An oil painter of the West “as mythology—a story of people—not history,” McCain was born in San Diego in 1943 and currently living in Tucson. “I drew constantly in those early days on the ranch,” he recalls, “recording he Indian and cowboy life around me, but I knew little of painting, and had no thought of becoming an artist. In fact, until I went away to college, I had never seen an oil painting.”
Son of Buster and Boots McCain, he was raised on the 186,000 acre ranch that had been settled by his family in 1863 in what is still McCain Valley on the Mexican border. The victim of dyslexia, a learning disability that his mother’s discipline overcame, he wanted to be a doctor and won a pre-med scholarship to the University of San Diego. When his father died, McCain helped manage the ranch and quit college after three years. Injured in a fall from a horse, he taught himself painting while recuperating. A year later, a San Diego gallery began representing him.
For a year, he painted in Europe, doing Western subjects with a Swiss background that he sent back to California to sell, and studying Old Master techniques. When he returned, he rented a mining ghost town in New Mexico where he spent nine months of the year in solitude. He also invested in two New Mexican ranches and raised cattle before moving to Santa Fe in 1975and then to Tucson. “I do not paint the violent or the ugly,” he emphasizes. “Fine art is beauty, and beauty is harmony, balance, and coordination. I choose to ‘walk in beauty,’ as the Navajo says.”
Resource: Contemporary Western Artists, by Peggy and Harold Samuels 1982, Judd’s Inc., Washington, D.C.