A New Constellation Called “Pumpernickel”

August 10, 2009 · 3 comments

Some things to know about Rick:

  1. He loves to thumb through old copies of the magazine, “Cowboys and Indians.”
  2. He’s fascinated by semiotics, which is the study about how people communicate through signs and images. For example, how do we all know that red means “hot” and blue means “cold”?
  3. Rick is an artist, and last Saturday he woke up with an idea for a new direction to take his painting

Why not take the incredibly icon-rich imagery from the imagination of The Wild West and riff on that some?


Western themes are enduring and easily recognizable. And if judged by the amount of silver and turquoise jewelry, phoenix-embroidered denim clothing, embossed-leather cowboy boots, wrought-iron key hooks, and other items for sale throughout the magazine, folk seem to like looking at and living with it.

The first idea that came out of the chute? A cowboy and bucking bronco, of course.


In truth, he’d planned to include a series of ranch brands in the bottom left corner of the painting, but by the time he’d landed on the night-blue background with the hint of good red dirt at the bottom, the painting went a different direction.

Against the dark background, the funky iridescent paint he started the horse and rider in crept a little too close to the “Elvis on black velvet” gestalt. In the manner of all great painters everywhere, he responded by picking up The Big Brush, wet it in dark blue, and in a couple of swishes and flicks, nuked the cowboy.


Except that this cowboy was not riding gently off into any stinkin’ sunset, thank you very much. The iridescence was still partially visible in what now looked like a beautiful night sky. So why not leave his essence there and play “connect the dots” the way constellation identifiers do? (How anyone came up with “Orion, The Hunter” out of a grouping of stars that is so clearly a lobster still baffles me.)

We thought a little fun in Photoshop might help compensate for what a computer screen steals from the texture and subtlety of the real painting in good light.


Changing horses in mid-stream is, as far as I can tell, one of the most fun parts of painting. That’s why, for now, we’re calling it “Pumpernickel.”

The idea comes from my habit of re-casting everything I attempt through the lens of what I achieve: if I bake a loaf of bread and it turns out to be a better door-stop than toast, I just slice it thin and call it “pumpernickel.”  Retro-fitting reality is a handy way to become immensely more successful with very little effort.

It also seemed like a good name for a horse, or a constellation, or this painting.


Pumpernickel is now signed, and Rick is moving on with his idea.

He tells me this one will be “Big Thunder,” unless something better comes along. What would you call it?

Allan February 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Rick, WOW’d me with your creative and really enjoy getting to know this side of you. As for naming the painting, I think the natural name would be “Tint” much like this section.

Having owned a few horses, simple names work best, and “Tint”, seems to reflect the many shades of complexity you’ve illustrated here.

Just say’n…


Jeff Brown December 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Hey Rick,

Jeff Brown here….!!! The painting with the horse “Big Thunder”, looks fantastic. Thinkin you could make cards or prints from that one.
Your painting is really moving along. Great to see you web pages, kind of stummbled upon them today.

More Later

Sue August 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm

“Time Moving Fast”

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