Western Artist Brian Ford’s Stagecoach Sculptures
By Kayla Anderson
By Kayla Anderson
Photos courtesy of Brian Ford
It is a warm evening in in northern Nevada, and Redding resident Brian Ford just spent the afternoon setting up his display of Western frontier wagons to be auctioned off at the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.
“This is the first show I’ve ever done of this magnitude, and I’m very grateful to be here. I’m one of the only living artists in the show and it’s nice to be thrown in with that caliber,” he says about the fine arts auction that yields about $40 million in sales.
As a jack-of-all-trades, this multi-piece collection of detailed 1920s-‘30s era stagecoach sculptures is expected to sell at the Coeur d’Alene for upwards of half a million dollars, but Ford doesn’t care about the money. This is just one of the many projects he’s in the middle of, but this one in particular holds special sentimental value of time he spent with his dad.
Brian’s father, Dale, was a western artist for 45 years, regularly featured in national magazines for his painting and sculptures. Growing up around his creative father, Brian quickly learned how to build things out of wood, metal and other materials.
“When I was 4 years old my dad brought me out to his shop. I didn’t play with toys; I played with tools. I love construction,” Brian says. His first real piece of art was a commissioned hand-carved full-size wooden carousel horse that sold for $5,700 when he was 17 years old.
As Brian got older he improved his handiwork, becoming more involved in construction, building and creating. Twenty-seven years ago, he moved to Redding from Reno, opened a successful picture framing business downtown, and transformed a dilapidated Bungalow-style home into a beautifully designed living space with a spacious woodshop/modern man cave attached.
Along with his thriving framing business, Brian helped build structural developments and/or design work for places like Redding’s Shameless O’Leery’s Irish Pub and Soundhouse Recording Studio, as well as painting a full-sized wall mural in Reno’s 55,000-square-foot Need 2 Speed indoor kart racing facility.
Even though Brian is always switching gears and involved in numerous projects, in 2013, Dale suffered a stroke and couldn’t continue on with his own artwork. Realizing what little time he had left with his father, Brian came up with the wagons project, and together they created detailed plans to build stagecoaches reminiscent of the old Western frontier.
“My dad came out of the era where the whole western theme was big, with John Wayne and others,” says Brian. The youngest of 14 kids, Dale’s family moved out West from Tennessee following the depression and settled in Arizona. For this project, Dale did extensive research on stagecoaches, chuck wagons and other transportation methods, as well as their innovations over the years.
“He looked at hundreds of plans and vehicles,” Brian says. As Dale poured into the design, Brian got to work hand-making every detailed metal piece, wagon wheel and prop. The final product is a collection of 26 sculptures about 22 inches long by 16 to 20 inches tall, made entirely from scratch. He has poured thousands of hours into it, continuously revisiting the project for a solid two years until completed.
“I did this to connect with my dad; this collection is a tribute to him. He was really excited to be a part of it. He’s always seen me do artistic things my whole life,” he says.
Although Brian’s Wagons collection is up for sale at an auction, it isn’t finished yet – he built 20 more wagons to augment the 26-piece collection that still needs to be painted and detailed. Being seven or eight months into the project, Brian believes that he has another six months to go (adding it into the mix of whatever else he is working on).
“If you came into my shop, you would see projects everywhere. I do wood carving and all kinds of things. I just love working with my hands, having all of my tools. I will probably do a few more (wagon sculptures) here and there, and maybe do something different like open up a bar and grill, something my son could help me with,” Brian says.
“I’m a pretty busy guy – I love to cook, entertain people, ride motorcycles, fast cars, and I’ve tried to be a really good dad to my kids. I just enjoy life, I’m pretty simple, and there’s a million things I want to do before I die.”