I grew up on a wheat farm on the Kansas Colorado line west of Manter, Ks that my father, Howard Toole, established after moving to Kansas from Tennessee. I still remember the 1930s dugout that was there, ultimately filled in in the early 60s.
Most of my adult life involved ranching and farming and most of the time I have lived in counties with less than 1500 residents. I graduated from a class of 40 in high school, then attended and received a degree in Art Education from K-State in Manhattan, KS. Along with the ranching I created high fire reduction pottery professionally for 16 years, my studio as “Chicken Coop Ceramics”.
Riding and driving large pastures to check on steers taught watchfulness and listening. Quick evaluation of each animal for ailments and injury was critical. My beloved mare “Marda” taught me the intelligence and dedication that horses sometime reveal to people.
After years of feeder cattle, I pursued an interest in developing a registered cowherd. For the next sixteen years, I personally, managed, raised, and showed a much respected and well-known herd of cattle. With my experience from feeder cattle, I selected genetics for carcass traits, bunk line conversion, docility, and maternal suitable for short grass country. Developing accurate knowledge of cattle confirmation and being able to analyze them quickly was key. They were good, honest cattle and a joy to work with.
During the 20+ years of ranching, I recorded lots of scenes. Long rides on miles of pastures. Processing and doctoring the cattle. Weather. The danger that comes with trying to care for and protect cattle and horses...working when you‟re so tired you can‟t hardly walk. Losing your boots in knee deep mud and manure, scours, infections, things that aren‟t romantic at all. Working in 105 degree temps with 40+ wind or 20 degrees below zero with the same wind. The joy of saving the calf that isn‟t breathing or the one that has dust pneumonia. The pleasure of seeing a calf bedded in straw and out of the wind during a blizzard, soft munching when the wind noise is shut out. All the years of daily contact gave me the excellent base to paint these animals from.
Personal issues resulted in my moving to Colorado for four years. Although trained in most mediums during college, I had not worked in painting for years. While in CO I reintroduced myself to oils and all the new associated materials. This was where life was directing me....to paint my experiences.
In 2005 I moved to a small ranch house in southwestern New Mexico where I set up my “Estudio de la Montura”. The Mimbres has a long history of ranching and the first time I drove in, I „was home‟. It was a perfect place to create and develop my painting style. I have lived and explored a couple of other areas of NM, only to return to the lovely Mimbres.
Realizing that I may be in the last generation to live ranching as we know it, I portray each animal‟s individual spirit and in my way, honor the ranching way of life. As the mysticism of the southwest has claimed me, and more and more exposure to Native American culture, I implement them increasingly in my art. I am not Native American...but there are significant parallels between the Native Americans and the Irish. Looking into the past for answers,.. looking into faces from long ago...finding a way to reveal their inner spirit. I present these individuals as paintings and attempt to give pause and reflection. In both cases, I start with a bright under painting ; after drying, the original art is created on top.
My oil paintings and limited edition giclées have been well received and I have enjoyed positive acclaim with private, corporate and international sales. As an associate of WAOW and charter member of ASBA (American Society of Bovine Artists) I am excited about the future and what it may bring.