Art Career

Padre Returns to Wyoming and the Continuation of A Very Successful and Productive Romance with Life Adventure

In the late 70s, Padre once again departed the active ministry of the church following a major but friendly disagreement with certain leadership authorities of his own denomination over his “first floor of reality world view philosophy.” Shortly after a respectful exchange of ideas and thought with his denomination’s leadership, he returned to Wyoming and his previous years in the saddle and hired on over a period of four years to a series of previously mentioned major ranching outfits. Following his return to Wyoming, Padre decided to remain silent about almost all of his previous life adventures and job descriptions among the people and friends, of this his home territory, until asked to provide the information for this feature story of his life. He is presently completing his memoirs in the form of a novel that is threaded with a landscape of his fascinating life stories and his refreshing expressions of humor and gift of self-humor.

Back to Padre’s ranching years: One day Padre sketched his cowboss, in the saddle, looking toward the horizon with a curiously pensive look in his eyes and strong facial expression. This sketch was later discovered by the management of a prestigious gallery. Needless to say, the gallery leadership was captivated by the creative, life breathing quality of his cowboss sketch. Almost immediately they responded by providing Padre with a well-publicized high-ranking endorsement to his very highly successful first showing depicting his real-life ranching moments. Of the 13 originals that he created in the back room of the bunk house after work, all 13 originals sold on the first day of his individual one man showing. And then, like following magic, his unplanned professional art career was launched with an exciting and increasing success across the country and beyond any wish that exceeded even the most impossible dream.

Old Leather Denim and Dreams painting
Old Leather Denim and Dreams painting

Voyageur Art, one of America’s leading distributors of fine art before they merged with Greenwich (America’s leading distributor) helped to launch Padre’s professional art career by publicizing many of Padre’s early western and wildlife award-winning limited-edition prints under the featured headliner.

R. Padre Johnson. “One of America’s most talented, creative and exciting artists in the field of western, wildlife and portrait art.”
– Voyageur Art

Along with Padre’s famous globally distributed and national western artist award-winning “Ghost Riders in the Sky” painting, his “Old Leather Denim and Dreams” painting, is another example of Padre’s Artist of the Year original paintings and limited-edition print presentations. The “Old Leather Denim and Dreams” oil painting captures an actual moment of break during the fall roundup on the Trail Creek Ranch near Cody, Wyoming with his legendary saddle partner and close friend forever, Charlie Blackstone. During a period of extended waiting for the other hands to arrive with their gathered cattle from the Southeast, Padre observed Charlie and his Blue Roan quarter horse drifting like two same spirit twins into a dreaming mood of contemplation across the free spirit atmosphere of mountain wonder. Before Charlie was aware, Padre reached into his saddle bag for his little Instamatic camera and snapped two exceptional shots for his photo album. Many months later he created this unique classic national and international award-winning rendition reflecting the mystical unity of nature, man and horse. There are only a few artist proofs left in this long ago sold out limited edition.

Five Card Stud
Five Card Stud, Oil on canvas, 24″ x 36″

Padre painted this award-winning painting from a candid photo he snapped with the small Instamatic camera he often carried in his saddle bag. After an active Fall season day of working cattle on the Trail Creek Ranch with the familiar Heart Mountain landmark in the distant background north of Cody, Monte suggested a few games of five-card stud as a brief change of pace form of mid-afternoon relaxation.

In our research, this historical painting provides the only card game that has been captured by camera or brush during an authentic workday on the range. For the historical record, many of the late 19th Century and early 20th century photographers recorded this activity in saloons.

Padre’s Insight into his Professional Western Art Career

Padre Cowboy
This photo provides a pause during a very misty wet day with one of Padre’s string of four horses during the Spring roundup and branding season on the famous Padlock Ranch where Floyd Workman and Charlie Seqrist were his cowboss’ with the Connley wagon outfit.

In the subject matter of my Western art experience, I attempted to capture a uniquely diverse Western Americana view into the ranching life I lived in Wyoming and Montana. With reference to the American horse and saddle cowboy culture, I feel that I have been able to project an effective transfer of mood and lifestyle to canvas because I have tasted, smelled, listened and observed very carefully as a free spirit soul and actual working member of the few remnants which still in some form link my early days in the saddle, as well as the contemporary 1970s and 80s with the historic high country and range cowboys of the last century.

