Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jerk line honored in Wagon Days poster

Artist Tessa Bradley captures pioneer mood

Express Staff Writer

The 2010 Wagon Days poster is an oil painting rendition of a 16-mule jerk line by artist Tessa Bradley. Poster by Tessa Bradley Photo by David N. Seelig

Artist Tessa Bradley's designs for a Wagon Days poster had been on her mind for some years.

Originally from London, Bradley moved to Jerome, Idaho, where she lived for 20 years. Eventually, she moved to Hailey, where she now resides. Bradley believed she knew how to capture the feel of the American West in Ketchum from her Idaho life of farming in Jerome and living in the Wood River Valley.

"I know the mountains well," she said. "And, I love the shape of the valley."

Bradley comes from a family of English painters who all value traditional and historic subjects. Her work has been exhibited in Ketchum at Starbucks coffee shop, and she had postcards of her work displayed in the Hailey visitor center.

When it was suggested to her to enter the poster contest, she put together sketches of previous ideas she had of mountains and barns and added six wagons and 16 mules.

"I love to find places and learn the history of them," she said. "I like to have stepped on the ground of these places before I paint them."

Bradley said she researched the mule jerk line intensely. But, she said, discovering a YouTube video on how the jerk line worked was the most helpful, especially since the video was shot in Ketchum.

"I knew the mules had to be walking because they would look awkward if they were standing still," she said. "Also, I wanted to make the painting fun and colorful."

She said the painting was a challenge. It took her two months to "sort it out," she said. Spending time at The Community Library in Ketchum and the Hailey Public Library were valuable resources for planning her painting.

"I had to find the correct mule image," Bradley said. "Big ears and skinny legs was the advice my sister gave me. There are a total of 32 ears and 64 legs in the painting."

Bradley said she used a pencil to lightly sketch on the painting because too much detail would not look right. In addition, Bradley spoke to Harold Ruby, who lives on the Camas Prairie, to learn about how the jerk line works. Ruby explained how the mules jump over the line as the wagons move and turn.

"I added people to balance out the painting," Bradley said. "The white horse is Trigger with Roy Rogers. I thought they looked the part."

The Wagon Days souvenir poster is available for purchase at the visitor center in Ketchum, at Chateau Drug in Ketchum and Jane's Artifacts in Hailey. The cost is $25. All signed posters are $30. All proceeds from sales help fund the annual Wagon Days celebration.

A poster signing by Bradley will take place after the parade in Ketchum on Saturday, Sept.7.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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