The Western Art of Virgil C. Stephens, pencil drawings, western art, wildlife art, cowgirl drawings

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Howdy Folks!

Another year has passed, (actually two), so, I have a lot to talk about, so here goes!  This fall, our ten year old grandson, Devin got his, (second), cow elk which started out the hunting season here at Notevena Ranch.  We saddled up the mules and headed for the mountain, and as always we saw a ton of bulls, and no cows.  If only he had gotten drawn for bull we would have been done at the first hour of daylight, but then it wouldn’t have been an adventure! We worked our way up to the top of the mountain and watched five bulls at 250 -300 yards, just mosey away……. After a cool morning was turning into a hot, mid-morning, we headed back to the house, had lunch and started glassing the mountain. We spotted some cows to the north and decided to drive over and “just take a peak” and see how we were going to get to them…without being prepared. We walked over a couple ridges and found a nice spot to glass and there they were, 286 yds away, just grazing.  They didn’t see us, so there was plenty of time for Devin to get his heart rate down, and settle into a comfortable position.  We taught him to take his time, get a rest, and aim true, of course. That makes for a good hunter, and it’s much easier to finish the job than to shoot up the side of the mountain on a runner, and have to track the animal all day and night.  It was dang near dusk, when he pulled the trigger and down she went; neck shot, dead as a hammer.  Now the work starts.  He called his mamma and Granny, to speak of his success, and of course with this family, they were in the vehicle headed over to the base of the mountain in no time, with cameras in hand.  We were only a mile or so from the truck, and before you knew it, the women were on the scene to help.  I don’t know about ya’ll, but our women don’t have a bit of trouble getting a little blood on them and working like men, especially for 200-300 lbs. of pure, clean, (and aged!) venison.  After quartering up out the cow, the girls took the front quarters and threw them over their shoulders, and us boys grabbed the hind quarters and back strap, (that’s tenderloin and T-bones to you city folk), and down the ravine we went…pitch dark and no flashlights!...and no mules!! They were hanging out at home by the feed trough! Remember I said it was a short trip just to “go take a look”. As always, darkness can be the enemy if you are not prepared, and why we didn’t prepare for it, I’ll never know.  All that hunting gear I own, and I probably have a half dozen hats with lights on them, and another dozen flashlights at home…even the new fancy ones that light up the entire side of the mountain, but that would be less of an adventure right?  After each of us had fallen at least once or twice, we finally reached the truck and headed home.  It takes hours to clean and put game bags onto this massive animal but nearing late evening, we all took a sigh of relief and headed for the showers.  The elk will feed my daughter Trenna, and her family for the year.  Emily canned hundreds of jars of food last summer to go with the meat so we all feel truly blessed that our food source is one that is with no chemicals. 

The hardest part about hunting is getting drawn for a tag.  Em and I put in for just about everything you could put in for, and we came up empty on everything except she got drawn for Oryx.  It took 22 years for her to pull a tag, but the January hunt turned into a weather nightmare, and all but about 9 days were snow packed and slush, mud and bad visibility or wind, so after hunting the entire circumference of the missile range,  we came up as empty as a beer can at a frat party.  Tearing up my truck, eating spicy corn curls and cheese sticks gets old quick.  Even mamma’s lap dog Paco was ready to come home. We did see a lot of new country however but the goal was to be able to enjoy exotic meat this winter so it was very disappointing to say the least.

Christmas was again a great time here at Notevena Ranch with the fam, where we were given a special gift by our son Matt and his wife Stephani, a future grandson, that is due in August of this year.   In March, our oldest son, Nate and his wife Brie blessed us with our 5th grandbaby, Avery Grace Stephens.  We were fortunate to be able to spend 2 weeks in the Phoenix area helping out with the birth, and I spent most of the time working on projects with my son, on his house. Emily laid out on the “beach” at Val Vista Lakes, where they live, taking advantage of that great weather in March, enjoying the 90 degree Arizona weather.  It was a great vacation for us.

Spring has sprung here in New Mexico and I find myself wanting to be outside, riding the mules, in the mountains, breathing the fresh air, and I am torn between painting in the studio, and doing stuff outside around here.  Spring here in New Mexico means spring winds, so I have to pick my days outside and try to get the most done when it’s nice.  We got lucky over spring break when the grandkids were delivered to us for the week.  The sun was out, it was good riding weather, and Em and the grandkids had their projects lined out. They painted up some tie dye tee shirts as well as made her world famous Cinnamon Rolls.  I’m here to tell ya, that I have never eaten a better “Cinni-roll“, than these monsters produced over spring break!   They were the size of whoopee cushions and 2 inches thick!  She and the kids made a double batch so that our son in law wouldn’t disown us when we headed up for Easter Celebration in Rio Rancho the following weekend.  If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that Aaron is in my blood line.  The first thing he does when he lands is to sniff out the kitchen like a junk yard dog, for anything Em has cooked up. 

