“The Truck and Tractor Guy”

Golden Years by Randy Saffle
9” x 12”- Oil

As a relative newcomer to fine art, one of the biggest challenges I faced was what subject to paint. I had never painted in oil and was drawn to it by watching a local French artist who was painting wonderful French country landscapes and Italian villas with bold colors and thick palette knife strokes. I also took notice that art buyers were drawn to his French accent and his beret.  His paintings were flying off his easel. Why else would I paint, but to make the same stacks of money? 

After taking classes from him, I too became very adept at those same foreign vistas. It did not take long for this Texas native to realize I had no idea what I was trying to paint, and I was committing another sin by trying to rely on found photography. I did not want to be a big fake. I had barely left the state of Texas, let alone traveled overseas! There are tons of that kind of art being produced in factories already, and besides that, I would have looked pretty out of place wearing his French beanie.

Then I was saved by going to watch my first paint out hosted by the Outdoor Painters Society of Texas. My eyes were opened to the joys of plein air painting. Who would have thought I could find a muse just outside my own house? Joining this group is the only reason I am even writing this blog today. 

Granny’s Porch by Randy Saffle
11” x 14” – Oil

Most artists I have met are very humble and willing to share their knowledge. I love the comradery. But plein air painting is not for the weak-hearted. To put in the required work day after day, you must genuinely love your subject. Enthusiasm cannot be faked.

Being out in the landscape, you are surrounded by sky and trees, and that is what the majority of painters paint. However, I found myself looking for more intimate subjects, something that I knew. I was looking for what Texas means to me. A love for rusty old trucks, collapsing barns, ancient tractors and other rural images reminded me of my childhood. I see the strength in those subjects. 

Now, several hundred of those paintings later, I became known to many people as “the truck and tractor guy”.

Barn Find by Randy Saffle
9” x 12” – Oil

It was a title that I felt was limiting. I found myself apologizing when I shared another truck painting with comments like, “I know it’s another truck but here you go”. 

I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable with my label. I hear tons of other painters say the same thing as they share their own clichéd subjects.  You know what I’m saying, all of those waterfalls, cabins nestled in the woods, and yes, the dreaded red barns. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to be known at all among your peers, but I started to feel like that was all anyone thought about me and it was not really the vehicles that I even cared about…it was the emotions and the deep-rooted connections I had to these subjects I was painting.  

Anywhere, Texas by Randy Saffle
16” x 16” – Oil and Wax

When I get in a painter’s drought, I paint my trucks and tractors. When I have only a short time to paint, I choose my default subjects. Without these subjects, I may not be painting at all. It takes motivation to get that brush mileage you need and for the majority of painters that motivation is not money. I needed my muse, I found it and it works for me. Behind most famous artists is a muse that inspires new passion and better work. When you are inspired, the dictionary states, “mentally you are stimulated to do or feel something”.  Above all, an inspired person often feels compelled to be different and do better.  Paint what your inner voice tells you. 

Walk the Line by Randy Saffle
18” x 14” – Oil

I have been honored to be accepted in OPA National and Regional shows. Interestingly, my selected paintings have not been of trucks and tractors, but instead were portraits, figure studies and even animals. So far, only one vehicle painting has made it in, and that was a train. But none of those paintings would have been possible without my muse work. So, learn to embrace your muse. Paint those red apples again and again. If you are good at it, others will see and feel your passion displayed in paint.  Do not paint someone else’s French countryside!

I found my muse and my reason for painting, but I’m still waiting on those stacks of money. ;?)

Calling it a Day by Randy Saffle
9” x 12” – Oil

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA Spring 2021 Online Showcase OPA Spring 2021 Online Showcase
The Spring 2021 Online Showcase is from March 1 - May 15, 2021 and will be open to Associate members only. Learn More!
Salon Show 2021 Salon Show
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Eastern Regional Exhibition 2021 Eastern Regional Exhibition
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Western Regional Exhibition 2021 Western Regional Exhibition
The Western Regional Exhibition will be held October 15 through November 27, 2021 at the Mary R. Koch Arts Center (Mark Arts), located in Wichita, Kansas. More details to be announced as they become available. Learn More!