Legends of Fine Art | James Reynolds

James reynolds

By Gussie Fauntleroy

James Reynolds once summed up his passion for western art by saying simply, “I just like to paint cowboys.” It’s a humble explanation for a career that situates Reynolds among the most acclaimed and admired of western artists. His many honors over the years include the Prix de West, top awards from the Cowboy Artists of America, and a triple win that he’s most proud of (see below). Reynolds turned to fine art after a 15-year career sketching and painting for major Hollywood studios. As a painter of contemporary working cowboys, he found his niche—and a highly appreciative market.

Born: Taft, CA, 1926.
Resides: Scottsdale, AZ.
Proudest accomplishment: In 1992 I won all three Gold Medals for one painting—ARIZONA COWBOYS—at the National Academy of Western Art. I was the first artist to sweep the awards.
What would you have done differently in your life? Nothing. I was fortunate to have found a good art school, which I attended for almost four years. I studied hard and worked hard. I gave up a high-paying job in the Hollywood studios to follow my dream of becoming a western artist. Then I moved to Sedona, AZ, and played cowboy for 25 years. It all paid off!
Advice to young artists: Take your time. Make sure you know your subject matter. Make a lot of quick sketches. Study light. Without it, there is nothing to look at. Don’t look for overnight success; work hard and earn it.
Motto you have lived by over the years: I have always tried to give my buyers something for their money. When doing a commission, it is with the promise that if they aren’t happy with it, I will do another one. I have never had to do that.


Biggest misconception about an artist’s life: That it is easy.
How has your work changed since starting out? It has gone from a heavier impasto to a more refined style.
Other interests: Collecting western artifacts and working in my shop. I like to make furniture, any kind of miniatures, and I’ve built a couple of cars—a street buggy and a fiberglass sports car.
Recent news: I have a book out called Traildust and one on landscapes in the works. The new one hopefully will be out before the end of the year.

He is represented by Claggett/Rey Gallery, Vail, CO.

Featured in “Legends of Fine Art” in December 2008