Success Stories | Duke Beardsley

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

Upon seeing one of Duke Beardsley’s boldly contemporary western-themed canvases, you’d be well justified in imagining that you’re witnessing a discovery from Andy Warhol’s long-lost ranching years. Beardsley deftly combines ranching knowledge and pop-inspired bravura, and the artist comes honestly by both influences. “My family has been involved off and on in ranching for five generations. I’ve cowboyed, hired out on ranches, and stretched miles and miles of fence wire,” he says. “But I didn’t want to be a rancher. I always wanted to draw and paint about ranching.” That led the native Coloradan to major in art history at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he became a fan of abstract expressionism and pop art. “I’m painting subjects that have been painted for a hundred years plus, so I’ve got to bring something fresh to it with my own combination of composition, color, and theme,” he says.

Has your style or approach to your art changed since you first appeared in Southwest Art? I’ve become more confident in terms of color use and composition.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far? The fact that I’m making a living, supporting a family, and paying the mortgage. I appreciate the awards and recognition and galleries, but nothing compares to being able to do what I do every day.
Would you have done anything differently? I’d have gone to business school—not as an alternate profession but to learn more about the business side of art.
What advice do you give to artists just starting out in their careers? Be yourself. Don’t try to be something else for someone else.
What motto do you live by? I don’t really live by a motto. I just think of myself as so unbelievably lucky that it’s crazy not to keep going. So I guess you’d say my motto is to just keep at it.
What artists have influenced you? I was a huge fan of Remington and Russell when I was a kid. Warhol is very much an influence. Western artist William Matthews has been a huge influence. He’s also a good friend and a trusted advisor.
What are you working on now? I’m really trying to push the boundary of painting on collage. I find it opens the door for a lot of conversation about the narrative of western icons.
What’s your next big goal? There are about five museums I’d love to get into. In the last two years, I’ve had two museum purchases: by the Denver Art Museum, in my hometown, and the Booth Western Art Museum in Georgia, which purchased five works. It’s so affirming to have a museum add you to its collection.

Legacy Contemporary, Scottsdale, AZ; Mountain Trails Gallery, Jackson, WY; Visions West Galleries, Bozeman and Livingston, MT, and Denver, CO;

Coors Western Art Exhibit, Denver, CO, January 6-24, 2010.
C.M. Russell Art Auction, Great Falls, MT, March 17-20, 2010.

First appearance in Southwest Art: 21 Under 31, September 2001
Awards won since then: People’s Choice, Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale.
Show participation since then: Buffalo Bill Art Show for nine years running, C.M. Russell Art Auction, and this year the Coors Western Art Exhibit.
Price change since then: They’ve gone up, but I try to stay in the mid range and have something for everybody. My works go from $125 for an unframed etching to $20,000 for a large oil painting.

Featured in December 2009