Cowboy photo becomes the inspiration for an acrylic painting

An acrylic painting by Kerma Boyum-Sarmiento of my cowboy photograph called "Braving the Rain."

Kerma Boyum-Sarmiento, an artist who grew up in Havre, Montana and attended Havre public schools, recently licensed one of my cowboy photographs called Braving the Rain so she could make a painting of it. You can see the results above...a 30" x 48" acrylic painting she made on deluxe canvas.

Kerma, now a resident of Marina del Rey, California, said she took a long hiatus from painting following college and about the same time she started her own medical transcription business. After retiring in 2015 Kerma resumed painting again. She sells her paintings from her home and has her work displayed in shops throughout the greater Marina del Rey, California area. She also has a few items on display at High Plains Gallery at The Atritum in Havre.

If you are interested in purchasing the painting above you can contact Kerma by email at

Odd photo job leads to mystery

A high resolution photo of a horse print, which hangs in Eddie's Supper Club in Great Falls, Montana.

When you are a photographer you get calls all of the time from people with requests to photograph strange things. That was the cast recently when a movie production company contacted me and asked me to photograph a facsimile or lithograph of a painting hanging in Eddie's Supper Club in Great Falls, Montana. They want to reproduce it, frame it, and use it on the set for the movie they are making.

Photographing the lithograph was easy. Editing it in Photoshop was a bit more challenging. It had been hanging in Eddie's Supper Club for many years and the colors were faded and it wasn't very sharp any more. But with some work I was able to restore it and ship it off to the customer. But I was curious. Who was the original artist? Where did it come from?

If you are unfamiliar with Eddie's Supper Club, it is an old restaurant located on the east side of Great Falls. When it was built back in the 1950s it probably was on the edge of town. Since then the city has grown and it is now surrounded by residential neighborhoods. But one thing is for sure, not much inside the restaurant has changed. And that's good.

When I asked the owner of the restaurant where it came from all she could tell me is that it was one of four lithographs purchased from Franklin Vaccine Company. That seemed like an odd company to be purchasing prints from, so I did more research, but came up empty. Franklin Vaccine Company used to make medicine for horses and it has been out of business for many years. Given how little information about Franklin Vaccine Company exists online it is possible it's not even the company's real name. Actually I think it might be O. M. Franklin Serum Company, whose founder was inducted into the National Cowboy Museum, but not for painting--for developing the first successful vaccine for blackleg, a deadly cattle disease--but I don't know. One of my leads seemed to indicate they commissioned a painter every year to make a calendar and that the artist might be Raphael Lillywhite. But if you look at Lillywhite's paintings the styles don't really match. So who knows.

Whatever the answer is, I suspect it may never be found.

UPDATE: Eddie's Supper Club in Great Falls, Montana closed its doors in June 2017. The whereabouts of the above lithograph is now unknown.

My photo inspires student art project

A charcoal drawing by Sioux Central High School student Rocio Flores, which was inspired by one of my black and white photographs.

As many of you know, I get asked from time-to-time by painters and artists to use my photography as the inspiration for their work. I have written about this before. And though it gives me pause when a professional artist wants to mimic a scene I witnessed first-hand and then sell it as if they were there too, I never hesitate when a student contacts me and asks to use one of my photos as the basis for a class project.

That was the case recently when I was contacted by Rocio Flores, a student at Sioux Central High School in Sioux Rapids, Iowa. She emailed me and politely asked if she could use my photograph of a spiral staircase inside the Octagon House in Watertown, Wisconsin as the inspiration for her charcoal drawing. I'm not sure if she did that on her own or with the urging of her teacher, but whatever the case I was very please. She and/or her teacher obviously respect the work of other artists and Rocio didn't just copy something she saw online.

Rocio Flores - Sioux City, Iowa

I told Rocio I had no problem at all with her using my as long as she sent me a photo of the final product when she was done so I could blog about it. Rocio was not the first student to ask me to use my photos for a project, but it was the first time a student ever followed through on their promise to me. Today she sent me some photos and an update on how her project went. So for that reason alone Rocio is my new favorite young and emerging artist. :)

Above is the result of the Rocio's work. You can also check out my original black and white photo by clicking HERE. She tells me her teacher was very pleased with the results and told her it was so good she should enter it in a local art show, which she did and she was elated to tell me it was accepted. So kudos to Rocio all around.

In an economic climate where schools are cutting funding for arts and music classes it's good to know that at least in this one instance arts studies are still alive and well at Sioux Central High School and the Sioux Central Community School District. Rocio may never go on to become a professional artist--a very hard way to earn a living indeed--but she may become a graphic artist someday....or a doctor, or an engineer, etc. The point is that arts and music studies are every bit as important as those other subjects. Not because they necessarily teach a student a craft or a trade, but because they teach them so many other life lessons. And pride, too, I think.

Pride all around.

Painting inspired by my photography of cowboys

A painting by James Geddes inspired by one of my photographs.

Recently I wrote about how painters often contact me to use some of my western photography as the inspiration for their paintings. The most recent artist to contact me is a gentleman by the name of James Geddes, of Yacolt, Washington. His most recent work (seen above) is based on a cowboy portrait I made of a gentleman cowboy from Cleveland, Montana a few years ago. He calls the painting Clancy.

Here is what the original photograph, which I called True Grit, can be seen below:

A candid profile shot of an old cowboy on a ranch near Lloyd, Montana→ License Photo

When is art really art?

A few weeks ago I asked the question:  Is photography art? I cited examples of painters who licensed my cowboy photography (and some who didn't license it) and essentially copied it with their paint brush and then present it as something wholly produced by themselves. No credit to the photographer. No disclaimer. No provenance. And no story behind their creation or the photograph that inspired their creation.


The reason I brought it up was because some galleries and art shows and artists will not even consider photography as art. Yet they will accept a painting where a photograph was copied almost entirely.

Well, not too long ago I was searching the Internet to keep an eye who use my photos in licensed and unlicensed ways when I stumbled onto something created by an artist named Jennifer Mehigan. You can see the image that caught my attention upper right. It looks like she called it "Flash of the Hand."

She should have called it "Slight of Hand."

There are two things about this image that struck me funny. For starters, the underlying canvas she used for her brush strokes is a photo I created with my camera and edited in my digital darkroom. The other thing that caught my attention was the fact that she was charging many thousands of dollars for that piece. Despite contributing more than half of what people see in the image, I received no credit and I was lucky if I netted $4.00 as the image was purchased I presume through a stock photography website--though there's no proof of that. That's one of the down sides of having your photography sold by a stock photography website.

Am I jealous? No. She has better contacts than I have. I guess that's smart. But it is yet more evidence why photographers are artists every bit as much (and sometimes more) than the so-called "real" artists.

Mehigan is a Sydney-educated artist who now lives and works in Singapore. I pretty much guarantee she's never stepped foot in Belleville, Wisconsin where my photo (right) was created. Her art is very abstract and avant-garde, to say the least, but you can be the judge. Critics call her work "remarkable" and "inspiring." And she obviously has made a pretty good living combining digital work with painting, drawing, and sculpting. Which means instead of using a bare canvas she starts with a stratum someone else before her created and then she adds her work to it.

Is it ethical for her to represent the entire work of art as her own? Is it ethical to do so without giving credit to the underlying artist who created the colors that light bounces off of and enters any human's eye who sees it? I don't know.

I do wonder a couple of things, though. I wonder who purchased that particular piece of art. And I wonder if they would enjoy knowing the story behind the photo.

Because I know the photographer.

And my work is 100% my own.