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The Reel Cowboys of Hollywood

In Memory of the Founder of the Reel Cowboys, Jack 'J.C.' Iversen
In Memory
of the Founder

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Vol. 3 - No.02 February, 2021 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
 
Roy Hampton
People, Places, and Things
Written by Bret Hampton in 1975
Roy Hampton is not only an unusual artist, he is an unusual man. He started his career late in life, having already attained success as a real estate broker, mortgage banker, and furniture finisher; as well as a host of other jobs. His three sons all grown and on their own, Roy and his wife, Ann, traveled the western United States in a thirty-foot motor home that has been their only shelter for the last eight years.

Though he has taught art himself, most notably to American Indians, Roy is mainly self-taught. He tends to describe himself in simple terms, merely saying that he paints people, places, and things.

Over the past few years, Roy has painted quite a few paintings of famous people connected with the West. His most recent paintings are of John Wayne, Olaf Wieghorst, Roy Rogers, and Iron Eyes Cody, done for the city of San Dimas, California.
John Wayne Portrait by Roy Hampton
John Wayne Portrait by Roy Hampton
Q: Why have you chosen western art?
RH: Really I like all types of art, but I always preferred western movies and more or less preferred western art because of it. American Indian art and western art are original to our country; all other types of are foreign ideas that have been transported to America. Western are is home-grown; it is our own.

Q: Are you a cowboy artist?
RH: No, I’m not a cowboy. I did ride my horse to school as a boy and won a blue ribbon in a rodeo. But as I recall, every six-year-old kid in the rodeo won a ribbon.

Q: There are several Hamptons in western art. Are you related to any of them?
RH: Yes. Bill Hampton was my brother. We were kind of like twins, only a year apart. John Hampton, CA, is a friend. Tim Hampton is my son.

Q: How did you get into art?
RH: After World War II, my brother Bill and I worked for Walt Disney in the animation department. The pay was $27.50 a week, but somehow the money never bothered me because the work was so much fun. We had three life drawing classes a week, plus three evenings of class after work.
Gun Fighter's Legacy, oil, 24x20 by Roy Hampton
Gun Fighter's Legacy, Oil, 24x20
Q: Have you had other training?
RH: Not art school, but plenty of reading and working around other artists. Carl Hautman, a tremendous artist, said he felt it took as long to become a fine artist as to become a fine surgeon. I’m sure he’s right. I’ve been painting almost ten years now and am just starting to get comfortable with the paint.

Q: How can that be? Didn’t you mention working for Disney in the late forties?
RH: Yes, I had one year there, then my brother and I went to college for a while. My dad was a kind of country lawyer and thought all artists were incapable of making a living, so he advised us to get into real estate. Bill and I opened an office, but we really didn’t like the business world. We were still in our early twenties then. I believe that the artist in us had to come out, so we chose an allied field – designing, building, and finishing furniture.

Q: Where do you feel your art talent came from?
RH: My mom. She’s great at anything artistic. She’s four-foot-ten, a little dynamo.
The Marshall, Oil, 36x24 by Roy Hampton
The Marshall, Oil, 36x24
Q: When did you and your brother get back into art?
RH: About twenty-five years ago Bill started, then about ten years ago, so did I. Bill used to ride his horse a lot, and one day he was thrown and hurt bad. He couldn’t do anything for a long while. During his recuperation he started to draw again. What he accomplished was unbelievable. He did some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen.

Q: What did you do all that time until you took up art again?
RH: Just about everything. After the furniture business, I had a little bit of law school, sold paint, insurance, was a claims adjustor, taught judo, and finally became a vice-president of a large mortgage company. One year I made $85,000 selling, but all this time I missed the art. I had no idea I would fall back into it because of an auto accident. After that wreck, my whole thinking changed. What good was money of you weren’t happy? I looked so bad after the wreck, people wouldn’t hire me. My wife, Ann said “wait until you’re well and the plastic surgery heals." Ann got a job and supported us for six months. I started to feel better and was offered a job with Famous Artists Schools. I was ready to take anything to get close to art again. The school said if I did a good job, they would fly me to Connecticut to meet Norman Rockwell. My days and nights kept me busy showing and explaining the course, and I was ranked in the top five of all salesmen nationwide.
Navajo Dignity, Water Color, 24x20 by Roy Hampton
Navajo Dignity, Water Color, 24x20
My dream came true; meeting Rockwell was tremendous. We both kept up a correspondence over the years. One letter he sent comments on how well he thought one of my paintings was done. Even when he was very ill, shortly before his death, he saw to it that I received a letter congratulating me for painting John Wayne.
Hunter of Buffalo, Pencil, 18x24 by Roy Hampton
Hunter of Buffalo, Pencil, 18x24
Q: Thus far in your career, what do you feel has been your most exciting experience?
RH: I’d have to say meeting John Wayne and doing his portrait. That man was a giant. I’m 5’7" and looking up at him was like standing in the shadow of the Empire State Building. To me, it seemed he was even more the man in person.

