Chuck Middlekauff

Bio

Born in Massachusetts and raised as an "Air Force brat," I rode with my two younger sisters in the back seat of our station wagon on cross-country trips to Dad's new duty stations, treasuring our stops at cafes, gas stations, tourist-trap shops, and classic motels. With each new set of neighborhood kids, I was the young "director" who (inspired by TV and movie Westerns) passed out cap guns and other props for cowboy and Indian games. I sort of fell into being an artist later in life. God gave me some talent, so I suppose I could always draw, but aside from the doodles I did to amuse the kids at school, I didn't paint or draw. As a teenager, and still showing no interest in art, I played guitar in a garage band, listened to the Beach Boys, Beatles, and other music, and I sometimes skipped school to observe life firsthand. After high school, I joined the Navy to explore even more of the world. Four years later, I went home to Austin, Texas, where my parents had retired. Drafting school let me explore some hand skills, and a part-time job at an insurance company led me to Carol. I married her, finished drafting school, and we moved to Colorado. As we began to travel together, my ongoing wanderlust infected Carol. (We've logged more than a million miles in cars, investigating the corners of the United States and Canada, and more miles camping across Europe on trains.) After a few years as a draftsman in Denver, I enrolled at Metropolitan State College (now University). In my fifth year, desperate to graduate and needing another quick elective, I took a drawing course. But this art class wasn't going to be a slam-dunk. Professor Craig Marshall Smith said, "My grades range from one to ten. And nobody makes tens!" I said to myself, I'll show him. And I actually did make some tens. After the challenges and inspirations of Smith's class, I changed my major to fine art. Finally graduated, I was convinced that only other people made money as fine artists, so I opted for more schooling and the potential of a real job. On my way to graduating with honors in graphic design from the Art Institute of Colorado, I learned more about concept and design, and how to think outside the box as I worked. Then, in four years of "real jobs" as a commercial designer in Denver and Los Angeles, I found that coming up with ideas and applying design to them was fun. But the rest of the business was not. In 1988, determined to make it as a fine artist, I quit my job and began exploring subjects and styles. However, getting my work into galleries was another matter. Identifying with something artist John Nieto once said, "I knew I was an artist when I knew there was something special about my work," I understood that getting into galleries could only happen when I thought my artwork was ready. One day during this seeking process, I ran across a great photo of a cowboy from the knees down. That was it. I started painting fill-the-page close-ups of cowboys, knees-down and otherwise. Eventually, when I thought a gallery director might see that something special, soul, overall appeal, and (overlooking the flaws) energy, that set my paintings apart from something else that might have more technical perfection—but less life—I started approaching galleries. And several galleries accepted my work—and they began to sell it! So, starting in 1992, I was a working fine artist. Continuing road trips across America invigorated my romance with the road: wide-open spaces, blue-sky days, the intense light after a summer thunderstorm, rusty windmills, gas pumps, pickups, and Coke machines, neon signs, worn out toys, and weather-beaten murals and barns. Along the back roads of the West and on Route 66, I linger in small towns or at fairs and rodeos to capture those images in my camera and in my mind. I see that these distinctively American artifacts have textures induced by weathering and years of hard use that are exciting to reproduce. Besides recreating the details of cowboys, boots, and spurs, my painting hand keeps itching to work on all these other things that make me smile. I have found the rest of my direction and passion. You might call it American Pop Art.   In my studio, I crank up music (from Alan Jackson to the Beatles and from the Beach Boys to John Mellencamp), and I paint away. By combining the past with the present, putting things together that don't necessarily appear together (but they could), and by adding touches of humor, nostalgia, and sometimes sentimentality, I reveal my unique vision of America. Now back in Austin, Carol and I thank God for His saving grace through Jesus. We also thank Him for our talents as artist and author, and we're trying not to disappoint Him. This artist's life isn't always easy (pay checks can be far apart, and galleries can suddenly change directions), but, thanks to God, and to gallery owners, collectors, and others who encourage me to keep painting, especially Carol (my biggest fan), I get to live my dream. I also appreciate other artists, whose work I constantly study. I also get to connect with people, in person at gallery and museum shows, and through my paintings (when I’m not there) in galleries across the West. This means that Carol and I still travel a lot—to deliver paintings to galleries and clients at some of the grandest places on earth. And I'm constantly pinching myself to make sure this story is really about me.

Accolades

  • SouthWest Art Magazine May 2017: Artist of Note
  • Featured Western Art Collector April 2017

Artwork

Chillin Out
Bed and Breakfast Ahead
Birthday Bash
Candy Applesauce by the Pound
Crossing Guard
Five Balls Two Strikes
Happy Meal
Home Plate
In Your Dreams Beep Beep
Mickey
Rockin in the USA
Runnin on Empty
She Loves You
Trick Ropin
Wild and Wacky West
Bed and Bath with Pool