C. Michael Dudash is a storyteller. Without uttering a word, the 66-year-old artist stimulates imaginations with eye-catching rustic oil paintings depicting scenes from the Old West.
Working from his studio in the rural Garwood area of northern Kootenai County, Dudash, a self-described narrative painter, creates works of art that attract the attention of renowned artists and avid collectors from across the country and even around the world.
Painting life into an era marked by cowboys, Indians, gunslingers and pristine landscapes, Dudash has become one of the country’s foremost “cowboy artists.”
For the second straight year, his talents have earned him a place in the prestigious “Cowboy Crossings” art exhibit, put on by the Cowboy Artists of America (CAA). The invitation-only annual event, held earlier this month in Oklahoma City, Okla., is a vanguard of Western art with a mission to authentically preserve and perpetuate the culture of Western life in fine art.
“I’ve always been attracted to the character and lifestyle of the Old West,” Dudash said. “The pioneers, Native Americans and old-time cowboys—the good guy always gets the girls, those types of things.”
Born and raised in Mankato, Minnesota, Dudash began his career as an illustrator, but soon found his love for painting—especially western landscapes.
Before he turned the corner and ventured into the world of western art in 2001, Dudash built a huge name for himself on the national stage, illustrating for publications like TV Guide, Reader’s Digest and Field & Stream, as well as best-selling book covers and even the cinematic movie poster for the 1985 Clint Eastwood western “Pale Rider.”
Drawing up the past is something that comes natural to Dudash, whose lifetime passion was to be a painter. And while his talents are diverse, Dudash brushes most other art forms aside, focusing on paintings of the past.
“I like historical western work as opposed to contemporary; it fits the bill for a lot for things I like to paint: landscapes, Native Americans, pioneers—anything from the earlier days of the West.
Dudash opened his first studio 20 years ago, spending the last 12 focusing on the Old West. In 2016, Dudash received the prestigious “Spirit of the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale Award.”
That’s quite an accomplishment for a painter who considers himself somewhat of an outsider in terms of the wild, wild West.
“I wasn’t raised a cowboy,” he said. “I paint to keep traditions alive and to promote the accuracy of the Old West.”
His lifelike works convey the human ruggedness and scenic tranquility of the cowboy era. Each tells a story and Dudash prefers to leave the conclusion up to the viewer.
For example, Dudush is currently working on a painting of a group of Indians on horseback approaching a cliff. Are they headed to battle? Scouting hunting territory? Or maybe surveying a campsite?
It’s Dudush’s ability to realistically capture the mood of his subjects and the beauty of their surroundings that has made him nationally acclaimed. Two years ago, the artist was inducted into the Cowboy Artists of America.
The exclusive organization is dedicated to portraying the lifestyles of the cowboy and the American West. The works of artists’ inducted into the CAA are highly sought after by western collectors, often fetching high prices.
A full-time artist for 40 years, Dudash said his passion for painting old westerns stems from his interest in the character and lifestyle of era.
“It gives me a wealth of never-ending subject matter and there’s also a very viable good market,” he said.
America’s love of the Old West is evident by the popularity of the annual Cowboy Crossings exhibit held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma.
The event has earned the title of longest running Western art collective in the U.S., dedicated to preserving the increasingly rare art form that captures the legacy of the true American west, according to a CAA press release.
For Dudash, it’s another high-profile opportunity to showcase his works, which fill the walls and even much of the floor space in his Garwood gallery. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“People are born with certain gifts, or attributes or talents—it’s what we do with them as we grow up that makes a difference,” Dudash said. “It’s been a very rewarding and awesome career.”
To view more of C. Michael Dudash’s work, visit his online gallery at: www.cmdudash.com.