By Bonnie Gangelhoff
What inspired your winning entry? Western paintings communicate my philosophy about the world. I like the simplicity of the western lifestyle as well as the values and romance of it. I was probably between 6 and 8 years old when I wanted to be a cowboy. I watched westerns on television and ran around playing cowboys with my friends. I think it goes back to that. My work has a lot to say about the things I care about. Even though I’m not a farmer or rancher, I value greatly the hard work they do for us by providing food. My art is also a reflection of my reaction to modern life. I am so disillusioned by politics and pop culture that it is a great escape.
Do you come from an artistic background? My mom took art classes when I was a kid. She did oil painting, and I can still remember the smell. I recently resurrected a painting she did of roosters. I cleaned it up and now it hangs in my kitchen.
Where did you study art? I wanted to go to art school, but I started working in advertising instead. I have a master’s degree in illustration from Syracuse University.
What is your favorite subject matter, and why? Western subject matter. The more I do it, the more I love it. I never get tired of it. It’s complex and interesting enough that it doesn’t get old. I really like cowboys and horses. I could paint a thousand horses.
What is the best advice you have ever received? It was from my dad. The first year I played baseball, the team lost every single game. I was about 8 years old, and he told me to never give up. The last year I played baseball I was 13 or 14, and we won every game.
What is the most meaningful recognition you have received for your artwork? When people are willing to pull out their checkbooks, it means more to me than anything.
What is the one thing people will never see you paint? Flowers.
Future goals? My biggest goal is to paint as well as I can. I look at every painting as the road to getting good. Some paintings work and some don’t, but it’s never the end of the road. I am always learning something that I can use later.
Representation: Dana Gallery, Missoula, MT; www.jimconnellystudio.com.
Featured in our annual “21 Over 31” competition in November 2010; Jim is also this month’s cover artist.