Photography by Sam Raetz
The American West is a wildly fascinating thing. For over a century, art and film has highly romanticized scenes of six shooters and saloons, cowboys and indigenous, and horses galloping through rattlesnake country. For better or worse, grandiose Spaghetti Westerns with cast members falling on a spectrum from good to ugly have shaped how the world thinks of today’s American West. With so much focus on what it once was, the American West of today is often times overlooked. Some people even think it no longer exists.
Multi-faceted artist Dani Vergés is doing his part in changing that.
Dani’s portfolio is filled with vivid scenes of cowboys moving cattle, summers in the branding pen, bucking broncos, wild bison roaming, and more. His gift to inspire thought with minimal brushstrokes is an impressive talent. With a style that is extraordinarily simple yet challenging, Dani has been drawing and painting ranch life in the American West since he was a child. The subjects of his paintings and overall interest in what today’s American West really is like has always surprised his peers at first though.
That’s because Dani doesn’t live in the West. Or the United States. Or even North America. Dani was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, and now lives just outside the city. “I was always into things other Spanish folks weren’t — especially country music and the culture of the Western United States,” Dani said laughingly. His love for the West originated by spending time with his grandfather, who would show him films and National Geographic magazines depicting ranch life in the United States. He was so enamored that he began to recreate scenes he had seen with a pencil and watercolors. Dani’s grandfather noticed his rare talent early on, and encouraged him to sit down every day to draw once he had finished his school work.
When Dani’s grandfather passed away, his grandmother gave him a stack of his own artistic creations from his childhood. Dani’s grandfather had saved them for him.
Dani is a graphic designer by trade, but is perpetually channeling his creativity into a wide array of mediums. While he attended a university to study art, he wasn’t there long. “It was a great place to meet girls, but I didn’t really enjoy my classes or the teachers. So I left. I suppose I’ve always had issues with authority”. Dani continued, “I’m self taught. This has always been something that I’ve craved. I feel like I need to paint and I want to paint scenes from the West. It’s something I enjoy working at everyday, and I always try to be patient with myself.” Dani’s simple style is unquestionably a product of his graphic design background, as he is constantly working on logos (where almost always, less is more) for his clients.
When Dani was asked how he stayed creative with his painting:
“Creativity is one of those few things that the more you use it the more you have it. I have a creative job [as a graphic designer] because I wanted to be sure creativity was a constant in my life. I think that helps my painting a lot. Once i’m in my personal studio, I have the freedom to just do what i want. I don’t make a living off of my painting, I don’t have to answer to anyone. The only pressure I have comes from myself. Painting is my form of meditation.”
Dani was so compelled by painting and the West that he eventually accepted a temporary position at a ranch in Southern Colorado to work. It was there where he was finally able to capture Western scenes with his art firsthand (he also assisted in typically ranch work such as fixing fence and brandings). Dani would send photos home to friends and family back in Spain, and would have to explain to them he wasn’t on a movie set and that they were real people doing everyday work.
Dani has been coming back to the United States as often as he can in order to be in the place where he feels most at peace. And it’s no doubt that his grandfather, the driving force behind both his painting and love for the American West, would be incredibly proud of him.