Western Art

A Cowboy’s Artist: Bill Owen

Bill Owen standing with horse by cactus

Western artist Bill Owen left behind more than 40 years worth of paintings that preserve contemporary cowboy life in Arizona.


If there ever was an artist made to create paintings for Western Horseman covers it was Bill Owen. Magazine readers can feel the warmth of his sunsets, hear the sound of a lariat slicing the air, and experience the emotion and partnership between a cowboy and his horse. One can’t help but appreciate the honesty and authenticity Owen incorporated into each painting.

Owen died suddenly on Saturday, June 15, 2013, as he was packing up to head home to Kirkland, Arizona, after spending time on the Diamond A Ranch in Seligman, Arizona.

The 71-year-old artist was inducted into the Cowboy Artists of America in 1973 and served three terms as CAA president. Since 1975, 31 of his paintings have appeared on Western Horseman covers.

Owen’s painting Colt Branding at Tom Moore was the November 1975 cover of Western Horseman. The place of the painting is located at what is known as the Tom Moore Camp on one of the Babbitt ranches, which is one of the largest ranches in Arizona.

“He honors the cowboy way of life,” Owen’s friend Red Steagall told Western Horseman in 2011. “When you look at his paintings and sculptures, you’re fully convinced he knows his subject matter and can portray it in a way that will live on forever.

Those on the edge of the art community sometimes think that artists have to “be in the mood” or “inspired” to paint. Owen disagrees with that perspective.

“If you wait until you’re in the mood, you may never start,” he said. “I make myself go into the studio six days a week. It’s important to love what you do, but if you do it day after day, there comes a time you need to take a break.”

This comes from an artist who worked seven days a week.

“I’ve talked to a lot of old cowboys, such as Boots O’Neal, and they may take time off, but they end up going to work on other ranches,” he said. “I’m kind of like that.”

A cowboy in the true sense of the word, Owen painted the Western lifestyle with passion and respect. But he also could hold his own as a horseman and cowman.

Just as Charles M. Russell painted the time period and cowboys of the northwest with unparalleled authenticity, Owen conveyed on canvas what he saw during his lifetime of cowboying, ranching and painting in his native state of Arizona. Admired by cowboys and collectors, alike, Owen left behind a cowboy legacy and a body of work that chronicles contemporary cowboy life.

Early Morning at Cedar Ranch
The century-old barn and corral on the Cedar Ranch Camp of the Babbitt Ranch, combined with the early morning light shining on the subject and the haze of dust, give Early Morning at Cedar Ranch a dramatic, yet classic, cowboy feel.

Leave a Comment