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Nebraska woman depicts love for show cattle with art

Andrew Weeks Published on 08 August 2014
One Man's Opinion

For Amanda Raithel, a talented sketch artist living in Falls City, Nebraska, cattle are more than a job. They are her passion. She spends her working hours on the family farm with live cattle and her free time using an easel to draw the animals that she loves best. She especially enjoys them in the show ring.

Raithel has been a professional artist since 2000, and though she has drawn a variety of images, it is show cattle that keep her interest.

“It’s always said that artists do what they know, and that’s what I know,” she said, referring to life at the farm and in the ring. “That’s my background. That’s where I grew up.”

Raithel said there’s more than a monetary goal in mind when she creates her art. While a paycheck for her work is important, she is more fulfilled when people respond emotionally to her drawings.

Not everyone connects with the messages.

“Some people really get it, others don’t, and I guess I look for things that really resonate with me,” she said. “It’s not just about making money or about something pretty. I like to make people think. My new work is going to be even more like that.”

Her new work is all under wraps for now, however, because like a good artist Raithel refuses to give up any secrets about what she plans to work on next. She probably won’t start the project until sometime this fall because life is busy at home these days, Herbster Angus Farms, where she spends several hours a week helping her husband take care of the operation.

“We also have a small, select group of cows that we breed, both purebred seed stock and club calves,” she said.

With her busy schedule, she does try to accept a couple of commissioned art pieces a year and produces at least one original work a year. She sells her art mostly through her website, Facebook and word of mouth, with customers across the U.S. and in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

No matter the miles that separate artist and customer, their common interest in cattle knows no boundaries. Farming and ranching is a way of life that touches chords across continents, and even those in other lands can appreciate and relate to her upbringing.

Raithel grew up on a registered seed stock ranch in Ohio. Her dad was a livestock auctioneer, and as a young person, she presented cattle at shows, where her interest really peeked. When it was time to go to school, she decided to pursue her interests and talents to contribute in another way to ag life by becoming an artist.

She attended University of Missouri – Columbia, graduating with a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in illustration in 1998 and honed her artistic skill until gaining professional status in 2000. The rest, as they say, is history, except that Raithel is still writing, err, drawing hers. Her artwork depicts black cattle, Herefords and other breeds, and it is in the show ring that completes her joy.

Mutual Respect

The most difficult part about starting a project is getting the initial lines drawn. It gets easier and more rewarding when she starts filling in the piece with color and detail. Not all of her work is colored, however. There is a number of charcoal-pencil, black-and-white drawings, but the detail is extravagant. Time spent on projects varies from eight to 16 hours and sometimes longer.

Because of the cattle she interacts with on a regular basis and her involvement in the show ring, Raithel is always coming up with new ideas.

“We are at a show about once a month,” she said. “My daughter, Miranda, shows junior cattle.”

The difficult part is finding the time to put her ideas to drawing. Though she is strapped for time these days, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because she is busy, it often is only the most emotionally involved pieces that come to life in print.

Does she have a favorite drawing?

“To date, my favorite drawing that I have finished is ‘One Man’s Opinion,’” she said, which depicts the close-up face of a show animal, a hand holding onto its bridle and a red second-place ribbon. “It’s just a great idea and conveys a feeling that all of us have had at one time or another in the show ring.”

She summed up her thoughts about show cattle and her art, saying, “There has never been anything else, besides my family, that has meant more to me than the show cattle business. … Showing makes me who I am. I produce work that shows the incredible range of emotion that resonates from cattle people like me, who have a passion for the cattle industry. Passion begets great art, and my passion lies in the heart of the simple bovine.”  end mark

Andrew Weeks is a freelance writer based in Idaho.


TOP: “One Man’s Opinion” is one of the pieces Amanda Raithel is most proud of.

MIDDLE: “Mutual Respect” is another example of Amanda Raithel’s art showcasing common scenes from livestock shows. Photos by Amanda Raithel.