Maggie Brendan: MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS…AND ARTISTS

M.BrendanWhile writing my novel, The Jewel of His Heart last year, I was researching for interesting facts to incorporate into my historical. My story takes place in Montana and I had the luxury of visiting there twice. I was able to come away with interesting historical facts to weave into my plot. The story is loosely based on the discovery of the Yogo Sapphires mined only in Montana. The heroine, Juliana Brady, falls for a sheepherder whose eyes come to haunt her from a sketch she sees hanging in a restaurant. In my opening chapter, Josh McBride, the sheepherder, shares a meal with Charlie who passes Josh’s sheep camp on his way home. Charlie is intrigued by the kind Sheepherder and his loyal dog and quickly sketches them. Charlie wasn’t widely famous at the time, but was a cowboy and had a short stint sheepherding before hanging up his spurs to live out his dream of being an artist. He was none other than Charles M. Russell, a St. Louis native who moved to Montana as a teenager.

Charlie won his first blue ribbon for his art work when he was twelve at the St. Louis County fair. His family wanted him to have a good education, and though he’d made up his mind to go west and become a cowboy, they sent him to military school in New Jersey in 1879. His natural instincts did not include book learning, but art and the lure of the West competed for his attention. At the military school he was continually at odds with his instructors and dropped out after one year. At 16, his parents allowed him to visit Montana Territory with a family friend. Charlie immediately fell in love with the beauty of Judith Basin and he knew he would return some day. In fact, he enjoyed being a cowboy, practicing his drawing, sculptures and painting whenever he had a spare moment. Usually he gave away his work to friends and fellow cowboys. He used meticulous detail to depict horses, Indians and cowboys and their struggles in the West to create beautiful paintings. He soon became a popular artist, and was highly regarded by his contemporaries.

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Charlie was good natured and well liked by all. He sported a red sash around his neck and usually had a cigarette dangling from his lip. Since he was naturally creative in painting, even his letters to his friends were filled with his unusual wit and humor. He and his mentor, Jake Hoover, also in my story, spent a lot of leisure time hanging out at local saloons in Utica in the 1880’s. He finally fell in love, marrying at the age of thirty-two to eighteen year old Nancy Cooper. They settled down in Great Falls, MT and she is credited with the success of marketing his works and negotiating large prices for his paintings. Russell was an adventurous and a rugged individual, but when he began his paintings depicting wild horses and cowboys, much of the ‘Old West’ was coming to the end of an era. His representation of western history and folklore of the American cowboy and Indians was how he became a legacy.

Russell’s vast array of painting and sculpture now fill many museums and are owned by private art collectors. was fortunate enough to seen some of his most magnificent paintings and bronzes at the Denver Art Museum one year. I have a deep appreciation for all things West and Russell’s accurate portrayal of the American Cowboy and wildlife is exceptional.10965_177470914335_87396029335_2698646_2452889_n[1]

When my heroine assists in a fund raiser to raise money to build a school for the miners’ children, she spots the painting of the sheepherder again. I thought it was a fun way to bring a little history into the story centered on a painting of a sheepherder’s eyes that haunt her until they meet again. Though Russell lived in Great Falls, MT during that time and painted many pictures of cowboys and sheepherders, I took the liberty of using him as the artist to work with my story. That part is fictitious, however, he was friends with Jake Hoover who discovered the first Yogo sapphires in Yogo Creek.

My hobby is oil painting and as a self taught artist, I guess that’s where my love of Western art began. It would’ve been a dream come true to be taught under his tutelage. Of course, painting has taken a back seat as I continue my love of writing about the West and the American Cowboy.

Russell died October 24, 1926 of a heart attack and the art world mourned his loss. But he’d made an impact on ranchers, cowboys, writers and historians with his art and they realized they had lost an influential spokesman.

M.Brendan bookcoverYou can visit the Russell’s museum in Great Falls and see through his eyes the true romantic description of the American Cowboy and the West.

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger on your wonderful and informative website. I hope you’ll look for my books in the Heart of the West series. The 3rd one, A Love of Her Own, will be released in June.  You can visit me anytime at http://southernbellewriter.blogspot.com/

And I’ll be giving away a copy of The Jewel Of Her Heart to one of today’s commenters!

