Ranchers TJ and Nate Wald of Lodge Grass, Montana, are the pictured riders in Joelle Smith's painting, "Heading Home."
Nate Wald is a respected rawhide braider and a member of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association. T. J. Wald is a Vintage Dance Mistress. She teaches and she manages the annual 1876 Grand Ball in Hardin, Montana, and the 1864 Grand Ball in Virginia City, Montana, and other Vintage Dance Events.
Of course we have grand memories of the photograph and several others that Joelle took herself at our ranch, and painted, as well.
She came and stayed for several days. We had to ride out and gather some cows belonging to a neighbor. (Joelle was really happy that we had to do that.) So, she took her camera along and snapped many photos. By the way, Joelle was a very good hand.
It was a beautiful day and the sky looked just like it does in the painting. Joelle sort of rode back behind people so she could get the shots she wanted and when we would turn to look for her she would be snapping pictures.
The next day my husband Nate asked Joelle if she would like to go along to a neighbor's place to move some cattle. Joelle said, "Oh, would I" ... and she had a terrific time. They were gone all day long and I was very surprised that Joelle was not really very tired when she returned. (She was not well at the time but no one would have known that.) Joelle was an amazingly strong woman.
We have so many paintings from her visit with us and we cherish all of them. Our son Jackson was the model for "High Trot" by Joelle on Capriola's 2005 calendar. She drew a beautiful pencil of Jackson's horse "Dan" that we totally love and look at fondly while being reminded of her visit.
People who pass away are remembered by their families and friends for as long as possible but a person like Joelle will be remembered by many, many people who had never even met her thanks to her gift.
Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights
Montana ranchers T. J. and Nate Wald and their son pose with the 2006 Cowboy Poetry Week poster at Cody's Annual Cowboy Songs and Range Ballads gathering, in April, 2006.
Joelle Smith got her first pony, George, when she was ten. This was not the start of her love of horses, but was the first real horse that came into her life. She even chose the college she attended because they had a school pasture where she could keep her horse.
Joelle's life revolved around her love of horses, both in her work and in the rest of her life. She lived with her mother, Sally, on twenty acres in Alfalfa, Oregon, along with seven horses. Sally contributes as secretary for Joelle's business, as well as chief cookie baker. She has become known as "Cookie Mom" at Joelle's shows for the cookies that she brings.
Joelle spent her mornings with the horses and painted in the afternoons and evenings. The horses came first in her life just as they came first in her daily schedule.
Her favorite subject was horses, and these she painted with true passion. "The art came from the horses," she explained. The love of horses was always there and so was the art, but the horses came first."
All of Joelle's subjects were real horses, real places and real people. She did not pose them for her paintings, but tried to capture a slice of life in a documentary style. Many of the horses in her paintings are her own, as they were close by. She made at least two trips out of the area a year to gather material.
Joelle's work is a reflection of her experiences on ranches throughout the West. Her paintings are records of contemporary Western life, her legacy to future generations.
Joelle was invited to display her work at the 2006 Prix de West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, an accomplishment she strived for during her entire career.
On August 5, 2005, Joelle lost her valiant three-year battle with cancer. Though her physical presence here on earth is and will always be greatly missed, her legacy of work will live on.
Visit our feature about Joelle Smith, which includes more examples of her art, and poems and lyrics in tribute to her.
Learn more about Joelle Smith and view more of her art at www.joellesmith.com.
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