Last spring Em and I spent most of our time rebuilding the back porch and painting the house.  This year we are on to more projects that always need attention; cutting and splitting wood for the winter, helping our neighbors gather and brand calves, as well as cleaning out the barn of unwanted treasures.  We will be remodeling a couple of rooms in the house this year since we have not really changed things since the early 2000’s.  It’s time!  Right now I am building a skid to drag logs to the splitter.  I have two mules that are standing around watching me work, so after pondering over whether to spend the money and buy an ATV or to use my mules; I decided to put the hay burners to work.  We have many, many trees that were killed by the beetles these last few years, and I might as well take advantage of the firewood since I burn close to 6 cords a year to heat my house and studio. I also need to do some thinning of junipers, as they are starting to obstruct our wonderful view we have here. The little woman and I fight over who gets to run the log splitter though.  It’s funny what tends to trip our triggers as we get older. 

This year in the art world, I have been focusing on many different genres.  I have been dipping into North American wildlife, African wildlife, (as we went on an African safari a few years ago), beach scenes, etc.  I have also been experimenting with different textures and techniques, and the use of realism with abstract.  In the past it has been total realism, so this has been a great adventure for me, delving into new ways of producing art.    

As for shows…. We have literally depleted our schedule to just a couple shows.  It’s not that we don’t want to go out and do a few , the market has changed in the show world… and quite frankly it’s not worth the trouble with the high cost of fuel, motels, and inclimate weather conditions, (and bad art), that seem to be attracted to art shows.   We find that galleries and staying close to home working social media and doing a few local events seems to work best for us.  Speaking of, there is a new trend sweeping the nation and I just might have to give it a shot.  It’s called Wine and Art!  It involves getting a bunch of people together one evening to just have “fun” with an artist mentor they like, and drink wine.  It’s not a true art class per say… but rather just a fun evening slapping paint and partaking of the fruit!  I have been asked by our good friends Traci and Lynn, owners of Dreamcatcher Café here in Ruidoso, to consider being the instructor for such event, and I am thinking that I might have to take them up on the opportunity.  It really sounds like a fun time, and I’m all about having fun…although I am more of a beer and bar fight kind of guy.

In addition, we will again be at the Legacy Art Invitational Art Auction in Albuquerque this May, and locally we will continue to do Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in October this fall at the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and will be at the Christmas Jubilee at the Ruidoso convention center, in November.  Refer to our show schedule for any added shows or dates to the two mentioned here.  As always, I welcome any of you to commission for something personal.  This year I was doing a commission for someone every month of the year.  I enjoy doing all these different subjects for people that I would not normally do, so give me a call if there is something that you would like me to draw or paint for you.  With summer around the corner, I will be painting more beach scenes, sail boats, water fowl, etc. It’s hard to relate to water when you spend nine months of the year in the west, but my wife Em reminds me of that every spring when she gets the itch to head to the Midwest where she’s from, for the summer.  I have grown to enjoy the great state of Michigan, and look forward to fishing and spending time with the grandkids…and fishing, and evening pontoon rides…and fishing………..

Well, that’s about all I can come up with for now… stay tuned for any new artwork that I post first on my Facebook business page or my personal facebook page,  and then on my website, and remember…. Growing old is better than breathing dirt, so enjoy retirement, grey hair and aches and pains.  It’s part of life.  God Bless….Virgil


May 31, 2015

Aaron's Big Bass this past summer!

Enjoying Em and Trennas new fire pit that they built this summer

On the pontoon with Matt, Steph and Dave, oh... and Paco & Wrigley!

 Nate all smiles with his morning groceries from the Channel in Pentwater

Brie landing her first big one, right before heading back to Phoenix

Pooks first big billy!

Virgil and JiJi, getting ready to head to the big lake!

Grandpa Virgil and Devin with Big D's cow elk hunt 2014

Proud Mama with Big D and his cow elk

New threads for the winter!

Devin helping Pook on Big Red

Grandpa & Pook before the ride....

Joe Switzer & Virgil heading out to get a downed elk

Tyler and Virgil back from the mountain with Tylers elk.

 Another Elk packed out by Big Red

Avery Grace Stephens, our 5th grandbaby!

EW & Virgil branding up some cows this spring

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