Happy Trails, Maggie

Guest Blogger
Updated: February 12, 2010 — 5:16 pm

49 Comments

  1. Hello Maggie, nice to meet you and welcome to the Junction! I am so glad you came to visit us today, this is a wonderful blog! I found your post very interesting and I would love to visit the Russell’s museum just to see his art work! I love art of the old west, the pics you posted are awesome! I am very intrigued by your book and would love to read it. I love the western romances they are my favorite read! Thanks for visiting us today and sharing your books and art work!

  2. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Maggie. I love this blog and learning about your book and the ideas that helped create it. I love books where real people or actual events have prominence. And I love the pictures. I admit a story about sheepherders rather than cowboys intrigues me greatly. And anybody with a loyal dog steals my heart completely! Here’s to a ton of sales! And come back soon!

  3. I’ve only been lucky enough to visit Montana one time. We traveled from the northeastern corner of Wyoming’s Yellowstone Park all the way up to The northwestern corner of Montana to Glacier National Park. We had a wonderful time in Missoula (huge steaks), Great Falls and a little city called Harden (excellent fried chicken). The area is so picturesque! Loved Glacier National Park!

    Russell’s pictures are so beautiful. I’d love to visit his museum.

    I like your story line with Juliana being haunted by the eyes she sees in a painting. I’d love to read “The Jewels of His Heart”.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Maggie!
    Great post!
    I’m drawn to your book for many reasons…I love sheepherding (have a thing for border collies and herding), I love Montana and I love the part about the eyes haunting her.
    I hope to someday visit Montana myself…it’s my number one destination dream, lol.
    Thanks for the chance at winning a copy of your book! If I’m not the lucky one it will be on my “wish list”. 🙂

  5. Hi Maggie, It’s great to have you at Wildflower Junction. Love the premise for your book! Charles Russell’s art always touches something deep inside me. I’ve never been to Montana, but I’d sure love to go 🙂

  6. Hi Maggie…I enjoyed your posting very much. Thanks for the opportunity to read your masterpiece. Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. I love going to museums but I’ve never had the opportunity to go to Montana to see this one. And I’m from Missouri so I know I would enjoy seeing his work. Years ago I went to the Will Rogers museum and the things they had there were fascinating. I do love old west memorabilia. I will look forward to reading your Heart Of The West series.

  8. Maggie

    Your book sounds wonderful. It is on my must read list

    I love museums too.

    Melinda

  9. Hi y’all! I’m so tickled to be asked to blog today for the Junction. Many of you’ve said you’d love to visit MT. It’s well worth the visit and holds a special place in my heart. It’s where my brother, who was also a writer lived. If you check out my blog there’s a button on the left side for MT that will take you to their tourism site for more information. Plan your trip. You won’t regret it. 🙂 Good luck with the contest.

  10. Hi, Maggie. Thank you for a great post. I like museums as well. Two of my faves are a little pioneer village and it’s really a fun time when there are workers and events going on in each of the buildings (cooking, church music/organ demos, tanning of hides, axe throwing contests, etc.) Another favorite place is a mansion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa called Brucemore. The house and its grounds are absolutely beautiful all year round.

  11. Thanks for the post.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  12. Your book looks good! I’ve visited Montana with my grandparents and aunt and uncle. We did a 4 day trip going to 4 states. I’d have to say that Montana was the best.I think I liked Whitefish the most, such a pretty area. I love books that have a historical information weaved into them. Loved reading your post!

  13. Great history. I live in Missoula, MT and Charlie’s legacy is still celebrated all the time here. You have a beautiful book cover as well 🙂

    I love promoting MT (I’m Mrs. MT) and so have a lot of posts on my blog with photos I’ve taken all over and some of lifestyle Montana 🙂 Go to GodUsesBrokenVessels.blogspot.com and you’ll find the A Tour Of Montana link.

    Thank you for such a creative way to share history.
    Angie Breidenbach

  14. Thank you for the interesating blog!

  15. I’m not a huge fan of historical romance, but I sure love Maggie’s! I think that’s due to the research and historical information you add to the story. The Jewel of His Heart is a masterfully written story, and one I highly recommend. 🙂

  16. I am originally from El Paso and ran across a few bronzes by Russell. They are stunning pieces of work. I am a cowgirl at heart. I can’t wait to read your book.

