Charles Dayton inherited a strong connection to the American West. His ancestors, part of the Mormon migration, colonized high-mountain valleys in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. His great-great-grandfather was a missionary to Chief Washakie and the Eastern Shoshone.
Charles was exposed to western art at a young age. The old ranch-house walls were decorated with framed Charlie Russell calendar prints. Despite the family’s lack of encouragement, Charles developed his own artistic skills – after his chores were done. He took drawing classes in college, but didn’t start painting until he was 26 years old.
Encouraged by professional artist Karl Thomas to consider an art career, Charles participated in workshops and studied art in galleries. He also credits Cowboy Artists of America members Jim Norton and Roy Anderson with providing valuable direction on art’s technical aspects.
Although Charles was preparing for an organizational consultant career, he devoted his evenings to honing his artistic skills. In the middle of a two-year graduate program, he finally acknowledged that painting was his destiny.
To cement his decision, he moved his family to Cokeville, Wyoming, to be near ranchers and cowboys who represented the authenticity of the West. There, cowboys have a religious bent, forsaking work and leisure on Sunday for things of a spiritual nature.
Charles is concerned about western art’s future. He says cowboy-art collectors have some connection with the agrarian west through actual ranch experiences or old cowboy movies. Today’s youth don’t have the Gene Autry and Roy Rogers films that helped keep the West alive.
“The great redeeming feature of western art is the timelessness of its elements: the figures, landscapes and animals,”he says. “How often do you see a painting of a salesperson making a sale, or a group of executives developing strategy? The figure of my father moving cows or making his way up a steep trail with a pack string always will be beautiful.”
Charles Dayton’s work is represented at Mountain Trails Gallery, Jackson, Wyoming; Texas Art Gallery, Dallas, Texas; Jeanne Moore Gallery, Big Fork, Montana; and Corbett Gallery, Big Timber, Montana.