Thursday, March 29, 2012


Robert Pummill explains the course his life took from illustrator to western artist, "In rural Ohio, where I grew up, there was little direct art instruction available; correspondence courses were a good alternative. The work of one of the founders of the Famous Artist Course, Harold Von Schmidt, and the text he wrote for the course, had a great impact on my art. After nine years in the military, I studied at the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles at night and worked as an illustrator during the day. Eventually we settled in Dallas, where I worked as an illustrator fpr Vought Aeronautics, continuing to paint in the evenings and on the weekends, all the while selling my work in the local art galleries. After about eight years and a couple of successful one-man shows, I was able to devote full time to easel painting as of January 1977. We later moved to Kerville, Texas, where we still reside. My choice of western subject matter is the result of a lifelong fascination with the life of the cowboy and the drama of opening and development of the American West. I was elected to membership in the Cowboy Artists of America in 1984."

American Bison

South Wichita

Old Blue

Bosque County

In 1977 he became a full time painter at 41. “From these experiences,” he points out, “I acquired discipline and the ability to meet a specific goal, both time-wise and subject-wise. In Western art, just as in commercial art, you have to know what you want to end up with before you begin. The most important aspect of doing a painting is the ability to analyze what is necessary to re-create a mood or feeling.” Featured in magazines such as "Southwest Art," Pummill’s work can also be found in a book on his art, entitled "Under Western Skies."
(Cowboy Artists of America publication, "Cowboy Artists of America," by Michael Duty)

Crossing Pecos Country

Over the Top

The principal themes of Robert Pummill's work include the settlers' trek West, Native American culture, and the early cattle and transportation industry. His canvases are filled with historical tales of the nineteenth century, a time when Americans were on the move, packing their belongings and crossing the plains in Conestoga wagons. Pummill focuses intensely on details of everything from costume and subject matter to the air and color specific to each region. Since he has lived in a number of places he has gained a perfect understanding of the differences between atmospheres and colors of varied regions, capturing the differences between Texas and Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. He is a skilled draftsman who puts tremendous research into studying locations, costumes, harnesses and vehicles, and then very carefully creates his compositions designing several thumbnail sketches on site to capture colors and arrange figures. Pummill is a diverse artist who is a talented oil painter and watercolorist, as well as a sculptor. Robert Pummill elicits from the worn pages of journals and ledgers visions of history that remind us of the perseverance of the settlers. "The subject of people on the move or building new lives in the West is very fulfilling. Its only limitations are the limitations (the artist) places on it himself." Pummill has become one of the top Cowboy Artists, winning the gold medal in watercolor at the 1995 CA show.
(Peggy and Harold Samuels, Contemporary Western Artists (Bonanza Books, 1985) at

A Quiet Spring Day

Pummill has been painting western scenes for more than 40 years. And with an extensive library, he has access to all the research material he needs for accuracy and authenticity. Another major part of his artistic development can be traced to the many years he was employed as a conceptual illustrator. Working in the aeronautics field, for companies such as Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas, Pummill would take an idea produced by the engineering department, add creativity and artistic talent, and come up with an accurate, attention-grabbing scene to illustrate it.
“I was working with concepts of aircraft that hadn’t even been built yet. I was taught to take the blueprints and create a storyline around them—a plane in combat, for instance,” he recalls. “To create a visual storyline you have to have a fairly vivid imagination and be able to put yourself in the scene.”
In more recent years the artist has put that skill to use researching, envisioning, and depicting experiences such as that of a bone-tired stagecoach driver whose stage is slogging through rim-deep mud after days of rain. Growing up in rural Ohio, Pummill didn’t dream of a career in illustration any more than he imagined a future as a fine-art painter. As a boy he was too busy working, helping out in his father’s restaurant, or doing laboring jobs on nearby farms. There were no professional artists around as role models to give him the notion that it was even possible to make a living with art. Today, while he occasionally works in watercolor or bronze sculpture, Pummill’s primary medium remains oils. He also has found himself circling back to a subject from his earlier years: “As I’ve grown older, I’ve been doing more landscape painting. I’d been neglecting it for a long time and decided to get back into it,” he explains. “It’s food for the soul.”
(Gussie Fauntleroy, SouthwestArt at

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