Painter and sculptor Buck McCain was raised on a working cattle ranch in southern California near the Mexican border. McCain was home-schooled by his mother and also learned Spanish and the native Indian language from the local children. A fifth generation rancher, McCain took over the ranch at age 20 when his father died. Upon graduation from high school McCain realized that he needed to further his education or he would spend the rest of his life cattle ranching. He attended Imperial Valley Junior College near El Centro, California on a pre-med scholarship. McCain took art courses to balance out his science course work. His art teacher, Juanita Low, encouraged McCain to pursue a career in art. The artist found further encouragement when he sold his first painting of two boats in the San Diego harbor for $35.
McCain says of his early life, “I worked along side my father working cattle across our ranch and was struck by the beauty of the surroundings, so severe and demanding, yet sometimes brightened by miles of wildflowers, vivid sunsets and dramatic cloud formations. The West is an inspiration to the rest of the country and is for the world at large a place of legend.” He has been more than successful in translating these impressions into paintings and sculptures.
After graduation from Imperial Valley McCain went to work on a ranch in Nevada. He supplemented his meager salary with paintings that he sold to hotels for $10 each. McCain eventually left ranch work and went to work for Aaron Brothers in Los Angeles. There he painted pictures to be sold in department stores throughout the United States. In the late 1960’s Buck McCain, who is mostly self-taught, went to Europe for a year of independent study. Upon his return to America, McCain settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1976 McCain attempted sculpture on the suggestion of Arizona sculptor and painter Ernie Berke.
After Berke walked him through the process, McCain knew he really wanted to sculpt. He has created several monumental bronzes.
Buck McCain is the 33rd Friends of Western Art’s Artist of the Year recipient.