Wild west artist inspired by family link

AWARD-winning artist Paul Chorlton has the Wild West in his blood.Tales of frontier battles, cowboys and Indians, the bravery and steadfastness of those involved in the most testing times of American history are so real to him - because his relatives were there.

AWARD-winning artist Paul Chorlton has the Wild West in his blood.

Tales of frontier battles, cowboys and Indians, the bravery and steadfastness of those involved in the most testing times of American history are so real to him - because his relatives were there.

“My grandmother was a Native Indian, a Dakota Indian, a Sioux, and she was at the Battle of Little Bighorn - her parents had been killed by Custer in 1868,” said Mr Chorlton.

“She was just a girl then but she survived and then met my grandfather, who worked on the Canadian Pacific Railways and for the Texas Rangers enforcing the law.

“My family used to tell me the stories of what happened when I was a child and I was hooked.

“It's always been in my blood and part of my heritage and I have had a life-long fascination and love of cowboys and Indians and the amazing characters who were involved in the Wild West.”

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His love is expressed in his art - and from his home in a caravan at the Felixstowe Beach Holiday Park he paints marvellous and detailed pictures of the heroes of the American west which are then sold thousands of miles away to visitors to the historic sites.

“I suppose it's ironic really - I paint the pictures and wall hangings which are sent out to the reservations to be sold to tourists who then fly with them back to Heathrow and Gatwick!” he said.

So impressive are his images of Indian war chiefs, cavalrymen and others that he has just been named American Artist of the Year, an award supported by the John Wayne Foundation.

Mr Chorlton, who works as a lorry driver for Karl King Transport, has been over to America on several occasions and painted several commissions for institutions connected with the Wild West.

Seven years ago he was commissioned to paint a picture of one of the great frontier battles - the final stand at the Alamo as the Texan fort attempted to stave off the Mexican forces in 1836.

The six feet by three feet picture hangs in the foyer of the fort in San Antonio, which is today a museum and research centre.

His other paintings include General George Custer and Sitting Bull for the Battle of Little Bighorn Museum, and portraits of the leading characters from the Alamo such as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Barret Travis.

“I just love the whole atmosphere of the period and it's great to be able to paint it and have people enjoy my paintings. I have a lot of mementoes, too, which have been handed down to me and I want to donate to a museum so they can be preserved and looked after properly,” he added.

Mr Chorlton, who came to Felixstowe in 1975 when he was stationed with the Army at Brackenbury Barracks, has a love of art which goes back to his school days in the Manchester area where he attended classes given by the great LS Lowry.

What do you think of Mr Chorlton's art? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: The Wild West

In the early days of the Wild West - around the mid 19th century - huge tracts of land were up for grabs in the west and south-west America and many people wanted it.

Native Indians were furious as they saw land they had inhabited being taken over by buffalo hunters, railroad workers, gold prospectors, and livestock farmers with fights often breaking out between all the different disputing groups with little or no law enforcement.

Not even all the Indian tribes could agree - and sometimes fought each other, banded together or sided with the cowboys.

The most famous Indian conflict though was the Black Hills War waged by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse after repeated violations of the Treaty of Fort Laramie once gold was discovered in the hills.

The most famous battle was the Battle of Little Bighorn or Custer's Last Stand in 1876 in Montana when Sioux and Cheyenne forces defeated the 7th Cavalry, led by 36-year-old General George Custer.

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