With a paintbrush and a heart for the Old West, Steven Saylor does more than just chronicle life in northwestern Nevada. He lives it.
Saylor's studio, gallery and home are on Main Street in historic Dayton. The home, where he lives with wife, Johnye, was built in the 1860s. It's the oldest standing house in Dayton, he said.
He moved into the historic home in the 1980s, and hauled water for three years before installing the plumbing that introduced running water.
An old Carson & Colorado Railroad boxcar sits in back. In the 1950s, it served as a home before a fire destroyed the roof and one wall. Then it sat and nearly rotted away.
Today, with a new gabled roof, rebuilt walls and extra-large windows for natural light, the boxcar is Saylor's art studio with a connecting gallery.
"I always wanted a gallery," Saylor said. "It took me 30 years."
Saylor studied art at Kent State University in Ohio and during his travels in China and Europe.
Leaving the life of an advertising artist, he moved to Dayton in the 1970s, working as a ranch hand and art teacher while building his reputation as an artist of the West.
He paints in a technique called glazed watercolor. Watercolor is painted on layer by layer, from light to dark, with a coat of varnish between the layers. According to his Web site - evergreenstudio.com - a painting may have as many as 3,600 layers.
The result is a painting that comes to life.
Saylor is considered a photorealist portrait painter. Among his best-known paintings is "The Redeye Express," which shows a group of dusty cowboys in town for a drink at the End of the Trail Saloon. As they often do, Dayton-area residents and other friends served as the models.
The faces in "Celebrity Train" are recognizable as popular country-western singers, gathered for a sing-along during a journey in an old train car.
One of Saylor's paintings made it to the Reagan White House. Then-U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada commissioned a portrait of Ronald and Nancy Reagan as a gift for the president's first inauguration.
Other paintings are more ethereal.
In "Wild Horse Crossing," horses gallop through blue clouds. Inspired by the 1999 slaying of 34 wild horses, the painting was commissioned as the cover for Lacy J. Dalton's album of the same name. Proceeds from the album and sales of prints of the painting benefit the wild horses of the Comstock-Virginia Range through Dalton's Let 'em Run Foundation.
Saylor finds inspiration in many subjects, both Western and otherwise. Paintings include portraits of a lone cowboy stopped for a plate of beans, women gathered in a brothel's parlor, cattle stirring up dust, a farmer laboring in a field in China, moonlit fantasies and a child catching fairies.
Original paintings plus giclée and lithograph prints are displayed in Saylor's Evergreen Studio gallery, which is connected to his train-car studio.
The gallery also sells collectibles, stuffed animals, statuettes, cards, CDs, commemorative plates and coins, and books that relate to the Old West.
Currently, Saylor is working on "Victory Train." The painting, commissioned by Rod Franzman, will be a fund-raiser for the restoration of a 1910 McKeen railcar at the Nevada Railroad Museum. Like "The Redeye Express" and "Celebrity Train," "Victory Train" features recognizable faces of politicians, entertainers and prominent residents, all with connections to Nevada.
The scene is set on May 8, 1945, at Brown Station at the base of Mount Rose as newspapers are unloaded from the McKeen train and people stand around reading them.
"They're reading headlines that the war is over," Saylor said. "That's why there are a lot of guys in uniform."
Gov. Kenny Guinn sits in the engineer's cabin. Retired judge Mills Lane is in the foreground.
Others include Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, retired Sen. Jake Jacobsen, the late movie director George Sidney, musicians Dalton and Captain & Tennille, actors Dean Stockwell, Tony Curtis and Hal Holbrook and many more.
Saylor expects to complete it in September, after which the famous models (or surviving spouses) will sign it.
The work of
400 Main St.
Dayton, NV 89403
246-0659 or 1-800-635-7927