in the monumental area. I married Fred in 1990 and came back to my roots, so now I’m doing what I love the most—the equestrian genre.

Fred, you’re a sculptor and painter born in Ponca City, OK; you specialize in historical cowboy and ranch subject matter; and you do National Finals Rodeo belt buckles?

FRED: Uh-huh. This year I’m spending more time on paintings, but the year before I spent more sculpting. As it gets closer to the Cowboy Artists of America show [held every year in October], I have to really buckle down.

Fred FellowsYou met on the team-roping rodeo circuit?

FRED: Deborah’s brother, Jeff, was on the rodeo circuit. He kept his horse at Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana, and there was an arena there where we practiced team roping. Jeff said, “My sister’s doing artwork, could I bring her over and have her talk to you?” That’s how we met. I was married at the time. Over the years I saw Deborah’s career taking off, and my wife died, and we met again.

Whose idea was it to move to Sonoita?

FRED: Both of ours. We were living in Montana, we both rope, we both have horses, and we didn’t want to keep digging the horse trailer out of snow banks and driving on ice to roping arenas.

Sonoita is high, rolling grasslands, and how far from the Mexican border?

DEBORAH: About 30 miles from Nogales. We live adjacent to the famous Empire Ranch, and we have access to ride there.

How big is your Adobe Walls Ranch?

DEBORAH: About 60 acres.

You’ve got Indian headdresses and tomahawks and saddles in the studio. Who brought that stuff in?

FRED: I did. It’s incurable. I’m a collector of early western guns and Indian beadwork and saddles.

How big is the studio?

DEBORAH: It’s 70 by 30 feet. Then I’ve got a barn studio where I work with horses, and that’s 40 by 40. The main studio is adobe with 16-inch walls, concrete floors, northern-exposure skylights for Fred’s paintings, and southern exposure for the warmth. We can weld there, we can build our own armatures. The house is a territorial adobe with vigas and latillas, a metal roof. It’s around 5,000 square feet.

Who sculpts faster, and who takes the slow and steady route?

DEBORAH: I work faster. Fred is slow and steady.

Who’s the neatnik, and who’s the messy one?

FRED: I am the clean, neat one. [Both laugh]

DEBORAH: Yeah, when I’m working there’s clay everywhere.

Fred, you were born in 1934, and Deborah in 1948. What quality have you each decided an artist must have, and what quality will only do an artist in?

DEBORAH: You have to be determined; jealousy will be your undoing.

FRED: You have to take your work seriously, but not yourself.

What’s the range that your work sells for?

DEBORAH: $900 to $185,000.

FRED: $6,000 to $225,000.

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

DEBORAH: Hmm. I think a good partner—to do the books, drive the truck, and pour the wine.

When your time comes to kick the bucket, what sentence would accurately sum it up for your life?

DEBORAH: “She couldn’t have asked for more.”

FRED: “Everything considered, he’d rather be in Sonoita.”

Fred and Deborah Fellows are represented by Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson Hole, WY; Medicine Man Gallery, Tucson, AZ, and Santa Fe, NM; Big Horn Galleries, Cody, WY, and Tubac, AZ; and Wind River Gallery, Aspen, CO.

Featured in “My World” March 2006