Certainly not in all, but in many respects the horse and saddle cow puncher I worked with is similar to his rugged predecessor at the turn of the century. As one participant in the vast array of talent which attempts to capture its past and continuing essence and create a valid statement concerning our contemporary western heritage, I feel privileged to have been able to live and work with some of its most authentic remnants.”

An Example of Padre’s National and International award-winning wildlife art.

Grace and Power
Grace and Power

The title of this new painting barely describes the feeling Padre has experienced in his three encounters with the
fascinating skill and regal grace of the illusive North American cougar.

A Major Shift in Padre’s Art Subject Matter

At the pinnacle of his nationally recognized and celebrated western and wild life art career, he completely changed his focus to accept a fascinating challenge that was offered in Olso, Norway where the Nobel Prize is presented. There he received a leading international Gold Medal Award for “the quality of excellence as a sketch and oil painter artist”. At that celebration, he was strongly encouraged to travel the planet under foundation sponsorship to capture the best in the human drama through the breathing quality expressed in his gifted portrait art talent and in the writing, with photo reproductions, of his book involving his worldview insights.
In the 1990’s Padre completed his celebrated 13-year Faces of the Global Human Family project by actually living with the people as they lived in 149 nations. In order to reach our planet’s vast and interestingly different mixed (but also very similar) racial, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity across our amazing global landscape, Padre traveled by almost every means of available transportation including a few thousand miles of walking.
Among the various means of communicating in the most effective and meaningful form through interpreters when needed and through his own helpful attempts at connecting with each human fingerprint in the language of their people, culture and nation, Padre always first listened with the open spirit of enjoyment to his host and hostess and the thousands of unique individuals he met and enjoyed. He also connected with the people by giving each person the very best possible same respect that he gives himself through the open acceptance, appreciation, thankfulness and enjoyment in his facial features, body language, his eyes and the sound of his voice.

Padre’s refreshing, open and accepting attitude was complemented by his adventurous ability to happily enjoy the food of every family and cultural gathering meal he was offered. He said that there were a few times when, admittedly, he had to re-shape the image of their gift of food with the skill of his artistic imagination in order to make it a bit more digestible. Then he chuckled, in our taped interview, by offering that one’s enjoyment of their menu of foods was another very important way of entering the soul and fabric of a family and cultural environment.
Lastly, Padre indicated that his participation in almost every happy cultural dance expression was the frosting on the cake form of acceptance into each family and community gathering. With his contagious laughing chuckle, he said that he’s convinced that he must have passed through the birth canal with the unbridled enjoyable rhythm of the wonderful unwritten language of the dance breathing through every cell tissue in his body and soul.

Padre’s sleeping accommodations during his 13-year journey with city, small town, nomadic, and other forms of tribal folk included almost every imaginable accommodation, like sleeping outside with the shepherds and their flocks in the hills surrounding Bethlehem near the birth place of Jesus, and then with the Bushmen people of the now famous “gods must be crazy movie” who live in southern Africa’s harsh Kalahari bush region. Though they lived like their ancestors hundreds of years earlier in what some would say resembled a primitive existence, from Padre’s world view observation and participation in their everyday lifestyle, they were some of the most open, naturally happy, healthy, self-humor born, fascinating storytellers, uncluttered, free of spirit and accepting civil people to enter the pathway of his lifetime of eventful memories. (See Padre with Bushman on previous page.)

Photo of Padre and his Bushman Medicine Man friend, Bet Knui.
Photo of Padre and his Bushman Medicine Man friend, Bet Knui.

In the Sun Bushmen Culture there are no chiefs or tribes. They only function through the leadership of the family where both men and women enjoy an equal form of decision-making responsibility on behalf of the family. In the non-written language of the Bushman culture, the word for The Creator means the source of the good in every living creature. It was with this profound respect for the name of the Supreme Creator of the good that he also danced with them every night their happy dances of thankfulness in honor of the Good God of all Creation.
Padre also said that he measures the markings of the word civilized by how well we respect our own personhood and then by how sincerely we share (pass on) that same healing self-respect and goodness from within ourselves to other members of our human family. This may also include the neighbor that resides as close as a family member that we may have left behind.

