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George West's own western
by Lindsey Shaffer
Dec 20, 2013 | 112 views | 0 0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lindsey Shaffer photo 
Silversmith and sculptor Rick McCumber stands behind his most recent sculpture of two horses which he titled "Unconditional." The piece weighs around 100 pounds and took him about a year to complete.
Lindsey Shaffer photo Silversmith and sculptor Rick McCumber stands behind his most recent sculpture of two horses which he titled "Unconditional." The piece weighs around 100 pounds and took him about a year to complete.
slideshow
Lindsey Shaffer photo 
Artist Rick McCumber said he makes most of his tools. Pictured are clay-covered toothbrush handles with small guitar strings on the end.
Lindsey Shaffer photo Artist Rick McCumber said he makes most of his tools. Pictured are clay-covered toothbrush handles with small guitar strings on the end.
slideshow
In a workshop full of books, old photographs, clay-covered sculpting tools and handmade pieces of artwork, it’s hard not to feel the creative inspiration flowing from wall to wall. Rick McCumber’s art studio is a place of cozy nostalgia, where the cowboy clutter only makes it feel more alive.

Rick grew up in the small town close to the heart of many locals. A town full of old cowboy stories and western traditions: George West.

“My mother and father both graduated from George West, I graduated from George West and so did my kids,” Rick said. “My grandmother was good friends with J. Frank Dobie.”

A self-proclaimed “rodeo guy,” Rick grew up around rodeos and ranching. His father was a partner in a company that produced rodeos, and Rick began riding bulls and bareback horses when he was in high school. As a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, he continued to ride, moving on to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association after graduation, where he rode bulls and later moved into the team roping. “I didn’t win quite enough to make a living, so I learned how to make a buckle,” he said.

Through his involvement in team roping, Rick became friends with several members of the Cowboy Artists of America, a group of artists who aim to preserve the culture of western art in their work.

“The members of the CAA gave me a start in the techniques involved in sculpting,” he said. “I learned what I could from them, and the rest was self-taught.”

Rick first began to sell his buckles at rodeos and let his artwork speak for itself, as word of his talent began to travel by word of mouth. While buckles and jewelry are still Rick’s biggest sellers, it wasn’t long before the requests began coming in for custom bronze pieces. A large piece that Rick finished just a week ago took about a year to complete. It is a piece that was commissioned—a one-third life size mare and colt standing side by side. Rick titled the piece, “Unconditional.”

Rick has called a ranch in George West “home” for many years. “The folks I work for are very good people who have supported me since I started,” he said. On the short walk back to Rick’s art workshop behind his house, he pointed to the two, tall horses resting by the trees. “Those are my models,” he said. “I like to sit outside and study them while I work, to make sure I get it right.”

A piece that’s still in the making sits in the center of Rick’s workshop table. A tribute to old rodeo cowboys, the clay sculpture is of an older man sitting on a bronc saddle, looking down at the collection of things he used as a young man when he was a rodeo champion. The boots and spurs, chaps, bull rope and buckle have been retrieved from the bag they’ve been resting in for years, each sparking an old memory from his glory days.

“It’s about fond memories but kinda sad too; it has to touch both worlds,” Rick said about the piece, which he calls “Scars and Souvenirs.”

“I always wanted to make something, but I didn’t know what,” Rick said. He held out a tray of small jewelry pieces and explained, “It’s like making a pizza, putting all the parts together.”

Rick makes most of his tools as well. Small, clay-covered toothbrush handles with guitar strings attached to the top serve as the perfect sculpting tools for his work.

Rick’s future looks bright and even more versatile. “I’ve been focusing primarily on the working cowboy in my art, but a lot of my history is in rodeo,” he explained.

Rick said he plans to draw inspiration from his rodeo roots for more of his future pieces. “There seems to be a shortage of authentic rodeo art being produced,” he said.

This year marks the 20th year that Rick will have an exhibit at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo in February where he will be showing and selling his pieces. Look for him in the Joe Freeman Coliseum. To view or purchase some of his artwork, visit his booth at the show, or his website at www.rickmccumber.com.

As for his long-term plans, Rick said, “I plan to try to make the best art I can, and strive to do it so well that it can’t be ignored.”

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