Boyce artistically blends painting skills, marketing
Fred Boyce and his wife, Harriet, had just set off on a long-anticipated retirement trip when they got word that the investments that were the cornerstone of their retirement income had collapsed.
Boyce dutifully returned to his seat in front of his artist’s easel in Reno — a return that’s been marked by remarkable financial success for an artist who’s been a skilled marketer as well as a beloved painter of Nevada’s wildlife and landscaping.
Now 91, Boyce is returning to the Bartley Ranch Heritage Building for a new show of his work that runs Nov. 16-24.
It marks his return to a venue that provided a powerful boost to the sales of his oil paintings, watercolors and prints during a decade-long run before the onset of the recession.
In 1996, the first year that Boyce rented the Bartley Ranch venue for a week-long show, he sold $65,000 worth of art and generated several major commissions from private collectors.
Guided by the marketing wisdom of his wife, who died this spring, Boyce created artwork in his east-Reno studio that drew attention from buyers throughout Nevada and the nation, even during the darkest days of the recession.
He’s been voted Reno’s favorite artist in a newspaper poll, chosen as “Artist of the Year” five times by Ducks Unlimited, selected to participate in shows at the Nevada Art Museum and commissioned by the Nevada Wildlife Record Book Committee to paint portrayals of each of the nine big-game trophy animals of Nevada.
Boyce isn’t one to embrace the romantic life of a starving artist. Starting with his earliest jobs 70 years ago, he’s carefully balanced — and sometimes struggled over — the need for a paycheck and his desire for artistic expression.
“I fight that all the time,” he acknowledges as he walks through a studio and gallery whose walls are covered with half a century of creative work. Drawers are filled with hundreds of photographs of wild Nevada — photographs that refresh the artist’s memory as he works at an easel well-lit by nearby windows.
But the art always came first.
“If you paint from the heart and from your spirit, that makes the best art,” he says.
Boyce apprenticed himself at age 16 to a cartoonist. Growing bored after four years, he became an apprentice in an advertising agency.
In 1952, he set out on his own as a freelance commercial artist and the owner of an art service that provided illustrations and commercial art for companies throughout upstate New York.
As he traveled to meet with clients, Boyce routinely loaded his painting gear into the truck of his car. On his way back from appointments, he stopped the car, crawled through fences, set up his easel in farm pastures and taught himself the art of landscape painting. Dozens of watercolors were discarded while he learned the craft.
Once, as he painted a rusty gate in a lonesome pasture, he sensed the presence of someone with him. He turned to become face to face with an angus bull.
His work as a commercial artist has been published in dozens of venues such as Western Horseman Magazine and Cabela’s Hunting Catalog.
Boyce moved to Nevada in 1972, and he won widespread recognition in the Silver State in 1987 when he won a contest to design the Nevada Trout Stamp.
The recognition came as Boyce was grinding out a daily schedule of 25 cold calls a day to potential commercial art clients as he went back to work after losing his retirement nest egg.
Harriet Boyce provided the marketing know-how, paying particular attention to the creation of a brand identity for Boyce’s artistic creations.
“She was exactly what I needed,” Boyce says. “Most artists don’t know how to market, and they don’t have anyone to do their marketing for them.”
Harriet Boyce helped her artist husband find new markets through publication of two volumes entitled “The Other Nevada” as well as sales of prints.
Since the death of his wife, the marketing of Boyce’s work has fallen to his daughter, Kathy Boyce, a real estate investor who’s moving into an additional career as a marketer of fine art.
“She inherited her mother’s genes,” says Boyce.
The marketing moxie of the women in his life allows Boyce the freedom to experiment with new approaches to his art.
Long known for the use of elements of Nevada’s landscape to create carefully composed paintings — look for the use of triangles or rounded surfaces in the work that’s displayed in offices throughout the region — Boyce today is working in a highly simplified style inspired by calligraphy.
And he has an abundance of other concepts he wants to try.
“I need about two more lifetimes to do everything that I want to do,” he says.
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