VAIL — When you hear the term “professional cowboy,” rarely do you associate it with hobbies like creating fine art. In between taking care of his three horses, practicing for national rodeos and staying involved with the Oklahoma Relief Fund for the victims of the Moore tornadoes — Chance Hays has been painting, a lot.
It all started last winter when Hays walked into the Vail Fine Art Gallery wearing a cowboy hat, and the rest is history.
Already familiar with Hays’ art, owner Jim Tylich wanted to carry his work in the gallery because of how different it was than the other artists.
“I saw the work he was producing, this avante garde Western art, and it was extremely good,” Tylich said. “It’s bright, open; he lets the negative space speak for itself in a way that makes the artwork look very attractive.”
After agreeing to paint in-residence for the gallery, and with an offer to have his work on constant display, Hays moved from his hometown of Bristow, Okla. to Vail.
“I paint things from real life experiences, and things that I know,” said 28-year-old Hays. “It’s all derivative of journeys, whether it be from the rodeo or the world of ranching in Oklahoma.”
Talk about some experiences — Hays is ranked among the top 10 in the mountain states for professional cowboys. Most recently, he took home back-to-back wins at both the Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge rodeos. This Friday, the evening before the gallery reception, Hays will compete at the Eagle County Rodeo.
Having a father who was a professional cowboy and a mother who was an art teacher, Hays was drawing by the time he was 5 years old and roping by age 6. Combining innate talent with an education in fine arts, the contemporary western artist is influenced not only by his travels, but other artists as well.
While spending time in Santa Fe, Hays studied under Poteet Victory, a prestigious artist known for his Native-American contemporary works.
“I loved his color palette,” said Hays. “I use colors from Arizona to Santa Fe, mixed with my love for the American West and the American Cowboy.”
A cowboy’s best friend is his horse. Hays’ expressionist paintings of horses are some of his most popular, along with other western imagery vibrantly done in watercolor and oil paint.
“If you can paint with watercolor, you can paint with anything,” Hays said.
It’s amazing Hays has time to work on his art considering how busy his cowboy life keeps him. Regardless, he’s spent the past few weeks painting live at the Solaris gallery in preparation for his show.
“I like him as a person and I like his art,” said Tylich.
There will be more than 20 originals for sale, with prices ranging from $2,800 to $12,000.
“I’ve already sold several pieces,” Hays said. “The art at the gallery will be sold first come, first serve.”
If you find yourself going home with one of his pieces, you’ll also be helping the victims of the recent Moore tornadoes. The Oklahoma-native has made giving back to his state a top priority, and has been working with Tylich to make sure a portion from the paintings sold goes to the Oklahoma Relief Fund. As of Wednesday, the percentage of proceeds to be donated had yet to be decided, Tylich said.
Proving he’s not your average cowboy, Hays’ looks forward to showing his passions to Vail.
Hays welcomes everyone to stop by the Vail Fine Art Gallery on Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. where his paintings will be featured in the front of the gallery.
“I think people will enjoy seeing my art — there’s not much art similar to mine,” Hays said. “It’s easy for people to get caught up in materialistic stuff. If people want something real, they’ll just come to the show and look at my paintings.”