Legends of Fine Art | Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt


By Bonnie Gangelhoff

A wizard with a pencil, Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt captures the flavor of ranching life in today’s West. Schufelt’s cowboys rope, ride, and straddle saddles as they herd their bovine charges. His starkly beautiful black-and-white graphite drawings of working ranch hands evoke a sense of the past and a way of life that is fast fading. A former illustrator based in Chicago, Shufelt headed west in 1976 and never looked back. For the past five years, the New Mexico-based artist has been juried into the annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.

Born: Champaign, IL, 1935.
Resides: Hillsboro, NM.
Proudest accomplishment: Taking hold of my dream to become a cowboy artist, which involved risk and determination. Had my wife, Julie, not come into my life, loved me, supported my talent, watched my back, and kept me out of the wire, I would have never achieved the legend status you’ve honored me with today.
What would you have done differently in your life? I wouldn’t change a thing because my life has gone beyond the goals I once dreamed for myself. The longer I work, the more I understand my response to graphite. I’m proud of my career. Now, if I can just hold my hand steady and find that little hole in the pencil sharpener … I’ll continue to be okay!
Advice to young artists: Don’t let any work leave the studio that is not a best effort. Honesty, perseverance, and determination are necessary attributes to hone a successful career. Disciplined work habits make a career. Build upon strengths instead of resting on them. Don’t get too comfortable. The goal is to keep talent developing throughout a long career.


Motto you have lived by over the years: A collector once remarked that my drawings were “celebrations of an ordinary experience” and that the secret to my work came through the heart. I like that.
Biggest misconception about an artist’s life: People don’t understand that creating fine art is brain-crushing, finger-throbbing hard work, and an artist risks the likelihood of frustration and the possibility of rejection with every endeavor.
How has your work changed since starting out? After 10 years of struggling to market the medium of graphite, in December 1989, former Southwest Art editor Susan Hallsten McGarry put one of my drawings on the cover of the magazine, which illuminated my work and validated my career. I don’t believe there is any difference in the expertise shown in that drawing than in what I’m able to accomplish today, but I get more money for it now.
How has the art market changed? Art has become a commodity and art auctions have artificially upped the ante.
Other interests: Our ranch and all that it entails is the end of my rainbow.

He is represented by Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson, WY; Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ.

Featured in “Legends of Fine Art” in December 2008