Ron Emig’s life is filled with Western and wildlife scenes — cowboys and Indians, mountain men, wagon trains and longhorn cattle on a trail drive. The scenes take up thousands of print photos that Emig has shot over the years and recently with a digital camera. A few hundred of the scenes have been captured in oil on canvas paintings. His favorite size painting is 24-by-36 inches.
When his daughter Claire Johnson, who teaches kindergarten at Nike Elementary School, asked him to do a portrait of Jeffrey White that could be presented to the fallen soldier’s parents when the school planted a tree in White’s memory, he admits to having a moment of hesitation.
“I thought I could do it,” he said, “but I wanted to do something that did him justice and there wasn’t much time.”
The likeness of the fallen soldier was still wet when Emig and Johnson presented it to Paula and Jeffrey White Sr.
Emig is a fine art specialist who knows his genre. He is familiar with Remington and Charlie Russell and knows the famous western painters Howard Terpening and Bob Tommey who live in Carthage. He will attend the Midwest Gathering of Artists (MGA) in Carthage, a juried event by invitation only.
“I think my work is more impressionistic than some,” Emig said. “But I reach for realism.”
Sandy Higgins, who organizes the Carthage show, had seen Emig’s work in a gallery in Joplin before much of the city was destroyed by the tornado and invited him to the event. He has been invited to show his paintings in galleries and shows from New York to San Francisco.
For the past seven years, Emig has sold advertising for The Missourian and spent evenings and weekends in the Leslie studio that he shares with his wife Jane Ann, who is also an artist. He always has a canvas on the easel and is working on a painting.
Perhaps it is his skill as a salesman that helps the artist to reach out to the big juried shows, sending photographs of his paintings and explaining the content of each piece as he does when doing demonstrations in shows.
“Maybe you’re selling when you talk about your art,” Emig said. But for the most part he studies and paints.
A look at Emig’s Facebook page shows that he is skilled at painting portraits but the bulk of his work is the Western scenes he favors.
The scenes, much like sets in an old cowboy movie, are painted from actual photographs that Emig has shot. Each year he is invited to the Triple T Ranch in South Dakota where real cowboys, movie extras, ranchers and Native Americans, ride, pose, re-enact trail drives and cowboy and Indian confrontations.
A handful of artists are invited to ride along and take photos of anything that captures their attention.
When he returns to his Leslie studio, Emig views his photos on a TV screen slide show, and selects the one that will be his next painting.
“I always work from my own original material,” Emig said. “Of course the photos aren’t reproduced exactly as they are. I take some artist’s license, maybe moving a tree.”
Recently he has tried his hand at sculpture.
“It actually helps in painting,” he said. “You see a side of the subject that you don’t see in a photograph.”
Currently he is working on a painting of a cowboy leading another horse across a creek.
Emig has three times been named Artist of the Year by the Mid-Missouri Fine Art Society and has participated in national shows such as the San Francisco Grand National, the Nebraska Governors Show, and the American Miniature Show held at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Okla.
To see Emig’s work go to his Facebook page or his webpage emigartstudio.com.
“The Facebook pieces are more recent,” he said.