Organizations* : CAA, NAWA, OPA
A native of New Hampshire, Roy Andersen has put down roots in Arizona, an arid opposition to the lush state he grew up in. However, in his mind’s eye, Andersen has been living in the West since he was a child. “From the time I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be, one, a cowboy, and, two, an Indian,” he says.
Influenced by a cowboy uncle from Nebraska, Andersen often painted cowboy scenes that his art teachers said were out-dated; “The instructors kept telling me, ‘Don’t do this; this kind of thing is dead.’” Andersen learned about Indian customs from his many hours spent at the Chicago Museum of Natural History. It was in Chicago, at the Art Institute, that Andersen began his formal training as an artist. He continued to learn at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, and also studied at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California.
Now known as a western painter, Andersen’s artistic career began as a free-lance illustrator in New York City, doing covers and other illustrations for clients such as National Geographic, Time magazine and Sports Illustrated. During this time, Andersen made trips out West to paint, finally moving to Sedona, Arizona. He would paint, and then, “when I got hungry, I’d do work for magazines,” he says. It took about five years for Andersen to reach the point where he could paint full-time, ending a thirty-year career in professional illustration.
Andersen primarily focuses on the Crow, Cheyenne and Apache tribes in his acclaimed paintings. His life-long interest in American Indian art, combined with his research and illustrative background, assure that “You will not find an Apache medicine bag around a Sioux warrior’s neck nor a Cheyenne carrying a rifle that is a bit too modern,” maintains critic Bill Dickerson. No matter how enthusiastically his work is welcomed, Andersen strives daily to improve, “When I’m painting, I have a vision in my head of exactly how it looks. On canvas, it’s never quite the way I saw it. I keep hoping someday it will be.”
In 1989, Andersen was admitted to the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America. In 2005, disagreeing with changes taking place within the organization, he resigned. Today, he and his wife reside on a horse ranch in Cave Creek, Arizona, where they raise the Paint Horses that often appear in his paintings.
Reference: AskArt.com, Art of the West, September/October 1993