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A. Kelly Pruitt

Native name: Thunderbow

Pruitt, A. Kelly.  From “Contemporary Western Artists” by: Peggy & Harold Samuels.

Traditional oil painter of Western scenes, born in Waxahatchie, Texas in 1924 and living in Taos, New Mexico.  “Planning,” he declares, “just sets you for a disappointment because nothing ever works out the way you plan it.  I just trust that when I begin to paint, that something worthwhile, perhaps even with a message, will begin to develop.” He never knows for sure what he is going to paint and just puts the brush on the canvas and starts to paint and the picture forms itself.

The son of an oil field pipeline walker who picked cotton in the Depression, Pruitt started working cattle along the Mexican border when he was twelve.  He served with the cavalry in Asia during World War II, remaining in India to study art and philosophy under a Buddhist monk.  When he returned, he worked as a cowboy in Arizona, painting on stones that he gave away as presents.  The daughter of his employer showed the paintings to an agent who began selling them.

Although Pruitt never went beyond the third grade, he wrote an autobiography about two and a half years spent hiding in Mexico, because of a skirmish with the law and he has had poetry published.  He doesn’t call any one place home, just wherever he sets up his 30-foot teepee saying that “Indians had lived that way for a thousand years.”  When he sought counsel from a Sioux medicine man, he was given the name “Thunderbow” that he signs to his more metaphysical paintings and also is the name of his gallery.  He never uses photos in painting but proceeds from what he calls an ‘emotional level of personal awareness’.  He never uses models, either, because as soon as they start to pose, “their spirit leaves them.”  Listed in Who’s Who in American Art, he is featured in Ainsworth’s The Cowboy in Art and Broder’s Bronzes of the American West.

PS. A. Kelly Pruitt left this physical plane at the age of 85 on 2/15/2009, but his legacy and spirit will always remain.

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