If anyone has received a greeting card or letter from me – it may have included a hand-drawn cartoon. You can thank Charlie Russell for the artistic addition . . . . .
Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was an American artist who painted iconic scenes of the Old West. Charlie was born in St. Louis and moved to Montana when he was 16 years old where he got a job working on a sheep ranch. Charlie chronicled the bitter winter of 1886-7 in a series of watercolor paintings. While working on the O-H Ranch in the Judith Basin of Montana, the foreman received a letter from the ranch owner — asking how his cattle had fared during the winter. Instead of writing back, the foreman sent the owner a postcard-sized watercolor painted by Charlie. The image was that of a gaunt steer surrounded by wolves – on a gray winter day. The owner showed the drawing to friends and displayed it in a shop window in Helena. And Charlie began to get work — as an artist.
In 1897, Charlie and his new bride moved to Great Falls, MT where he remained for the duration. Charlie was a prolific painter – with over 4,000 works (oil, watercolor, drawings and occasional sculptures) to his credit. Today, the works of Charlie Russell go for big bucks — like “The Hold Up” which sold for $5.2 million in 2008.
Four decades ago, while visiting Charlie’s studio in Great Falls, I learned that he had adorned many of his letters with drawings. And I got a bright idea. . . . .
If you want to see some of Charlie’s artistic letters, check out http://www.google.com/search?q=charlie+russell%27s+letters+images&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ0sOonbzXAhUE4oMKHZM8B2AQsAQIJQ&biw=1920&bih=949