Robert Winter Hughes McCoy, born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1946
My mother's family arrived in Colorado during the 1870’s from Seward, Nebraska on the Oregon Trail. This was around the time of the Sioux and Cheyenne uprisings. The wagon train was attacked a couple of times before they took a cutoff down to Colorado. Some of their possessions from that trip are part of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum collection.
George W. H. DeWitt, my great grandfather, owned a dairy farm on land that is now part of Colorado College, and two of his sons, Scott and Leonard, started the Ox-Bow cattle ranch near Rattlesnake Buttes around the turn of the century. Over time the ranch grew from a few hundred acres to 6000 acres, and they leased additional acreage from the government. In the 1940’s they sold the original ranch and started the Silver Circle ranch in the Beulah Valley. Through the years
I visited the Beulah ranch, and was inspired by the beautiful foothills, the rugged lifestyle, and the stories that were told. Those experiences and subjects influence my current work.
Wagon train on the Oregon Trail
My father's family came from a line of Scottish farmers who landed in North Carolina as a result of the Highland Clearances. After the battle of Culloden in 1746, the clan system was prohibited, and families were forced off their lands. Large numbers had to live along the coast of Scotland under deplorable conditions. Gabriel Johnston, then royal governor of North Carolina and a Scot himself, encouraged other highlanders to come to America. My 4th great grandfather, John McCoy, served in Capt. Joseph Sharpe's Light Horse Service during the American Revolution. In 1798 John and his family migrated west to Tennessee. The passport below was issued to John, his wife and other members of the group. After John's death, the family migrated to Indiana, Iowa, and finally Colorado.
I spent my formative years in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the 1950’s. That experience gave me an appreciation for both Native American and Hispanic cultures, and exposure to their works of art. My two best friends were Navajos who lived with their families at the Indian School on Cerrillos. Later my mother and I moved to San Antonio, Texas where I began studying painting with Warren Hunter, a noted artist and illustrator, who taught in historic La Villita.
After being discharged from the Air Force in 1970, I continued studying art at the University of Houston, receiving a BFA degree in 1974. Upon completion, I was accepted for graduate work at Southern Methodist University, the University of Arizona, and the University of New Mexico. However, I was also given an opportunity to live and teach in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for a year, which I chose. That experience gave me exposure to the original paintings and murals by well known Mexican painters, and life within a different culture. At the end of the year, I was given the same opportunity in Rome, Italy. I traveled by freighter, which took three weeks to unload at different ports, and disembarked at Genoa. Both of those experiences were overwhelming, and had a profound influence on my work. After returning to Texas, I was accepted in the graduate program at the University of Houston, and received a MFA degree in 1981. Over the years I have taught all levels of painting and drawing at various institutions until 1990 when I began painting full time.
Branding calves, Colorado ranch, c.1900