Commemorating the 2017 Wyoming Eclipse with Local Artist Zak Pullen's Iconic "The Herdsman at High Noon"

Interview With Zachary Pullen, Casper Artist

Zachary Pullen is a Casper-based artist known for his character-oriented picture book illustrations, which have garnered him awards and positive reviews. According to Pullen's website, he has been honored several times with acceptance into the prestigious Society of Illustrators' juried shows and Communication Arts Illustration Annual of the best in current illustration.

You can find Pullen's work in the likes of The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, The Weekly Standard, Penthouse Magazine, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, Chronicle Books, and National Geographic. His books include The Toughest Cowboy (with John Frank,) The Bambino and Me (with Zachary Hyman,) S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet (with Esther Hershenhorn,) and Friday My Radio Flyer Flew, among others.

Oil City has recently acquired a painting that Pullen has done in anticipation of Wyoming's 2017 eclipse. The painting The Herdsman At High Noon was unveiled during the Oil City Preclipse Party, during the Casper Art Walk on May 4th.  The Oil City staff was able to have a brief conversation with Pullen, in advance of the unveiling:

  • Oil City: You have a very distinctive style, is that something you purposely strove for or did it just develop over time?
  • Zachary Pullen: I come from a long style of illustrators that have found a style.  You just take and create and mold into something that's going to work for you.  So everything starts with that drawing style.  I mostly taught myself how to oil paint, just because it wasn't available in school.  It just kind of evolved from there.  I think the style that most people respond to is more in the drawing than the painting style itself, even though I think the painting style is unique to me, for sure.
  • OC: Do you think, if you were to have a time machine and showed your high-school self your work, do you think your younger self would recognize it?
  • ZP: No. (laughs) It definitely evolved since there.  In high school, the art room was just kind of a safe space.  Just a great place to hang out and create and throw ideas around. But yeah, I don't think if you showed my high school self what I'm doing now, I wouldn't recognize it as mine.
  • OC: What do you like to draw? What pieces give you pleasure?
  • ZP: I like to tell a story. I think, as an illustrator, you kind of have to know how to draw everything, in one way shape or form. There's not one particular think that I love to draw, it's more can you bring a concept out in one image.  Can the image tell a story or have a narrative, or have a sound to it.  Which is very philosophical, I guess (laughs.) But I think that's what I like about the paintings I've been doing recently, and I think The Herdsman is a good example of that.  Anyone who has hung out on the plains knows what it sounds like.  If you've been around a horse, you know what that sounds like. You can hear that lope and that scratch, just before the image took place.  It's kind of weird. It's trying to tell a three-dimensional story in two-dimensional painting.
  • OC: Where did you get the idea of the Herdsman at High Noon?
  • ZP: Everything I've seen that was being done for the eclipse wasn't necessarily paying homage to western culture.  We have a long history of Charlie Russell, and to some extent Fredrick Remington- even though he painted in New York, he would come out here and sketch.  Even Harry Jackson.  A lot of people associate this area with western art, and I don't think that I'm necessarily a western artist, but geographically I'm tied to it.  I think a lot of artists in this area, now, want to push away the idea of western art. 'I will never do that, I'll never do landscapes, I'll never do horses and cows, that's everything you see in every gallery everywhere' and that's true.  I said a lot of those same things, but now I'm like 'let's put a different twist on it. Let's do something fun western that's not traditional."