Hi everybody! Today I’m interviewing Lois Harris, author of Charlie Russell, Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist. She’s written three lovely biographies of North American artists, perfect for use in the classroom. Charlie is a wonderfully appealing character, a painter, sculptor, and storyteller. I love that when he went west to be a cowboy he brought along a tin of beeswax for making little figures. I was so inspired I tried my hand at a little wax sculpting too!
1. Hi Lois, you have written three books about artists, which makes me wonder, are you an artist too?
I’m not a visual artist, but I’ve enjoyed looking at art since I was a girl and spent many Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Many of my friends are artists. I like being with creative people.
2. Do you have a favorite Charles Russell painting, sculpture, or story?
When I was researching for my book, I visited Montana where Charlie lived most of his life. In Helena, the state capitol, I saw the original oil painting of Laugh Kills Lonesome at the Montana Historical Society. Charlie was a working cowboy and his picture tells a story. It’s a moonlit night after a long day herding cattle, and cowboys gather round a crackling campfire under the big starry Montana sky. The firelight throws light on the cowboys and a horse while the cook wipes a pot. You can imagine someone is telling a funny story like Charlie used to. He was a great storyteller. He chose Laugh Kills Lonesome as the painting title because those cowboys weren’t lonely when they laughed and shared stories. I liked this picture so much, I selected it for a double spread (two pages) in my book.
3. Is there an interesting fact about Charlie that is not in the book?
Charlie became a famous artist, and his paintings and sculptures sold for a lot of money in Europe, Canada, and America. He could have lived anywhere, but he chose to stay in Montana. Charlie liked nothing better than getting together with his old friends. Charlie did not let fame or money change him and knew what made him happy.
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