Hurley, 71, is just as busy today as he was as a youngster, but for different reasons. Never thinking, at a young age, that art would be nothing more than a hobby. Sketching his entire life, Hurley now makes his living with his art participating in art shows and taking in commission work.
“This is a copy of this year’s rodeo poster,” Hurley flips through a collection of copies, finished and unfinished artwork slotted with posters, western events have used featuring his art.
In the relative short period that Hurley has been engaged in art, his watercolor and pen and ink depictions of Western art has made its way into nine countries and conceivably every state in North America. “I have traveled all over. Within the US and several countries.”
Hurley, a graduate of Willapa Valley High School, never had an opportunity to take art classes. He later in life found an opportunity that pushed open a new door as he created his own skills and palette. “There was no art class in school. The only thing was drawing maps in geography class. It was a Friday when I graduated and that following Monday I started work with the Northern Pacific Railroad.”
The railroad kept Hurley occupied for 17 years, until an injury caused him to take a different line of work. Working in local taverns, Hurley spent the next 10 years as a bartender and it was a friend that helped see art as another possible avenue. “A friend from Texas, also an artist, convinced me that I should try an art show.”
Hurley slowly entered the art world around 1978, kept his job tending bar, and started to hone his skills. “Things started picking up by 1980. I was able to go full-time by the mid 1990’s.”
Today, Hurley spends his time traveling to art shows, meeting people and moving into oils. “I mostly work in watercolor now, pen and ink. But am using some oils for scenes on drums. I love the art and the opportunity to be out with people.”
Known for his artful depiction of the American Buffalo, Hurley has been dubbed the Buffalo Man, but has a full range of western scenes. His horse, Dancer, is often used as a model as he works off real and photographed scenes. “With pictures I mostly look at the shading of the animal. Helps me give the scene a true depiction of the time of year and age of animal.”
Hurley really enjoys his paintings of Calvary, which he has also lived, in part, growing up. “I have always been around horses, have won awards for riding cross-country. And have participated in “Custer” reenactments in Montana.”
Hurley has won several awards during his life for riding, winning at least three 100-mile races, being named Rider of the Year for Washington eight times with seven Washington State Championships. He is as proud of his horses and awards as he is with his new notoriety in art. Hurley is hard pressed to pick out a favorite award.
“They are all important to me in different ways, but I guess is the Producers Award is at the top,” he admitted.
In 2006, Hurley attended the Spokane Western & Wildlife Art show and was awarded the Producer’s Award for his talent and devotion to the world of fine art. Hurley has also traded art with celebrities like Gary Burghoff, who also paints Western Art.
Currently Hurley continues to better his skills and paints daily. And with a little help from friends is looking at things that may increase his brand with social media.
With a full schedule Hurley has been part of the Festival of Lights show in Montesano for the past 15 years, and is always on hand for the Grays Harbor Rodeo held in Elma. He always makes the Great Falls, Idaho show and can be found at the Washington State fair in Puyallup.
Hurley sells some of his work from his home studio, where you can pick directly from the hundreds of watercolors, gifts and books all with a touch of Ken Hurley. Where art is not covering the walls plenty of memorabilia is scattered within the displays, even a picture of Hurley with the buffalo Cody, who was in the movie, Dances with Wolves.
To see more on Ken Hurley, click to his Facebook, Western and Wildlife Artist Kenneth J. Hurley.