Padre’s Faces of the Global Human Family Centerpiece Painting

During and following his 13-year global adventure, Padre painted and sketched over 500 portraits of the world. He writes that this included the 25 friends surrounding our incredible earth from outer space that he selected for this centerpiece painting to represent the seven billion people that occupy a living space on our amazing planet.

Padre writes that this centerpiece painting reflects the best in the human drama by capturing the open, trusting and accepting expression of the smiling child that he appreciated and enjoyed in every facial image of all ages. He also enjoyed recreating from the photos taken during his world journey the facial images that he selected for this centerpiece painting and for the 24 additional canvases representing the 24 geological regions of our world.

Padre writes that each portrait also celebrates an important visual statement concerning the uniquely interesting facial similarities and differences in each individual fingerprint/person of worth who he met and enjoyed around the meals and many other forms of connection. Each portrait represents all the limitless threads of our common humanity that all citizens of our planet share and express. For example, each time a parent and grandparent shows love for their child or child for their parents, or each time a person meets a friend, or feels pain or disappointment , or the warmth of freedom and happiness breathing though their spirit or in a myriad of other reactions, it’s almost the very same response that is reflected though each facial and body expression across the entire landscape of the interestingly different racial, ethnic, social, educational, religious/nonreligious and other forms of identity in our global human drama. As an artist, Padre also writes that he celebrates all the many similarities and interesting different colors, shapes, thought forms and expressions in his artistic mosaic and in the helpful life tested insights that the meaning and purpose of our human existence reveals. Padre recorded the last chapter in his world journey in Bhutan.

Faces of the World Centerpiece Painting
Faces of the World Centerpiece Painting
The people of Bhutan and Padre’s Shangria La painting.
The people of Bhutan and Padre’s Shangria La painting.

It was also the last of the 24 geographical regions of the world canvases that he painted for his global exhibition series and his book. Surrounded by the dramatic Himalayan mountains of Southern Tibet and China to the North and India and Nepal to the South, this hideaway nation, known as “the land of the peaceful happy dragon,” has always produced a strongly independent self-sufficient people.

In the centuries-old monarchy where the King wears the same, equal with all men traditional Kho robe, most all Bhutanese still live in many of the traditional ways of their ancestors. Bhutan is a land where the magic of sound, color and free as the wind spirit is expressed through their uncluttered balanced lives and happy open faces. In this closely connected family-oriented society where social and also educational opportunities are available to everyone regardless of rank or birth, Padre played, enjoyed the friendliest conservations and happily walked with the people of all ages in the fields and along the peaceful streets where residents sing while they work and where mothers carry their contented babies everywhere on their backs.

This one of a kind ever project and following portrait exhibition in the history of the world and his international national award winning book Journeys with the Global Human Family, represents Padre’s unique world view insights into our human family, a map that marks the location of each of the 24 geographical regions of the world paintings and also excellent photo reproductions of his award winning western, wildlife and other sketched and painted works, was featured at a very successful United Nations New York premier opening with people attending from many nations across our planet. This was followed by a second very successful and well received overseas premiere at Beijing China’s Forbidden City Royal Palace site under the sponsorship of their Ministry of Culture. It was the first time that an American was invited to exhibit and speak at that prestigious site in China.

Three Additional Examples Among the Hundreds of Highpoint Moments That Padre Experienced and Enjoyed During his 13-Year Journey With the People Occupants of our Earth.

A traveling companion with Padre took a long-distance telephoto shot while crossing Russia’s eleven time zones during his third re-entry into the former Soviet Union. Later Padre created this unique charcoal sketch from that photo which shows Padre enjoying a moment of happy friendship with Ivan, his Russian farmer friend, in the Novosibirsk Region of Central Russia. This open-handed sketch clearly portrays an open, comfortable exchange of thought and humor in their expressions of human acceptance and deep appreciation between these two men from two entirely different cultures. It reminds Padre of his similar connection with the refreshing spirit of his Bushmen friends. Then Padre paused in a moment of reflection, and said, “or perhaps similar to the connection I enjoyed with my entire world of fresh air friendships.” Among other languages, Padre also enjoyed the luxury of speaking a poor but passable Russian.

