The Dream Spinner
Roy Andersen, prominent illustrator and painter of Native American figures, passes away at 88.
Known for his deep love of the West and the figures who populated it, Roy Andersen set himself apart from his peers with his abstracted backgrounds, exceptional compositions, vibrant colors and his appreciation of Native American history. The illustrator from New York who came West and thrived in Western art, died on April 25 in Kerrville, Texas. He was 88 years old.
Andersen enjoyed a long and prosperous career in Western art, where his paintings of Native Americans, particularly Plains Indians, were held up alongside works by Howard Terpning, James Reynolds, Kenneth Riley and other Western greats.
“Roy composed through reading and researching, and he rarely used a camera. When it came time to paint he would really lay the paint on there. His works would build up the layers and he would scrape them down. What he loved is that he could tell a story through his panting,” says Claggett/rey Gallery owner Bill Rey, who adds that Andesen loved Paul Bond boots—more than 50 pairs were found in his house after he passed. “He loved collecting the West, reading the West, visiting the West—all aspects of it. When he moved out West it validated him as a Westerner and he could finally play with all the things he read about in books.”
Before he came West in the 1980s, Andersen worked in illustration in New York and
Chicago. It was during this period that he created what would be his most recognizable works, the poster image for
Clint Eastwood’s 1976 Western film The Outlaw Josey Wales. Andersen also did work for
Time, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic and did two series of award-winning stamps for the United States Postal Service.
Out West he lived in Cave Creek, Arizona, for a period, but eventually moved to Kerrville, Texas. He lived near painter Robert Pummill and the two became fast friends. “He was a storyteller, and he was good technician when it came to the painting. He loved what he was doing, and that love shows up in his work. He was very knowledgeable of the subjects because he collected artifacts and did the research,” Pummill says, adding that both painters served together in the Cowboy Artists of America for a brief period. “The quality of his work, and the accuracy of his work, that dedication to his art will be his legacy and what he’s remembered for.”
Brad Richardson, owner of the Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, worked with Andersen for 20 years. “About a month ago Roy called and we chatted for a long time, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think he was saying goodbye. I told him how much we had enjoyed working with him and how highly we thought of him. He was a great guy,”
Richardson says. “Roy’s paintings had a look to them. He was an excellent painter, and did he ever like his color. I will miss him.”
Andersen’s work is shown at Legacy Gallery, Claggett/rey and at Insight Gallery, which is in Fredericksburg, Texas, not far from his home in Kerrville. His paintings have won numerous awards at shows around the country, and they have performed well at auction, hitting six figures at numerous sales. Many of his great pieces can be seen in his 2000 book Dream Spinner: The Art of Roy Andersen.
“Western art started for me as a way of illustrating an unwritten text. Stories ran sideways through my brain, equal parts movie, comic strip and cowboy paperback, with a strong dash of historical research thrown in,” Andersen wrote in Dream Spinner. “In time I imagined the figures and horses getting smaller and smaller. The landscape, the real drama of the American West, began to dominate my canvases. I discovered a real love. The sky, the land, the weather. The Indians, cowboys and settlers who yesterday moved through this land are gone, but the space itself is still there. Like all life, it changes yet remains the same.”
In a closing passage in his book, Andersen continued:
“…You go on knowing that the next painting will your best one, or at least praying it will be. Painting is a race against time, as you hope to finish all the paintings in you and learn as much of your craft as you can. Tell the tale as you know it, and if you err, do it on the side of great truth… beauty. Samuel Johnson wrote in prayer, ‘O Lord who hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed in this present labor, that in the last day when I make an account of the talent committed to me, I may receive a pardon.’”
Roy Andersen in his studio. Courtesy Insight Gallery.
Apache White Water, 1989, oil on canvas, 40 x 60”. Booth Western Art Museum.
Roy Andersen works on a large painting in his Kerrville, Texas, studio. Courtesy Insight Gallery.
Dance of the Wheel Lance, oil on canvas, 30 x 40”