Quick Draw Delivers Art at Warp Speed

Artists in Cody event rush to create paintings, sculptures in 90 minutes

Approximately two dozen artists participated Saturday in the Buffalo Bill Art Show Quick Draw, creating paintings and sculptures in just 90 minutes. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost)

By Ruffin Prevost

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CODY, Wyo. — Leonardo Da Vinci reportedly said that “art is never finished, only abandoned.” That may be fine for a man who took three years to paint the “Last Supper” and even longer to finish his “Mona Lisa.” But for approximately two dozen artists working precipitously Saturday morning, their works had to be completed in 90 minutes.

Artist Krystii Melaine paints a red fox based on a reference image she created using graphics software. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost)

Creating a painting or sculpture in about the same amount of time as it takes for a soccer match sounds like a recipe for a lot of stress and plenty of bad art. But for the seasoned professionals at the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale Quick Draw, it was all in a half-day’s work.

Local artist Steve Devenyns, who has been painting at the annual Quick Draw for the past 37 years, said he has enjoyed watching the event grow. “Being part of it has been very rewarding,” he said, while working on a small painting of a cowboy in a yellow rain slicker.

Devenyns said Saturday’s overcast weather inspired his choice of subject.

“Today the weather played a big part in it,” he said. “I’m known for my yellow slicker paintings, but I’ve never done one in a quick draw. I thought it was going to rain, so I did this.”

Fortunately, the rain never arrived, and a few hundred people ate a champagne brunch and wandered around the Joe Robbie Powwow Grounds at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, watching the art take shape and asking questions about process and progress.

Paul Waldum has participated in the Buffalo Bill Art Show Quick Draw since 2007. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost)

Part of a weeklong series of art-related events held in Cody each September, the Quick Draw follows an art show and sale the night before where pieces sell for tens of thousands of dollars, with total sales usually topping $1 million.

The more affordable and accessible Quick Draw helps introduce artists to new aficionados, some of whom become buyers, as the works are auctioned immediately after they are completed.

But most spectators weren’t there to bid on art. Instead, they came to enjoy a libation while watching inspiration lead to perspiration, resulting in creation. It was a process that some artists found liberating, while others worked in a state bordering on panic.

“I don’t paint this fast normally,” said Krystii Melaine, an artist from Spokane, Washington who was working on a close-up portrait of a red fox. “There’s no logical strategy. I just paint like crazy, and when it gets to the end, I try and make it look decent.”

Melaine painted using a reference image she had created earlier: a photograph of a fox with a series of horizontal lines she added using graphics software to represent the wind. Her painting was an analog interpretation of that digital creation.

A palette used by artist Santiago Michalek holds an array of different colored oil paints. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost) 

Art and technology

The interplay between art and technology is one of the reasons two Cody middle school teachers attended the Quick Draw.

“A lot of the artists here have talked about how they use digital elements in their art, and that’s something we’re interested in,” said Janie Denning, who teaches students how to use computers, and went to the event with Stephanie Manuele, who teaches art.

Paul Waldum was using pastel chalks to create a colorful fall scene featuring aspen trees with blazes of red, orange and yellow. He worked quickly, but still found time to pause and chat with friends and fans who stopped by.

“I like to do demonstrations at the museum on Fridays, because that gives me more time to visit with the public, and there’s no pressure to get something done,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t think I can get everything done in an hour and a half, but it’s fun to do.”

Waldum has participated in the Quick Draw since 2007 and said he enjoys meeting new artists and reconnecting with others he has gotten to know over the years.

Kathryn Mapes Turner paints a grizzly bear during the Buffalo Bill Art Show Quick Draw in Cody. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost) 

Cody artist Reid Christie is known for his paintings of wildlife and Western landscapes, and is regularly featured in the show and sale. But he was not among those rushing Saturday to complete a 90-minute masterpiece.

“It’s stressful enough just having a piece for sale in the show,” joked Christie, whose works feature meticulous depictions of sunlight and shadow. Christie said his technique required multiple sessions of brushwork followed by stepping away to let the oil paint dry before applying more layers, a process that would be impractical to adapt to a Quick Draw.

But for those artists who participated Saturday, the Quick Draw ended with a ringing bell, a round of applause, and the satisfaction of having created something unique, original and beautiful—all between breakfast and lunch.

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