In Cowboy Artists of America, author Michael Duty writes that Bill Owen referred to cowboys as “watchers” because “they always have to be aware of what’s going on around them.” (p. 94). Owen was a working ranch hand from the time he could ride a horse, but his desire to see the lives of cowboys–as they are–represented in art, caused him to transpose his skill at “watching” from the range to the studio. Owen once said, “My objective is to chronicle the modern, working cowboy as he lives and works today… but when my working cowboy friends drop by and say ‘Bill, that’s the way it really is’, then I know that what I’m putting on canvas is truly worth the effort.” (Howard, Ten Years with the Cowboy Artists of America, p. 187.) In Watering Hole, the emphasis isn’t so much on the cowboy as on his success at getting these cows to water. The cowboy makes it look easy–so does Owen–but it isn’t.
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