Brandon Bailey had finally made it.
He sunk his right hand into the wet cement, a smile came over his face, and the weight of the moment was clear — he was officially a Cowboy Artist. On Friday, Bailey joined fellow artists Grant Redden, Michael Dudash, Jack Sorenson, Dusty Payne and Tyler Crow at a ceremony at Kerrville's Museum of Western Art to solidify their place in an elite group — Cowboy Artists of America.
From left, Cowboy Artists of America Grant Redden, Michael Dudash, Jack Sorenson, Dusty Payne, Brandon Bailey and Tyler Crow.
All six men, two were unable to attend the ceremony, placed their hand prints, boots and signature in cement to be added to a memorial garden of other Cowboy Artists who have visited the museum.
"It's still unbelievable," Bailey said of the moment. "It's the biggest moment I will have as an artist."
That's saying something for the 37-year-old painter from Scottsbluff, Neb., who is among the most respected Western-themed artists in the country. Bailey will tell you he's in fine company.
Next to him was Tyler Crow, a painter from Hico and the lone Texan in the group, but this was also a pinnacle moment. While Crow was inducted into the Cowboy Artists in 2016, this was his first opportunity to get to Kerrville and enter a garden of legendary artists.
Michael Dudash, left, and Jack Sorenson write their names in concrete memorial stones at the Kerrville Museum of Western Art.
"This is a blessing," said Crow, adding he learns from and admires the men he was with on Friday. "This makes you strive to keep getting better."
Crow was the youngest artist to be inducted into the group when he was 27. His work is a mix of the toil and peril of ranching life with the scenic power of the landscape.
For Darrell Beauchamp, the museum's executive director, the moment was a long time coming (thanks to COVID-19). The ceremony celebrates the museum's heritage as a Cowboy Artist Museum from 1983 to 2003. It was a tradition that had fallen by the wayside, but Beauchamp wanted it back.
With some help from Dusty Payne, right, Jack Sorenson places his boot into the concrete.
The timing also worked out. Many of the artists were visiting San Antonio for an exhibition at the Briscoe Museum called "The Sons of Charlie Russell." The show features their work and is an homage to Western artist Charles Russell, who painted from the 1880s until his 1926 death. A contemporary of Frederic Remington, Russell's work captures the imagination of many artists because of its authenticity. Russell spent most of his life living and working in Montana.
Learn more about the artists
C. Michael Dudash