Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West

Duke Beardsley

Duke Beardsley was well on his way to a career in medicine, when, just before med school, he took a hard turn onto a new path when he decided to pursue art as a full-time vocation. Since then, he has become one of the West’s most revered artists, producing paintings of cowboys, anglers, and the Western way of life in a style that is uniquely his own. His work is big, bold, and completely original, and it continues to grow and evolve in ways that surprise even Duke himself.

Thanks to a childhood spent between Denver and his family’s eastern Colorado ranch, Duke has been immersed in cowboy culture for as long as he can remember. He has been drawing non-stop since he could hold a crayon, and as a child (sometimes to the dismay of his parents) he demonstrated a proclivity for sketching western scenes on the walls of his family’s home. Duke is also a committed conservationist with a deep devotion to preserving the West’s landscapes and heritage. This eclectic mix of experiences and interests, combined with a formal art education, allows Duke to produce works that are ambitious, inspiring, and engaging.

I stopped by Duke’s Denver studio earlier this week, where we had a fun and wide-ranging conversation. We chat about his decision to change his career goal from medicine to art, and the value he gleaned from a formal art education.  He explains that life-long obsession with drawing on walls, and he tells some stories about how, as an adult, drawing on walls has led to surprising professional opportunities. We talk about his artistic process, his meditation practice, and how he managed his extroverted personality in the solitary world of creating art. He also discusses why land conservation is an issue that is so near and dear to his heart, and offers up some excellent book recommendations.

This was a lot of fun and I really appreciate Duke inviting me into his studio. Be sure to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss, and check out Duke on Instagram, Facebook, and his website.

All images courtesy of Duke Beardsley

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:40 – How Duke describes his work
3:30 – Growing up between Denver and eastern Colorado
5:15 – Artistic energy in Duke’s family
6:30 – Duke’s early path toward medicine
8:30 – Transition to art school
9:40 – Biggest lesson learned from art school
12:20 – Focusing his art on horses and the West
14:20 – Life post-art school
15:30 – How Duke’s art is different now from 20 years ago
18:30 – Drawing on the wall
20:20 – Why Duke paints big pieces
21:31 – Story behind Duke’s line ups
24:45 – Getting in “the zone” while painting line ups
26:40 – Working on multiple pieces at once
27:50 – Working with galleries
29:00 – Process for commissioned paintings
31:45 – Extrovert or Introvert?
34:30 – Duke’s artistic process
38:00 – Duke’s meditation practice
41:00 – Drawing on the wall at Las Pampas Lodge
44:00 – Working with Fishpond
45:50 – Passion for land conservation
49:30 – Favorite books
52:34 – Favorite films
54:00 – Surprising activities
54:45 – Most powerful outdoor experience
57:00 – Favorite place in the West
58:40 – Best peice of advice ever recieved
59:45 – Duke’s request of the listeners
1:00:30 – Connect with Duke online

Information Referenced

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