My Chicago Cow
In my previous blog (posted 1/25/2023), I wrote about a different kind of painting that I was commissioned to create late last year. At the end of the post, I mentioned that I had another unique project to share, so here it is.
Back in September 2022, I had an email from husband-and-wife collectors in Chicago asking if I could complete a painting on a cow statue. They sent photos of the unpainted cow, along with the dimensions, and I immediately recognized her. She was one of the Chicago Cows, only a smaller prototype version.
So what's a Chicago Cow, you ask. Well back in 1999 Chicago did a Cows on Parade outdoor art exhibit featuring 300 life-size fiberglass cows. This was one of the first of its kind. Oversize or life-size animals or objects are reproduced and then painted and/or decorated by local artists to turn an entire town into an outdoor sculpture museum. Over the last couple of decades, the concept has spread. At first other cities, both US and around the world, did their own cow parades. And then towns and cities began to create images that better represented them, ranging from dophins in the Florida Keys to guitars in Austin. And, of course, Wimberley has its own version, Bootiful Wimberley, which features 50 giant creatively painted and decorated boots on display around town.
Back to the commission...
So we emailed and texted and then followed up with phone calls. While the cow was nowhere near life size, (more like a foot wide, two feet long and a foot and half or so tall), my first concern was how to safely transport it to and fro. Turns out they had that covered. They owned a moving company and one of their trucks came to Texas about once a month. The cow would be brought to me and, when completed, would be picked up and taken back to Chicago. We agreed on all the specifics and I waited for her to show up. Several weeks passed when I got a call from the driver. He let me know that he had left Chicago and was heading to San Francisco and would then come back through Texas. Next time I heard from him, he was in El Paso and he let me know about he'd be in Wimberley by Saturday. On the afternoon of Oct. 8, a huge moving truck pulled up and nearly filled the parking lot. Two men opened the side door of what looked like an empty trailer and pulled out one little box.
She made it!
I set Cow, as I decided to call her, on a back table in the studio where I could pass by and see her daily. For the next month or so, I stewed on it until I came up with a plan. First, I had to prep the surface for the paint and let it dry. They wanted me to paint something in my sunrise/sunset/wildflower series so I had been thinking about how I would create that look on a 3-d surface. Finally, I began painting, starting with the sky, as I almost always do, and worked down from there.
As I worked on Cow, I sent a few progress photos to the collectors. I finished painting the statue in late January, let it cure for a few weeks, then applied a high-gloss finish, which also needed a few more weeks to cure. On March 9, the truck came and picked her up and she made her way back to Chicago. Yes, that was one well-traveled cow!
As you no doubt can tell as you've read this blog, I truly enjoyed doing this project. While I never saw the Cows on Parade in person, I do remember the event and the spin-off they did of small porcelain cow figurines, that were popular collectors' items for many years. The cow that I painted was authentic to the collection; a signed and number prototype. What an honor for this South-Texas-born-and-raised farm girl to get to paint a Chicago Cow!