Annually, the Bob Feist Invitational commissions a painting that is later auctioned for charity and from which prints are made and sold. This year, the commemorative painting was done by Steve Miller, who’s been with Montana Silversmiths for 27 years, most recently working as Brand Ambassador and Planning Consultant when he’s not making art.
“A lot of people don’t know me as an artist, just as the Montana guy who gives out the buckles,” said Miller, who also sculpted the bronze trophies given to each year’s Head Horse and Heel Horse of the BFI and of the Wrangler Patriot 11.5. “I’ve done quite a bit of work I’m proud of, including a set of pieces sold to Western stores depicting the American West. And I was commissioned by the Cheyenne Nation to do bronze sculptures of Cheyenne that had been killed at Custer’s battle – the sale of which helped raise money for the markers on the battlefield where the Cheyenne fell.”
Sculptures by Miller are also in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One is part of the “Bodacious” display in the Hall, and Miller created the bronze trophy commemorating Miss Rodeo America each year, as well. The artist finished up the official BFI oil painting in March.
“What an honor,” Miller said. “The BFI art always depicts team ropers, so I wondered how we can make team ropers different. I ran with it and am very happy with the way it worked out. I created a victory lap instead of two guys on horses with a steer in between. No steer; no ropes – just the boys going around celebrating.”
Indeed, Miller used as reference last year’s champs, Junior Dees and Lane Siggins, with the latter in the lead, hat in hand, aboard his grey gelding that was named Heel Horse of the BFI. Dees was painted behind him with the arena banners and crowd in the background.
As a spectator, Miller hasn’t missed a BFI in at least 15 years, and he often entered the Wrangler Patriot #11.5 when it was the RRI. Miller says being a roper helped him with this project.
“I roped in the BFI arena the first time for $100,000 with Karl Stressman, riding Mike Beers’ great horse Pepper that won the world championship,” said Miller. “What an honor. I heard they are having a #10.5 this year. I might have to crack back out! I miss roping.”
The painting will be sold during the BFI’s annual cowboy auction on Saturday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Guthrie, and a limited number of signed and numbered prints will be available during Wrangler BFI Week.