This is the story of how I started my art business.
It all started at a Dude Ranch in Colorado. This was the turning point in my life. I had always lived in a city and after a couple years of monotonous routine I dreamed of lakes and mountains, and vast landscapes. I also always wanted to spend a summer in the U.S so one day, I flew from France to Colorado to work on a ranch for a summer. And I never went back. Well, I physically went back and forth a few times but my heart stayed there.
The Ranch Life
This ranch was located in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Guests would come for a week and do horseback riding, fly fishing, some shooting at the outdoor range, learn to rope cows and go to a rodeo. A perfect western experience over the course of a week.
At the time, the ranch wasn’t very popular yet and on some weeks we would only find ourselves hosting a handful of guests. By the end of their one-week stay, we had befriended them all. I remember a lot of partying and drinking my first year working on that ranch! Work hard, play hard, right? There was a lot of hangover mornings, getting up at 6 am to get breakfast ready and cleaning cabins right after. I don’t think I could do it now but I was in my late teenage years/early adult life at the time so it wasn’t a problem at all.
Things to expect on a guest ranch:
- Dirt is everywhere. And I mean everywhere! When it’s not dirt, it’s mud. Better get used to it
- Wherever you look there will be an animal: whether it’s the horses, a goat, a chicken, the donkey wandering about, the hummingbirds flying above your head like tiny missiles, or the occasional bear.
- You never stop working. Ever. There’s always something to do. Clean that, fix that, prep that.
- But the work is fun. Gotta go up to that cabin by the lake to set up for barbecue dinner? Sure, you get to enjoy the barbecue too! Gotta go the camp in the mountain to prep it for guests staying there overnight? You get to sleep under the stars too.
Horses and more horses
I used to ride when I was a kid – English-style riding – but it’s on this ranch that I discovered western riding and my word do I love it! You just cruise on the trails, through meadows, aspen groves and wildflowers. It renewed my love of horses, and eventually, of art. Being surrounded by horses all day made me want to start painting again. I bought a sketchbook, some acrylic paint, and got started. A couple years later, I decided to try selling my art online.
There is something about riding in the mountains, a sense of freedom. It’s you, the horse and the trees. What is it they say? “The world is best viewed through the ears of a horse”. Although the first painting I did with the intention to sell was of a tiger, I did quite a few horses after that. Looking back at them I came a long way since then. My style tremendously improved. Below are some of my latest paintings.
It’s also on this ranch that I discovered alpacas for the first time. I had never heard of them before. Imagine my surprise when I saw these fluffy llama-looking animals for the first time. They came from a nearby ranch and for some reason the people there couldn’t take care of them so our ranch’s owners took them in. The horses were incredibly scared of them so unfortunately, the ranch had to get rid of them eventually.
Dogs were everywhere too! There have been a few days where the dogs outnumbered the people actually, which was great because who doesn’t like puppies? Animals were everywhere! Animals being the main inspiration for my art, you can imagine how I loved living on a ranch.
I also had my first bear encounter and was incredibly happy when that happened. I had heard bears would rummage through the trash cans in the evening so I would jump on a truck and try to go see one but they were always gone when I arrived. Until one day, one was right there in front of me. A cute and fluffy black bear! I encountered quite a few more in the next few months, and the next years. Bears are among my favorite animals.
Living on a dude ranch really was the true western experience: horses, rodeos, cows and dogs, bears and pickup trucks, line dancing (and drinking!). I completely fell in love with the mountains of Colorado during my time in the U.S. Incredible movie-like landscapes are all around!
Wherever you look, beauty is there. Sure it takes a long time to get anywhere and there is not much to do around besides outdoor activities but I never was much of a city person so to me, it’s the dream life. Where to better start an art business? Inspiration is all around. So, eventually, I moved there. I now live in the middle of nowhere, in the Rocky Mountains, and I love it!