WHEATLAND — Pen, pencil or brush in hand, world-renowned Sheridan born western artist C.R. Sadler, 68, is passionate about his craft and has been that way since the age of five. He’s ridden a lot of trails since he sold his first sketch before he was enrolled in school.
He is also an encyclopedia of Wyoming history and lore. To hear him spin a yarn or tell a story with the precise passion that he paints with is certainly a wonder to behold.
He most recently did a pencil drawing of John B. Kendrick, the ninth governor of Wyoming. In this collage of Kendrick’s life, he draws events that not only shaped his life, but the history of Wyoming.
“In this collage, it has his life and people affiliated with him,” Sadler said. “It even has the cabin that he and his wife lived in for eight years while they were building their mansion, “Trail End,” in Sheridan. I knew Manville Kendrick (John Kendrick’s son) and I was a chauffer for him and he gave me some treasures before he died and he said that he hoped that someday I would paint or do a piece of artwork of his father who was a U.S. Sen. and a Wyoming governor.”
Sadler said that although that was many years ago, he said that it takes time to get these things done.
“Year pass,” said Sadler. “But I did it. I decided to do this drawing and I went on a trip last year to where I lived in Yellowstone National Park with my grandmother. We lived above Fishing Bridge.”
From this point, Sadler begins to go back and fill in the blanks as to how he got to the place of sketching Kendrick.
“I sold my first painting when I was 5-years-old in Yellowstone Park,” Sadler said. “I called it, ‘The Moose Chase,’ and sold it to a forest ranger for $5. He gave me $5 and I thought he was nuts.”
Sadler’s grandmother who owned a ranch in Big Horn pretty much raised Sadler when his parents were having some personal problems. According to Sadler, she was the cook for the head superintended of Yellowstone National Park. He also occasionally lived with his aunt and uncle who was a forest ranger in Mammoth.
“While staying with my grandmother when I was five, I was supposed to stay around the cabin,” he said. “But you know how most kids are, and I decided I was going to take off and I didn’t realize how dangerous it is. I ended up getting chased by a mother moose and she had a baby. She chased me up a tree and I was up the tree for a long time. She took off, I thought, but she saw me coming back down that tree and she came back and chased me back up there. She did that two or three times.”
Sadler eventually escaped, got lost and finally ended up in Fishing Bridge. It was not too long after that he sketched his adventure and a ranger who happened by loved it and offered him $5 for it. The rest, Sadler will tell you is Wyoming history. His career had started as an artist.
He actually got interested in art at a much younger age. Sadler recollects it was when he was four when his grandmother took him to a babysitter and the older girls at that home went to school and left their chalk behind. That was the opening Saddler needed.
“I started sketching stuff with chalk on the sidewalk,” he said. “Some kid walked up to and said, ‘you’re an artist’ and I didn’t even know what he was talking about. In fact, I didn’t know what an artist was, and didn’t really know until I was about 12.”
A prodigy with a passion for drawing, he had a few lessons, but was pretty much self-taught by the drive inside of him to create images.
After his initial sale, he said that people started buying him art supplies and by the time he was 9-years-old he was doing oils and won the Chicago Art Institute’s art contest later in life with a painting entitled “Cold Winds” which portrayed a rancher bundled, masked with his bandana and carrying a calf in the saddle. Sadler thinks of all his artwork, his oils are probably his strongest.
“My art teacher Mrs. Plot sent it off with my permission,” Sadler said. “I said, ‘sure’ and I didn’t even know where Chicago was.”
Today Sadler has to his credit paintings that are in the collections of such Hollywood stars as Wayne Newton, Phyllis Diller, Ted Turner and dignitaries such as the vice president of France. To date Sadler has paintings in collections all over the world and the world-famous artist has chosen to reside in Platte County.
As an artist that knows how to branch out into other areas, he also makes leather work, saddles, walking canes and jewelry, but his bread and butter is his paintings. He says that he was offered a $500k for one of his paintings, but he is holding out for a higher price and as of now, his top selling work was sold for $300k.
“I used to travel all around the world,” he said. “I used to do freelance work for Porsche and did automobile design. And when I’m not traveling, I am stuck in my studio on wheels which I converted from a four-horse trailer. It looks like a cabin inside. I bed down right here in Wheatland for the last five years. I like Wheatland, but it’s windy.”
The artwork that Saddler does varies as far as how long it takes him start to finish.
“I do two or three pictures at the same time, sometimes” he said. “It’s so I don’t get bored. I am doing some big scale stuff right now. I am a high dollar artist. I did one for the Benny Binyon bucking bull show in Las Vegas. I got offered up to a half a million dollars for it. I want a million dollars for it; I don’t care if I sell it.”
With the sale of artwork in decline due to the economy, Sadler says he has no problem selling his artwork and that he has a list of things he has on his to-do list.
Sadler is a Renaissance man. A wild-west honest-to-goodness what you see is what you get free spirit who wears a smile that goes perfectly with his infectious laugh. He has faced great adversity from losing his hearing to staring stage 4 cancer dead in the face and beating it.
“They said I was going to die, but I feel pretty good,” he said. “I’m healthy and I’m strong and my Indian brothers said I am going to live a long life. I am cancer free, and it’s something I’d never wish on anybody because it’s pretty sick stuff.”
He had undergone chemo treatments for four years, had part of his intestine removed but he said he just doesn’t have the time to die. There are paintings to finish.
Sadler’s artwork can be purchased by either commissioning a piece from him, purchasing from him directly or purchasing some of the prints he has available at Quintessential’s Mercantile downtown Wheatland.