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« Swaddling Clothes | Main | Shorter Days ... Oh My!! »

August 07, 2006

Dan Mieduch: From Cars to Cowboys

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Cowboys 'n' Indians interested me greatly when I was a kid.

No longer.

I'm not saying I dislike 'em, mind you. It's more a matter of indifference due to having gone on to other interests.

So when I look at "cowboy art" nowadays, I don't pay much attention to how well the artist got details such as clothing, equipment, weapons and so forth. Instead, I react to how well painted the depiction is. And some of it is very good, in my judgment. That's why I thumb through each issue of Art of the West magazine when it turns up on the newsstand and wind up buying around two issues out of every three published.

The current issue (July/August 2006) has a really flash cover. Which is saying something, because the majority of their covers feature paintings that are pretty flash. The cover guy for this ish is Dan Mieduch, a fellow I had never heard of even though he can command five-figure prices at auctions. (Lordy Lord -- there's a whole lot of art out there that I'm still ignorant of! Now that I'm about to retire, I should promise myself to use some of that time to visit more galleries.)

One reason I find Mieduch interesting is that he was trained in Industrial Design and worked for General Motors for a while. ID students don't need to be able to illustrate humans convincingly; they basically need to do a good job on a product rendering. In some of my reference files I have examples of car design visualizations that included people, and in many cases the artists did a worse job then even I could have. But some ID guys, Mieduch included, are real artists and not simply designers.

The magazine article goes into more detail, but here's the biographical blurb on Mieduch's web site to give you a little scene-setting:

Cowboy artist Dan Mieduch was born July 18, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan. When he was ten, his family moved to the small town of Clinton, Michigan, where his father bought and ran a tavern and motel. In that farming community, Dan came to appreciate the beauty of the land around him, the abundant wildlife and especially the light of early morning and the deep hues of a summer sunset.

Dan attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, graduating with a degree in Industrial Design in l969. He was drafted into the United States Army, where he served as Command Artist for the Southern Command, United States Army, Panama Canal Zone, Panama. While in Panama, he did several historical paintings for area museums.

Returning to the States, he worked in several major commercial art studios in Detroit. There, he learned the discipline needed to succeed in the art business and met his wife, Rhonda. In l975 the Mieduch's decided to move west, settling in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dan's career has garnered a following all over the country as his art has been featured in several major western-art magazines.

Below are some examples of Mieduch's art I found on the web. A couple of these are a bit restrained, so for plenty of flash stuff, take a look at the magazine. (My use of "flash" is Brit slang from 20 years or so ago, by the way. I find it a cute term and have seen it used in the context of "When he was promoted he got issued a flash car and a flash secretary.")

Dan Mieduch Gallery

Mieduch - AotW cover.jpg
Art of the West cover
This is a detail from "One for the Road."

Mieduch - Weapons and Warpaint.jpg
"Weapons and Warpaint."

Mieduch - A Cradle on Wheels.jpg
"A Cradle on Wheels."
An example of Mieduch's backlighting series.

Mieduch - War Booty.jpg
"War Booty."
The original painting measures only 9 x 12 inches.

Discussion

Mieduch was quoted in the article as saying he's actually a pretty analytical artist and that he's working on a book that presents his point of view. I hope he has/finds a publisher so that I can read it; tomes that center on the artist's perceptions and emotional response to things aren't always very useful to the likes of me.

What do I think of Mieduch's work? I basically like it, finding his use of backlighting interesting. If I had plenty of money and wall space, I'd buy one of his paintings. But only one. Like most artists honing their visual schtick for marketing purposes, several paintings in the same style can become boring to look at if they're all viewed at once.

I like Mieduch's Post-Impressionist brushwork and his use of color as well as composition to hold the paintings together -- something not as easy as you might think. They are satisfying to me, as are paintings by Mian Situ and Bernie Fuchs.

However, I hope he won't get stuck in a backlighting rut. And I would like to see him try some subject-matter that's not in the Western genre to demonstrate to future art historians that his (Pinto?) pony can do more than one trick.

Later,

Donald

posted by Donald at August 7, 2006




Comments

I'm no art critic, but that is nice work: well rendered and well 'lit' -- and I am a fan of saturated color.

Posted by: Paul Worthington on August 7, 2006 8:46 PM



Donald, if you can find a copy, Dean Krakel's memoir, "Adventures in Western Art," might be useful and amusing to you. Krakel was hired away from the Gilcrease to more or less create the Cowboy Hall of Fame as an art museum. His way of doing this was to draw in the Cowboy Artists of America, still very new, and give them a home. He said they each sent their best work and he hung them carefully, creating a wonderful effect. The customers all came (most of them Westerners with no expertise in art), loved the stuff, bid on everything and bought everything, except what the Cowboy Hall of Fame kept to be the backbone of a collection of fine genre American art.

The next year the next show was staged and it looked exactly like the first one. The guy who painted cowboys in yellow slickers in the rain did another on that them. The guy who used the Charlie Russell style did another that way. The guy who did Indians with feathers, ditto. Etc. The customers came, loved the stuff, bid on everything and bought everything. It was the Cowboy Hall of Fame that choked. Pretty soon the CAA moved out and Krakel reinvented a new outfit: the National Academy of Western Artists. Same basic problem, though he managed to move them a little ways since he'd invented them.

I've been watching this stuff for more than forty years and it hasn't moved away from the beginning very far -- because if it does the stuff won't sell. The customers are like junior high kids -- they want exactly what the other guys have, only slightly different. Likewise the writing about them is pretty repetitious and mostly a matter of explaining how much they love the West.

Still, you know, heck -- if people shell out big bucks for it, that's their business. Mieduch seems better than many.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on August 7, 2006 9:55 PM



Another super-talented guy I'd never heard of, thanks. I wish I knew more about the cowboy art scene, which seems like a lively one. And confirmation yet again of what FvB and some other have said: if you're interested in figurative and traditional art, best to study illustration rather than contempo "fine art." I like Mieduch's blocked-out, slightly "unfinished" touch, btw, at least if I'm reading these repros right. I wonder if that's a common or unusual thing in cowboy art...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 7, 2006 9:56 PM



thanks for the comments, I just paint what I like, and keep it and me interested. The book is in the works with no publisher as yet, will keep you posted. i enjoyed your candid conversation.
Dan Mieduch

Posted by: dan mieduch on August 19, 2006 8:22 PM






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