Whether it's a flash flood, wild javelina disrupting a round of play or trying for the impossible shot, my goal is to create paintings with a light hearted, western twist on the game of golf. I strive to keep ideas fun and hope you enjoy the work as much as I do creating it. -Russell Houston
Russ' desire to paint comes from his love of the American West -- the landscape, its people, the experiences they have. Russ always strives to tell those stories. Born the son of Marine Corp parents, young Russ spent time on Camp Pendleton drawing the military activities around him.
His imagination for stories grew even greater with his family's move to Arizona. The cast of characters and color of the desert provided Russ with endless possibilities for paintings and drawings. His capacity to illustrate increased when at only 17, he became the youngest staff artist at the ad agency for U-Haul International.
His advances in art then continued back in California at the Art Center College of Design. Upon graduation with a degree in Illustration, Russ returned to Arizona. Working on the family ranch, he also worked on illustration accounts and pursued Western Art by night. A short time later he made the transition to painting Western pieces full-time.
Russell was making a modest living as a painter of traditional Western scenes when his career doglegged onto the golf course. One day he spotted a photograph, (circa 1900) of two cowboys, horses in tow, playing GOLF. Taken near a now vanished southern Arizona mining town on a now vanished desert course built for miners.
"I knew I had to paint this subject." says Houston "And you'd be surprised how many modern cowboys I know who carry golf clubs around in the back of their pickups."
His painting "Hazard on the Fourth Hole" depicts the same scene the photo does -- except with the addition of an angry bull that is about to charge as one of the cowboys lines up the putt. Since that first award winning piece Russ has painted 14 more (with more pieces in the works) – each depicting the lighter side of the great game called Golf. For most paintings Houston uses two ”models”. One is Wayne Ramsey, a horse farrier; the other is Charlie Coppinger, who doubles as a horse trainer, guide and mule skinner. "I’ve used different people, but Charlie and Wayne are in the majority of them. I see Wayne and Charlie as the Laurel and Hardy of the Art World," says Houston. "Nothing goes right for them."
For example, in one composition, ("Chip Shot") Coppinger prepares to play his ball out of a truly messy lie...a cow chip.
"I have a notebook full of ideas, enough to keep me going for quite a while. The more slapstick the ideas, the better -- a pie in the face. I sometimes take a spin off a regular golf term, like Chip Shot." Prints of the paintings have been sold all over the world -- including China, Japan, Germany, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, every state of the USA. Russ has had the honor to participate in numerous cowboy golf tournaments inspired by his artwork. And his artwork has been featured in articles in “People”, “Sports Illustrated”, “The Boston Globe”, “The LA Times”, and “The Arizona Republic” to name a few. Russell also spends half of his time painting traditional Western Art (see examples here). He truly enjoys telling the great story of the West through his art. Russ lives in Arizona with his wife -- near their 3 children and 8 grandchildren. And after a lifetime of painting, Russ is just "hitting his stride". (The goal is to paint to 100.)