July 21, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
Surprise Discovery

Self-Taught Artist Is a Man With a Plan

By Mark S. McDonald
Editor, sportsandoutdoors.guru

Good people are where you find them. With cowboy artist Mike Capron and his capable wife E’Anne, you have to know where to look.

Self-taught cowboy artist Mike Capron and his wife E’Anne, Sheffield are renovating this old hotel in the West Texas community of Sheffield.

Self-taught cowboy artist Mike Capron and his wife E’Anne, Sheffield are renovating this old hotel in the West Texas community of Sheffield.

Start your search in Sheffield, Texas, a dusty West Texas town where the city limit signs are back-to-back. Mike and E’Anne, along with their two black/white border collies, lead a Spartan existence in the old hotel they gutted on the main street. When they decide to leave town for a weekend, Sheffield’s population drops 20 percent.

Cheerfully, they have thrown themselves into the gargantuan task of renovating the hotel and the adjacent deserted building, once a dry goods and butcher shop. One day – “if I live long enough,” Mike says cheerfully – they plan to turn the former hotel into a home, with a big upstairs play area for grandkids. The stack of bricks next door will be converted to an art studio and seating area. Texas Cowboy Art & Social Hall, they’re calling it.

To make the name stick, they have two tables set aside for games of 42, and a pot belly stove to stimulate conversation in winter. Hotel-turned-home, at last visit, still needed a name. “E’Anne’s Domain” was the leader in the clubhouse.

The expense of renovating such a place would require the quick-draw of Donald Trump. Thing is, Mike is a self-taught artist who works cattle – yes, on horseback – when he’s not sitting on the hotel front porch drawing or painting. E’Anne comes from ranching stock, so she’s no stranger to modest means and W-O-R-K.

Mike conducts a home tour, that doesn’t take long: The closet is a rack hanging below the stairs leading upstairs. The ceiling has been ripped out to make way for replacement. The floors are bare concrete. There are no rooms per se, which might prompt a realtor to comment about “open sight lines.” Bathroom?

There is a flushing john, all right, separated from the open-air room by a folding partician. No shower.

“We use a #3 wash tub,” E’Anne says without a hint of regret.

During the painfully slow renovation process, Capron and his wife E’Anne live modestly and without complaint.

During the painfully slow renovation process, Capron and his wife E’Anne live modestly and without complaint.

A man and his dreams … Capron guides a short tour of the old structure under reconstruction.

A man and his dreams … Capron guides a short tour of the old structure under reconstruction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E’Anne grew up on a ranch not far from here before moving to Dallas briefly as a girl, then moving back out to Alpine. There she earned an education degree and teaching certificate. She was THE 6th grade teacher in nearby Fort Davis, while Mike served as a working cowboy. The rest, they say, is family history, still in the making.

Her father told E’Anne not to move back to the country because “you will just be working for a wealthy absentee landowner.”

She shrugged that off, saying “it’ll be my ranch when the landowner’s gone.”

For a big-city “developer” and real estate mogul (wink), Mike’s background is just as improbable.

With simple yet subtle lines, Capron’s work reflects a keen understanding of his subject matter.

With simple yet subtle lines, Capron’s work reflects a keen understanding of his subject matter.

As a boy, the Capron family moved around the Southwest, settling in Artesia, N.M. where Mike tried to throw a rope around every animal in sight before graduating from high school. Somewhere between the roping and riding, he started studying how to draw.

Ever see one of those old magazine ads that show a simple sketch of a parrot and tells the reader to “draw me.” Send in your scribble for “evaluation,” a thinly veiled hook to buy an instruction course. Nobody ever did that, right?

Mike Capron did.

And from those modest roots, the working cowboy honed his craft to the point he illustrates his own website (see below) and filled a book of tales by cowboy Ed Ashurst, who works the border country between Douglas, Ariz. And Rodeo, N.M. I first saw Mike’s work on a calendar, hanging on the wall at the cash register of a Midland shipping office.

Just as his work was a magnet to my eyes, Capron’s pen-and-ink and watercolors have grown increasingly popular, thanks in part to the Internet, but also to his pursuit of the craft.

Capron does his best work on the shaded porch of the old hotel.  A neighbor stops to visit and share hope for rain.

Capron does his best work on the shaded porch of the old hotel. A neighbor stops to visit and share hope for rain.

Mornings, Mike likes the summer light, so he sits out on the front porch, facing the main drag. Fortified by high-octane coffee, he draws for hours on end. Oh, and he waves to make nice with local motorists. In Sheffield, America, downtown “traffic” is not so heavy that he does not welcome the occasional change of pace.

A local rancher has joined Capron on the porch. Cuatro Nolke has stopped by to say howdy and hear a progress update on the hotel/home.

There is plenty to report, but the project will take years. Meantime, Mike and E’Anne smile at the fortune of good health and a living fruitful life among friends who care about the right stuff.

If Capron sells enough artwork to support this death wish of a renovation project, Mike says, so much the better.

“Hey,” Mike says with a chuckle, “it’s only time and money.”

Next door to the old hotel, the Caprons are turning an old butcher shop into an art gallery. This was the butcher’s meat locker.

Next door to the old hotel, the Caprons are turning an old butcher shop into an art gallery. This was the butcher’s meat locker.

{Editor’s note: Mike Capron’s artwork may be found at (cowboyartist.com).}

Once president of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association, Mark McDonald is a refugee of five Texas dailies, where he labored to avoid public scorn and starvation. Later, he bought an outdoors magazine, which paid just as well as editing this website while he writes “They Gave Us Baseball: Now Look What We’ve Done.” The book will be released in early 2015.

 

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