The arts in Pagosa: Wayne Justus

Photo courtesy Wayne Justus Noted western painter Wayne Justus, seen here at work in his studio, is one of Pagosa Country’s most prominent artists, with an established and growing reputation on the national and international levels. Justus is one of the many creative Pagosans registered with the Pagosa Arts and Culture Project.

Photo courtesy Wayne Justus
Noted western painter Wayne Justus, seen here at work in his studio, is one of Pagosa Country’s most prominent artists, with an established and growing reputation on the national and international levels. Justus is one of the many creative Pagosans registered with the Pagosa Arts and Culture Project.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will allow these MAKERS to be more easily found in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration, cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Wayne Justus.

Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

WJ: I Was born in Escondido, California. Started drawing in fourth grade. While living on a thoroughbred ranch, I would sit in a pasture and draw the foals and mares. When I would take them to school I got a lot of attention. That was pretty great for a shy kid, so I kept it up. When in junior high school I met an artist that had just moved here from Spain. His name is Sebastian Capella. He had won an international award for his portraits. He helped improve my drawing skills. I then took up oil painting when I met three artists who helped me a great deal. Ron Scofield (Western artist), Austin Deuel (combat artist during Vietnam, turned Western artist) and Donald Putt Putman who had taught 12 years at L.A. Art Center and was a well-known fine artist. From there, my training has been mostly miles behind the paint brush. I did attend a week-long workshop with famous artist Howard Turpening years ago also. I was a member of the American Indian and Cowboy Artist association for its duration. I have attended many nationally known Western art shows such as years in the Masters of the American West at the Gene Autry Museum, Governor’s Art Show in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and now I am on my 11th year showing my art in the Prix de West Art Show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. In 2009, I received the Academy of Western Artists award for being their artist of the year.

I met my wife in junior high school; we both belonged to a junior riders horse club. We got married a year after graduating high school. After spending a lot of time coming east from California to get subject matter by going to big ranches in Texas and Arizona, we moved to Pagosa Springs in 1978 to be closer to this inspiration. What brought us here was that I had remembered being here in Pagosa on a raft trip with some friends when I was a kid. With some help, we built our horse barn. The first story is 14-inch thick rock walls, and the second story is hewn logs. We lived in this barn for seven years before we had our house built.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

WJ: For years, I spent much of my time working on cattle ranches (many that still worked from a chuck wagon) so that I could paint the authentic cowboy. Then the Ken Burns epic on the Civil War came out and it brought back memories of when I was in second grade when my great-grandmother went with my family and me to Shiloh Park, Tennessee, where details of what took place with my great-great-grandfather and his brothers was pointed out. I began reading book after book on the subject. Then came paintings of the Civil War, which I still do on occasion. I also did some for Newmark Publishing Company. From there, I have also studied the Indian wars and Native Americans, mostly Plains Indians. They also have become a strong part of my subject matter. I am very insistent that what I paint is true to history and that the horse equipment, conformation of animals, etc., is correct. I include the scenery of this area in a lot of what I paint.

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work? Why?

WJ: My favorite tool I guess would be my studio. It is a log building that came from the Knotch Ranch up by Williams Lake. It is full of props that I often use in my paintings. It is also my man cave, where I can get away from the outside world and consume myself in my art work.

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

WJ: I do have a routine that I do. I start painting after eating dinner and paint until 4 or 5 a.m. then I go to the house and unwind for an hour or so, then go to bed. I get up around noon, fix coffee, go tend to the horses, take care of what daytime things that need to be done, then start all over again. This happens seven days a week, for the most part.

Q: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

WJ: The best advice given to me as an artist was to paint somewhere other than the house. Reason being, that when you are in the house you will catch yourself doing so many other things that you have convinced yourself you need to do besides painting.

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa Country?

WJ: When I am not painting in the summer I like to take my horse and a pack horse and go to the mountains. I love it.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

WJ: My goal never really changes: I want to connect better with people and draw them into my paintings to feel what I do. I want the viewer to forget where they are and to be a witness of what is taking place in the painting . To feel like they are there.

Q: What is your dream project?

WJ: As far as my dream project, I think I have learned not to talk about it until it happens. It takes away some of the energy, the more you talk about it.

For more information regarding Wayne Justus and his artwork, visit his website at

This story was posted on April 4, 2013.