  17. Brenda, What a beautiful story, to know the character in your book was a real person makes it even better reading. I just love it, thanks for sharing that wonderful tidbit of history.
    You are the best author I know.
    Love ya, Connie Crawford

  18. Hi Maggie,

    What a wonderful post, just chuck full of amazing information. I love it when a historical injects some real history into the story, it enriches the narrative so much. Love the premise for your book, a lonely sheepherder.
    All the best for your release.

  19. Hello Maggie, what a fascinating post! I’m an amateur artist too, in watercolors. I love the way you’ve woven real history into your story. The book sounds intriguing!

  20. I love when there is truth incorporated into stories – nothing like real life. I too am a lover of art. It was what I wanted to do but came from a family that “didn’t believe in that nonsense.” But my daughter was born with artistic abilities and I’ve always supported her so she currently is in college for graphic art. Your story sounds lovely!!!

  21. Maggie,

    Thanks so much for blogging with us here on P&P! We love having guest authors come to pay us a visit and share their books with us.

    What an interesting subject your chose. Charlie Russell sounds like someone I’d love to have met. I’ve seen some of his artwork around but never knew who he was. He certainly had a lot of talent. And it’s amazing that you paint as well. I’ve never known anyone who can write AND paint. My hat’s off to you.

    Your book looks so good! Great cover and an excellent title that grabs your attention. I’m going to have to see if I can find it. Thanks to all the wonderful guest authors who blog with us, my “buy” list is rather extensive. 🙂

  22. Hello Maggie, I am very fond of fact and fiction mixing and have always loved Mr. Russell’s works! Thank you for sharing his story with us today. Would love to visit the museum.

    Will be looking for your books. I love the cover of The Jewel of His Heart.

  23. Thanks all for your feedback. Ane, I so appreciate your endorsement. I had a lot of fun writing this book, partly because I love history so much. In fact, many times I get side-track when researching because I get wrapped up in the history!

    Angie, (Mrs. Montanta!!for those you didn’t know that)thanks for your comment. I agree the cover is fabulous and I’m crazy about the next one coming out. Check out my blog for that cover. 🙂

  24. Thank you for sharing this bit of history with us. I love little history lessons blended into works of fiction and Russell sounds like such an interesting person… 😀

  25. Wow, how neat, Maggie! I learned something new today, and I’ll be looking for Mr. Russell’s art! The combination of cowboy and artist doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but it makes sense that someone surrounded by that natural beauty might be moved to record it! And thanks for sharing about your books–I’ll be adding those to the TBB!

  26. Maggie, welcome to the Junction! I’ve done some basic research on the Yogo Sapphires – gorgeous. And since I live in Missouri, I’m going to have to find out more about Charles Russell. Thanks for the “prod”.

  27. Thank you for sharing this info about Charles Russell. Very interesting.

  28. Great post; your new book has already grabbed my eye and sounds like a great read! I had the chance to go to Montana a few years ago and it was a great experience. The views were breathtaking! Thanks for all the great info!

  29. It’s such fun to get history lessons – thanks so much! Your book sounds like a great read.

  30. I’ve only been to Montana once and then it was only to the Custer Battlefield Mounument Park, but I fell in love with the state. The wide open skies were gorgeous. We love Western Art and visited the Cody Museum in Wyoming and saw Remington’s works, but I haven’t seen any of Russell’s. Thanks for the info and history about him. That’s what I love about writing historicals. Looking forward to reading your book whether I win a copy of not.

  31. I’m so happy to hear from all of you that you like the history in novels. I have a pretty Yogo ring that I got in MT. To share a little tidbit: My publisher asked what my heroine, Juliana, would look like. I sent her a photo of my Yogo ring because the hero tells her that her eyes are beautiful like the Yogo stones. Then they sent me a headshot of the model with those goregous eyes! I was thrilled and told them she was a dead ringer for Juliana. How neat is that???

  32. I once visited the Gene Autry Western Museum in LA and it has paintings of many of the early Western artists and some original Russell paintings and drawings…a wonderful place to view Western art.

  33. Enjoyed reading your column..there is a wonderful museum in Prescott, AZ called the Phippen Museum that has many paintings by artists of The Old West…with wonderful displays and sculptures. Everyone should see it…a world famous museum.

