The Cowboy Way: Drawings by Robert "Shoofly" Shufelt

The first artwork ever to be displayed at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum belonged to Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt. Fifteen years after he graciously loaned some of his lithographs for a temporary exhibit, Shufelt and his wife, Julie, have donated his collection to the museum for a new exhibition.

To showcase this compilation of Shufelt’s work, the Heritage Art Gallery was created. About 50 pieces make up the initial art exhibit, which opened on Nov. 23, 2013.

“Robert Shufelt is world-renowned,” said Museum Chief Curator Toni Laumbach. “He is among the best in the field of fine art that depicts the cowboy and daily ranch life.”

Shufelt retired from the commercial art world in order to get away from deadlines. In 1975, he and his wife Julie moved west from Chicago, settling first in Tucson, and later in Wickenburg, Ariz. Since 1991, the Shufelts have called New Mexico their home.

Shoofly’s respect for ranching as a way of life is clearly stated in his art. He has raised horses and cattle, and his art portrays a story of hard work and relationships with animals.

Shufelt, who says being an artist “is a compulsion, not a decision,” is a master of the pencil. He brings to life dramatic imagery with bold sunlight and shadow. Each original drawing is astonishing with complexity of composition and disciplined draftsmanship. The prints are done in runs of 300 or less.

“Cowboys have always been my heroes,” he said. “Most of today’s cowboy art romanticizes and thus misrepresents the cowboy. I know of no other labor which involves so much skill for so little pay as that of the professional cowboy. My aspiration for drawing the ‘cowboy way’ is to depict the spirit of ranching. I never stage a theme to draw, but work from environmental and cultural involvement with my subject.”

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