Yesterday we went out to visit John Finley's cattle ranch, a half hour drive down a remote dirt road on the east fork of the the Wind River here in Wyoming.
John is a working cowboy and a scrimshandler whose grandfather established the farm over a hundred years ago, not far from Butch Cassidy's spread.
I set up my watercolor rig next to an old log cabin which was festooned with rusty coyote traps.
I was attracted to the way the traps were reflected in the window against the bright sky behind us. Since the reflection of the clouds was the lightest value, my first step was to run a wash over all the other whites, including the window mullions, the mortar, and shelf of mildewy old magazines seen through the window.
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The traps speak to the constant life and death struggle of ranch existence. John told us a story of having to shoot a mountain lion as it was devouring one of his bottle-fed calves.
A week ago, a surveyor was found mauled to death by grizzlies not far from here. None of us artists are allowed to venture off without a bottle of bear spray.
The authorities relocate the Yellowstone man-killers in this remote area, on the fringes of the Wind River Indian Reservation. As another cowboy, John Phelps told us, "Grizzlies are no joke."
Biography of John P Finley
Painted in a Pentalic sketchbook with Schmincke watercolors using a Richeson travel brush set
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