SHERIDAN — Art and family go hand in hand for the Waddells.
Theodore Waddell and his daughter, Arin Waddell, will each show pieces of their work in an exhibition called “Waddell + Waddell” at the Whitney Center for the Arts.
Theodore Waddell, who splits his time between Montana and Idaho, works in abstract impressionism, often painting freely-rendered range animals that roam the plains of Montana.
His daughter, on the other hand, creates more conceptually-based, highly-rendered images with a twist of humor.
Both agree that they could not mimic each other’s painting styles even if they wanted. But while their styles of work contrast, they’ve walked similar paths to become successful artists.
Theodore Waddell took a painting a class while attending Eastern Montana College as an undergraduate (now called Montana State University-Billings). He got hooked on painting almost immediately.
“I knew I didn’t want to be alive and not make art,” Waddell said. “That was 58 years ago.”
Waddell received his Master of Fine Arts and taught art at the University of Montana, receiving tenure before moving to the countryside to be a full-time rancher and artist.
He’s been honored at the White House, featured in countless art exhibits, selected by the Montana Arts Council to receive the Governor’s Arts Award, had his art featured in U.S. embassies across the world and was chosen as the 2015 artist of the year by the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings.
Waddell said he’s achieved artistic success by staying within himself.
“You have to know where you come from, and where you come from is important,” Waddell said. “You don’t have to have to go to Austria to (find inspiration), you can go to Casper, you can be in Sheridan.”
Arin Waddell humorously called acquiring her father’s gift for painting “a genetic defect.”
Growing up in Montana, she shied away from being an artist.
She left their Montana ranch and went to college in New York, intending to major in biology.
But, just like her father, it took one art class to change everything. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she went on to receive her Master of Fine Arts. She currently teaches at Sheridan College.
While growing up on the cattle ranch, Waddell said she learned the most valuable trait from her father that any artist can have: a good work ethic.
“That intensity of working side-by-side in a ranch is the same intensity that goes into making art,” she said. “I think they are very similar in that there is a lot of work with very little reward — intellectual reward, physical reward, but not necessarily monetary reward.”
At the exhibition, both artists will display their oil paintings. Arin Waddell said she hopes the diversity in their works will be intellectually beneficial for her students.
Theodore Waddell has also made moves to benefit students at Sheridan College.
He recently donated a printmaking press and materials to the college, an expensive and highly-sought-after piece of equipment not utilized at many art schools. He also gifted his entire print collection to the college.
Thanks to his generosity, the college can hold a printmaking class for the first time.
“There was a lot of places it could have gone,” Arin Waddell said about the press. “But I really fought hard to get it at Sheridan College … now many, many students will have the opportunity to work on this world-class press.”
Over the past two days, the father-daughter duo worked with Sheridan-area high school students and Sheridan College art students, teaching them the finer points of making prints.
“This is exactly what we dreamed of when we conceived the idea of pulling all the aspects of what we are doing together in one spot,” said Dr. Paul Young, president of the Northern Wyoming Community College District. “This helps with the collaboration of our faculty, engaging students, engaging the community — so we are just grateful that Ted is helping us like this.”
Theodore and Arin Waddell will participate in a reception for their exhibit Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the Whitney Center for the Arts. The reception is free and open to the public. The exhibit will be on display though March 10.