  34. Wow, Maggie! Your publisher must be psychic. You were defnitely on the same wave length. She is a beautiful model though! I like to see the heroine on the cover. It’s a fresh change of pace from all the men.

  35. Linda, no Revell didn’t chose the model until they saw my blue yogo sapphire ring. Then they started scouting. I wanted her eyes to be just like those saffphires. The model is goregous, isn’t she. It’s my favorite cover, really, out of all 3.

  36. Goodness! I can’t spell today. That should be sapphires. Lol. I’ve been watching too much of the Olympics this afternoon. Have to blame it on something. 🙂

  37. Hi Maggie – Thanks for sharing this wonderful art work and a bit of history. I like that you used it in you book. Sounds very good and it is a nice cover!

  38. When we visited Glacier National Park in MT a few years ago there were prints of some of Charlie Russell’s beautiful paintings hanging in the restaurant near the Lake McDonald lodge. I love the way he captured his subjects. They have a look to them that many artists have tried to copy. Thanks for sharing a little of his history today. Can’t wait to read “The Jewel of His Heart!” It sounds like it’s going to be a great story.

  39. Great post! I’ve had this book on my TBR list for awhile now. I’ve never been to Montana but would love to go one of these days!! Your book covers are just lovely also! It’s great to read your comments about the model being chosen based on your sapphire ring!

    faithfulgirl4[at]gmail[dot]com

  40. I’ve always greatly enjoyed Charles Russell’s work.
    Such reality! Honey and I will have to visit the
    museums in Denver or Great Falls someday. Thanks for sharing information on Mr. Russell and on his
    connection to your book.

    Pat Cochran

  41. I love when a story has bits of history and actual facts so we learn something too. Your covers are beautiful. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to see the clothes and what it was really like for our ancesters. Thank You, Donna Killian

  42. I did a research paper on Charlie Russell! He was an amazing artist! I’ve been to the museum in Great Falls, MT twice! It’s a fun place to go visit!

    I would really like to read your book!
    Thanks!
    Kim
    lonebanana(at)msn(dot)com

  43. It looks like we all agree that Revell creates excellent covers! Charlie Russell is one of my favorite western artist, beside Fredrick Remington. He had all the experience needed to make his work come alive. Jake Hoover, another historical character in my book, took Charlie under his wing at Judith River Basin. Jake Hoover was the first to discover the Yogo’s. He was quite a character as well.

  44. Nice post. Hadn’t heard of the Yogo sapphires before. there is some wonderful Western art out there. Russell is truly one of the great ones. Am sorry we missed the art museum in Denver. When we lived in Colorado Springs, our children were of an age that we ended up at the Museum of Nature and Science every time we went to Denver.
    Just googled him and discovered the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. It looks like a great museum. It will be near the top of our list if/when we get out that way again.

  45. I appreciate everyone’s interest in my book. The series is Heart of the West. I want to thank the fillies of P&P for inviting me today. It’s been fun. 🙂

  46. I love western/cowboy stories; must check out Charlie Russell’s work. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  47. My great grandparents settled in Montana (Miles City) to raise sheep…great grandmother from Norway/great grandfather from Sweden. IIRC, that was in 1907.

    My mother lived with them the year she was 10 and said they had only 1 bedroom cabin and dirt floors. She remembers putting Cayenne Pepper along the wall/floor area to keep out the ants!!!

    She also rememers the winter being very very cold with lots of snow and the walk to school a long one.

    I would love to visit there someday and check out the area and the museums.

  48. Mizi, do yourself a favor and make time to make this trip. I’m fasinated with your mother’s story. Actually, there’s a story right there for you to write. If your mother is still alive, I’d suggest you find out all you can and record it.

    When we went to Jackson, WY we took pictures of one of the cabins dating from the earliest day of the settlement there. The view was magnificent with the Grand Tetons in the background, but the winters are quite severe in Jackson. My niece lived there for a while. I can only imagine the hardship your grandparents faced in the winters, but then that sort of story is always fasinating to me. Thanks for your post. 🙂

  49. Hi Maggie, Thanks for the historical info about Charles Russell. His life and art is fascinating.
    I first saw several of his paintings and statues at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. They have a rich collection of both Charles Russell and Fredrick Remington.

    Your latest book sounds intriguing. Put me on the list to win.
    Blessings on you and your writing,
    A J Hawke

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