Western Art

The Christmas Star

Artist Jack Sorenson revels in the Christmas spirit more than half of the year as he creates holiday paintings that appear on greeting cards, in a gallery and on the covers of Western Horseman.

Artist Jack Sorenson revels in the Christmas spirit as he creates holiday paintings that appear on the covers of Western Horseman.
The Christmas Star, 28-by-18 inch oil

Jack Sorenson has one wish each Christmas: that his five children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild will come home to Amarillo, Texas, to celebrate the holiday. Family and Christmas are two of Sorenson’s passions and the impetus for this month’s cover painting, titled The Christmas Star. His son Josh and 5-year-old granddaughter Roonie were models for the painting, which he began creating last spring. The horse, William Sugar Bars, belongs to a friend.

“I used to teach a workshop on how to paint horses from life and ‘William’ would stand so still, so I used him in my demo,” he says. “I fell in love with his color; bay roans are my all-time favorite color of horse to paint.”

Before he begins a painting, Sorenson develops a storyline from which he paints.

“The great illustrators always created a backstory before doing any painting,” he explains. “It helps [an artist] put in details you wouldn’t think about. People are affected by the story. I have people come up to me and remember the story of a painting more than the actual painting.”

The anecdote for The Christmas Star was a cowboy telling a child the story of the Star of Bethlehem, and the child wanting to go outside, get horseback and ride to see it.

Artist Jack Sorenson revels in the Christmas spirit as he creates holiday paintings that appear on the covers of Western Horseman.
The Boss Has a Young’un, by George Phippen, inspired a young Jack Sorenson.

Sorenson paints at least three holiday paintings each year. Some become Leanin’ Tree greeting cards and others are sent to Joe Wade Fine Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. More than 100 of his paintings have appeared on Leanin’ Tree cards. The most prolific painter of cowboy Christmas scenes, Sorenson never lacks ideas and has created more than 70 holiday paintings, many of which include a cowboy Santa.

“I love Christmas; I’ve always been a nut for it,” he says. “I’ve done more Christmas paintings than any other living Western artist. God has blessed me with more ideas than I could ever paint. I already have ideas for next year.”

The artist’s inspiration for painting Christmas scenes started with George Phippen’s painting The Boss Has a Young’un, which appeared on the December 1956 cover of Western Horseman.

“When I was a kid, my only access to Western art was on Western Horseman covers and Leanin’ Tree art,” he says. “Every time the magazine came in the mailbox my mom couldn’t wait to show me. She and I started praying when I was really little that one day my painting would make the cover.”

His paintings have appeared on 15 Western Horseman covers, starting with the March 1994 issue. Seven of them have been holiday covers on December issues.

This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of Western Horseman.

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