The sketch of Padre and his Russian farmer friend, Ivan.
The sketch of Padre and his Russian farmer friend, Ivan.

Considered an excellent horseman, whenever Padre lived with horsemen cultures during his 13-year journey, he challenged their champion to a race in the presence of his people or at a festival gathering when possible. This photograph on the next page was taken just after his historic race with the Mongol champion, Ching Juo Getu. Padre’s Mongolian oversized Shetland mustang (13 hands high) is behind him in the photo following the race. Padre only lost by a very respectable photographed horse length that was later carried with a story on the AP wire. It was the first time that an American (they called Padre the crazy American cowboy) ever challenged and raced a Mongol champion in front of his people.

Padre also challenged the Gaucho leader in Argentina, The Cossack champion, the Arab and also the Hawaiian Paniolo cowboy champion when he worked on the famed Ula Puakea Ranch on Maui and also the famous Parker Ranch on the big Island of Hawaii. Following that race on the Parker, his friend and legendary Poniolo, Kea Kea Lani, presented Padre with his horse’s neck rope that still proudly hangs in Padre’s Northfork home.

Photo of Padre and Mongol Champion
following their race.
Photo of Padre and Mongol Champion following their race.

Padre shot the candid photo of his Dakota Sioux Native American Indian friend, Dakota Jack, following a moment of looking through and beyond contemplation during one of their interesting thought-provoking conversations. The entrance to the soul through the eyes and facial expression of Dakota Jack speaks a thousand words and interpretations in the photo that Padre converted into this exceptional historic sketch.

Padre’s Connection With Famous World Personalities

Padre has met with many of our nation’s leaders in the past. This includes six Presidents and five Vice Presidents. He once provided a special invitation private showing of a range of his selected award-winning art originals for the King and Queen of Sweden and dignitaries and later for the King of Norway. Both were amazingly successful! Padre was also commissioned to sketch or paint President Reagan. It was featured, and TV recorded at its very memorable special feature showing at Reagan’s 1984 Inaugural celebration. There Vice President, George H. Bush said that “Padre captured the entire breathing essence of Reagan’s person in his one face image creation.” An excellent photo was taken of Padre explaining the Reagan original to Bush.

Currently Padre continues to receive many invitations to present his worldview insights with visual aids and a question and answer response time when appropriate at international conferences, colleges and universities, middle and high schools, churches and a range of other gatherings of all sizes throughout our nation and beyond our borders.

Among many highlights of Padre’s fulfilling speaking engagements over the years was one when he was a feature keynote speaker at a global conference that assembled leaders from across our planet to discuss a range of important concerns and possible solutions for the 21st century. Another featured speaker at the conference was the director of Noetic Sciences and famous astronaut who was the last man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission, Dr. Edgar Mitchell. He was followed by the famous Russian Cosmonaut, Georgi Grechko. He developed a very special continuing friendship with Padre.

Padre’s sketch of his good friend Dakota Jack
This sketch is an example of Padre’s sketch art talent. This sketch captarues the soul and culture of his now deceased close Native American Indidan friend Dakota Jack.

A news release from the event reported “that Padre’s uniquely delivered politically independent critical thinking worldview insights into the meaning of life was one of the most captivating, thought-provoking and laced with humor standing ovation presentations that the many we talked with can remember.” Padre’s Portraits of the World exhibit and book signing period provided two additional features at the conference.

World historian, Dr. Noel Brown, concludes his biographical description of Padre’s many-lives adventure with the following insight.

He writes “as we move through the approaching years of rapid global change, I believe that Padre’s exceptional ability to translate his insights into the human family and the meaning and purpose of our human existence through the creativity of his visual art, writings, refreshing humor and spoken word will not only provide a very important visual contribution toward an increased understanding among the people of our world, but will maintain a unique historical significance as he leaves his enduring worldview mark on the consciousness of each reader, viewer and listener.”