Q: What do you mean by that?
RH: I guess I’m trying to say that many celebrities don’t come across in real life with the same impact or charisma that they do on the screen or in front of an audience. But Wayne was himself every moment. He was a hero, father, businessman, friend, actor, and humanitarian. He posed for me, and we talked for most of the day. He told me of his life and plans for himself. I feel John Wayne’s intelligence has never brought forth like it should.
Cry Over Me, Pencil, 24x18 by Roy Hampton
Cry Over Me, Pencil, 24x18
Q: And weren’t you the last artist to paint Wayne during his lifetime?
RH: Yes. I was the last artist officially commissioned and approved by Mr. Wayne.

Q: It seems you prefer to expound on the virtues of others, rather than your own.
RH: Well, most of us spend a little too much time tooting our own horns. We need to give others credit for their accomplishments and help once in a while.
Cow Mama, Oil, 24x20 by Roy Hampton
Cow Mama, Oil, 24x20
Q: What else can you tell us about John Wayne?
RH: Something that isn’t widely known is that one of Wayne’s big disappointments in life was when the government turned down his gift of a special process for refining oil from shale that was cheap and ecologically safe to produce.

Q: Why were you selected to paint Wayne?
RH: The city of San Dimas, California asked me. They are building a western history and art museum and wanted painting of famous westerners. John Wayne was selected as “1979 Man of the West." Roy Rogers and Olaf Wieghorst were previous winners of the award.
Wait for Fred, Oil, 24x20 by Roy Hampton
Wait for Fred, Oil, 24x20
Q: Did you paint them also?
RH: Yes, and I found Roy Rogers to be a fine person. He was very cooperative. I noticed after forty-five minutes of posing that his neck began bothering him. I suggested we take a break, so he took me downstairs and made us some coffee. Roy told me that a fall from his horse had broken three vertebrae in his neck. This amazed me, as his body movement was like that of a young man.

Olaf Wieghorst was a special challenge for me. I was concerned that one artist posing for another would be difficult. Olaf is a giant in the western art field; he is in his eighties and paints every day. When I was with him, we spent time in his studio and I studied his latest painting. He said he once turned down $180,000 for a painting of his that belonged to his wife. “Why pay all that income tax," he said. “I don’t need the money."

Olaf asked me if I would be interested in trading one of my paintings for one of his. What do you think I said? His small sketches and pen ink drawings sell for three to four thousand dollars now.
Tombstone Lawman, Oil, 20x24 by Roy Hampton
Tombstone Lawman, Oil, 20x24
Q: How do your prices compare to other artists?
RH: Thus far, six thousand is the most I have received for any one piece. My paintings usually range from two to three thousand.

Q: Haven’t your prices jumped considerably since you painted these famous men?
RH: Not really. It wouldn’t be fair, since the same amount goes into everything I do. Most artists’ works increase in value year by year because their work gets better. My work has increased considerably over the years. Boy, I sure remember my first show. My wife, Ann, figured that in the eight years since then, my work has gone up over 800 percent.
Damp Powder, Oil, 18x24 by Roy Hampton
Damp Powder, Oil, 18x24
Q: Can you name one person who is not a western artist that has done the most of further western art?
RH: In my opinion, Dean Kraekel has helped all western art by what he’s done at the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Q: Do you have any of your work there?
RH: Yes, there is a drawing of Walter Brennan. But I’d like to get back to John Wayne for a moment. He was planning to sit for me again in January of last year to finish the painting. But his health was failing, so I ended up using a particular pose he liked from one of his films. His head was straight on, shoulders at an oblique angle.

Q: Do you show your work in galleries?
RH: Now I do, but for many years I didn’t. I believe some artists make the mistake of being shown in too many galleries and end up not being able to do justice to all of them. Their work suffers. The artist needs to have a rapport with the galleries that can only be had through personal contact.
Smoke the Pipe, Pen and Ink, 18x24 by Roy Hampton
Smoke the Pipe, Pen and Ink, 18x24
Q: What are your feelings about competitions and awards?
RH: I’m not really sure. Sometimes the competition seems exciting; however, an artist is and should be competing with himself.

Q: You have won quite a few awards, haven’t you?
RH: Well, let me see; two Best of Shows, five First Places, four Gold Medals, one Silver, and one Bronze. My most recent Gold Medal was awarded to NAVAJO DIGNITY at the 1981 American Indian and Cowboy Artists Show (AICA) held in San Dimas, California.

A commission of which I am particularly proud of is a portrait of Casey Tibbs (World All-Around Rodeo Champion of 1951), requested by the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Champions in Colorado Springs.
Buffalo Thunder, Oil, 24x30 by Roy Hampton
Buffalo Thunder, Oil, 24x30
Q: What about “Who’s Who?"
RH: Yes, I’m in there. But again, in my opinion, some of our best artists aren’t.

Q: I’ve heard that artists are supposed to live longer.
RH: It seems they do. They’re always looking forward to the next thing they do.
by Bret Hampton of Westerner Magazine in 1975
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