The origin story of Laura Goodson’s modern paintings of Western characters and landscapes is almost too far-fetched to believe. Determined to impress a new girlfriend with a passion for the arts, the South Texas native decided to pick up a paintbrush for the first time in her life. Using jet-black oil paint and her soon-to-be-signature bold strokes, she swiped a cowboy, a female silhouette and a cactus onto three canvases. Goodson’s girlfriend showed the paintings to the proprietor of Will Leather Goods in Houston, and he proposed a pop-up show for the following weekend, giving Goodson just four days to create her first body of work. She delivered, completing 12 canvases in one night—and the bona fide artist, who now calls Denver home (and the girlfriend her fiancée), has been painting for devoted collectors ever since. Here, she reveals the depth behind her deceptively simple designs.
Describe putting paint to canvas for the first time. I didn’t really have any vision. I just started painting. When I was young, my grandpa had taught me how to draw a cowboy hat and for whatever reason, that just came through. Even now, when I start a piece, I don’t think about who or what I’m painting. The cowboy hat starts coming down and whatever is inside of me starts coming through; things that I didn’t know were there.
The cowboy is such a potent symbol. What does it mean to you? I think I am a cowboy at heart. And I think it’s a representation of my childhood: where I grew up, who I was surrounded by and what I aspired to be. Those were the people you looked up to.
You’ve been painting for nearly four years now. How has your work evolved? Initially, I really liked single brushstrokes. On a hat or bandanna, the brush is coming down and then it’s done. But I recently started using acrylic, and with acrylic you can go back and add a whole new layer, so that has expanded my art brain. My latest launch of new work also explores the sense of division I feel within myself—roles and responsibilities versus my actual identity—so there are diptychs portraying two sides to the cowboy, and a triptych that divides him into a hat, face and chest. My work has turned more inward, to lift the veil of who the cowboy is.