Mecca of Western Art

By Jesse Bertel
Across the Street

The Phippen Museum is presenting a special event at the Elks Theatre, designed specifically to serve the Museum’s mission to educate the public about the unique heritage, history, legends, and influence of Art of the American West and our rich local artist community.

“Prescott, AZ: Mecca of Western Art,” a film featuring the history behind the making of George Phippen’s monumental bronze, Cowboy in a Storm will open the event at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at The Elks Theatre, 117 E. Gurley St., Prescott.

The film will be followed by an artist panel discussion on stage with award-winning and nationally recognized artists, Bill Anton, John Coleman and Bill Nebeker, and moderated by Michael Clawson, the executive editor at Western Art Collector magazine. Anton spoke with Across the Street staff ahead of the event. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS AN ARTIST?

I was drawing a lot when I was a little kid and I also had an inveterate love of the West when they saw it for the first time when I was seven years old. The lord brought all those things together for me when I was about 20 years old and decided that when I found out that Western art was a thing, that people were actually doing it and I wasn’t the only one interested in it, I decided to give it a go and see if I could do it.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A PAINTER?

You can give full expression to your interests and be immersed in it all day, every day. It has allowed me to be at home with my family and not have to get in the car and travel and go to work every day, apart from home. It’s just afforded me a great deal of freedom and allowed me to scratch that inner itch of wanting to put the West on canvas.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING A PAINTER?

Keeping your head screwed on straight and realizing that the best any of us are doing in the contemporary world is trying to get back the knowledge that was lost in the rush to accept and promote abstract expressionism. In a sense, a lot of modern art is so subjective and almost impossible to evaluate from a standpoint of quality. There were so many great painters alive and well and working that were beautifully trained before WWI and WWII, and so much of that knowledge was lost when the acceptance of a lot of different other art forms came in vogue. Therefore, most of the great training went out the window because there weren’t that many people interested in it anymore.

So, it became very difficult to become well trained in school and drawing and color and composition and all of that because all of that was thrown out the window. So the hardest part is keeping your head screwed on straight. When somebody tells you how great you are, you just look back at the past and realize the guys from 75 – 150 years ago were largely well in advance of us. The best thing you can do is help to regain some of the knowledge that they knew secondhand that we are sort of having to rediscover.

A special VIP Artist Reception will take place at 6 p.m. upstairs in the Crystal Hall with tasty appetizers provided by Goods From the Garden and a cash bar.

Tickets for assigned seating at the film presentation and artist panel discussion are available on the Elks Theatre website for $15 each. However, if you also want to attend the VIP Artist Reception, tickets are $40 each and specially designated VIP theatre seating will be located in the first five rows.

For more information on this special event or to purchase tickets, visit the Elks Theatre website at prescottelkstheatre.org/theatre-events, or call 928-777-1370.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at jbertel@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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