In 2014, I was in Sheridan, Wyoming on my way to a photoshoot in Montana when my transmission died and stranded me in town for four days. From my tiny motel room I walked to a nearby diner, and while eating I noticed that at a nearby table sat a classic Wyoming country grandfather and his teenage granddaughter--a weird, punky girl with a leather jacket and dyed hair. Grandpa, a cowboy to his core, could not have been more different from her, but they were talking, joking, laughing, and just enjoying every moment of their time together. There wasn't a moment between them that wasn't pure joy and humor. In fact, I got on my phone at the time and described it all, live, on my Facebook wall!
I told the waitress that I wanted to buy their dinner. Afterward, the waitress told me, "You could not have picked two more deserving people to do that for!" She explained the story to me: the girl's single mother (grandpa's daughter) had died of cancer just two years before. Grandpa had taken steps to adopt the granddaughter so that she wouldn't go into a foster care system, even though it meant that the girl would have to leave her city life and come live with him in "cowboy country." So that's how a punky/gothy girl from the city came to be in a diner with her grandpa. And that's why they looks at each other with pure happiness and adoration. The waitress told me they ate there together 2-3 times every week, and were always that happy.
I waited two years before painting this because I wanted to get it exactly right, JUST how I remembered it. The teenage model is my son's best friend, and the grandpa is a Colorado cowboy/horse trainer I met in a diner here (and yes, approached out of the blue to ask for his help for this painting). For me, this piece is special because of the story it tells, and because it brings the lives of a cowboy elder and a young city teenager together in a way that I was lucky enough to see. I also like the juxtaposition of the young trendy cool teen girl with the older western elder; it shows that even as time moves on, we still find ways to connect to our traditions.
Here are the original Facebook posts I wrote live while watching the scene: