Spearfish woman preserves images of ranch animals in paint: Along the Way

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SPEARFISH, S.D. (KEVN-TV)- A Spearfish woman has been painting and selling watercolor paintings for 30 years.
Much of her focus is on the animals that have come to symbolize ranching, rodeo, and the western life.

Artist Kathy Sigle with one of her paintings in her Spearfish studio. This is a horizontal painting of 20 or more rough stock horses. She says they range together when not being used for the rodeo.

She's well known in the art community.
And when you see her work, it's no wonder she's a success.

Artist Kathy Sigle's studio out toward the edge of Spearfish may as well be a sanctuary, for both peace and passion...

"It's just a God given talent and I just have that drive, ya know to create, to paint, to draw whatever and I never have to force myself to go into the studio ya know. It's just, always, always want to do it," Sigle says describing her art.

Sigle is not a historian, rather an artist, preserving in watercolor, a living breathing piece of Americana

"I've been painting on a surface that's got a clay surface. So it's actually a hard board and then I can spray it with a varnish when I'm done so there's no glass required on the original," Sigle says, as she talks about the surface she uses for her art.

And on that surface, she paints images, keys to a life that transcends decade after decade and generation after generation

"So I go out to local ranches, and we used to raise horses, and I ya know, grew up drawing them. So I now paint a lot of horses and cattle and bison," Kathy Sigle says.

And those horses and cattle and bison she speaks of, are for the most part based on real life animals.

"There's a few that I may take photographs, and put together to create a whole different horse ya know," she tells us.

The photographs she gathers, first hand, like some members of the regionally known Birch Bucking Bulls

"Then after I probably shot 100's and 100's of photos, ya know, I go through them and pick out which one's I want to to use, and her I've chosen 4 of them," Sigle explains, as she tells us about the process she uses for putting together a piece.

When she's done, those 4, will appear, in 1 scene.

"See this bull is this one. This is this. And he's here, and he's here. and I may tweak the color a little bit or his spots," she says as she points one by one at the photos and where they will go on the painting

She works on 2 or 3 paintings at a time, saying she's never really kept track of how much time, it takes for each one. She shows us a painting called called "Be still and know" and describes the process.

"So I painted in the whole thing with yellow and then came in and drew the graphite buffalo and I did the raised background here, " Sigle explains.

She shows us a painting and explains that it was a rodeo horse, an athlete, she says.

"I like the attitude he's projecting here. The ears are really expressive of attitude, and this is a war bridle so I thought well if he's got a war bridle, I'll put the feathers in," Sigle says, sharing her thought process.

Each animal has a story, each piece is composed with character.

"The background's built up when you touch it, and it's a raised surface. And so I incorporated a petroglyph feel with this one," Kathy says.

She shows us a piece that is painted horizontally, rather than vertically, says it has 20 horses or more.

"They're all rough stock horses. They range together in a pasture when they're not being used for the rodeo," she says.

And for some, seeing these animals, makes for misty eyes.

"I think it's causing them to relate to whatever their grandfather did, or parents did, or what they're doing and it's, it's a life that's fading if we're not careful, ya know the ranch life," she says.

But they are sealed in vivid living color in each piece brushed with Kathy Sigle's signature.

While her pictures conjure images of history, they're marketed the modern way, on her Facebook and Instagram pages.
You can also find her work in a gallery on the 2nd floor of Prairie Edge in Rapid City.

If you know somebody interesting that might be a good fit for a future "Along the Way" feature, please call us at 605-394-7777, or you can e-mail Steve Long at stevel@blackhillsfox.com, to share your idea.