A letter from a friend of Nick firfires


Sending along a couple more pictures of the Firfires work. An interesting note on this one is that Nick, himself made the frame of wormwood and did the framing.

All the best, Darrell & Jean

Dear Garth,

Sorry it's taken so long to get
this to you. Had some trouble getting hold of some of the material we wanted to send.

This copy is from the 1990 program of the Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Fiesta Rodeo & Stock Horse Show. That year, Nick & Maxine Firfires were the joint Honorary Vaqueros for the show. Most of this you may already know, but there might be some surprises for you:

"Maxine and Nicholas Firfires have worked with the Santa Barbara Fiesta Rodeo for 22 years. Nick was born on November 10, 1917 in Santa Barbara. He attended school in Santa Maria, spending most of his spare time on the ranches of northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. This is the same land that the Vaqueros worked. By the age of 14 he was breaking and training horses. Nick began drawing while still a youngster, studying in Los Angeles at the Art Center and the Otis Art Institute. In 1941 he joined the United States Army and served overseas with the 308th Combat Engineers. His outstanding efforts resulted in the Bronze Star and 5 Battle Stars. Along with combat service, he sketched and painted for Army publications, including many portraits of outstanding military personnel. Nick did many "on the spot" watercolors of World War II in Europe. His artistic efforts brought citations for serving above and beyond the call of duty. Following his discharge in the autumn of 1945, he opened a studio in Santa Barbara. For 12 years he drew hundreds of illustrations for western publications. He also painted cover illustrations for books and magazines. While earning a living with his commercial work, he continued to study and work at fine art. In 1958 he left the commercial work behind to devote himself completely to fine art. He moved back to the ranch life before having his first show. That first exhibition of his work in Los Angeles was very successful and Nick had no more thoughts of returning to commercial work. Since his first show, his western paintings have been exhibited and collected around the world. Nick was an original member of the Cowboy Artists of America from which he resigned in 1975. He is also a member of Rancheros Vistadores, and has not missed a ride since 1946. With his wife, Maxine, Nick now lives in the home and adjoining studio they designed and build in Montecito in 1972.

Maxine Jones Firfires, wife of Santa Barbara artist Nicholas Firfires, is the daughter of the late famous cowboy movie star, Buck Jones. Maxine was practically born to her love for horses and skillful horsemanship. Her mother, Dell Jones, was a well known trick rider for Zack Miller's 101 Wild West Show. Maxine herself was a trick rider in her fathers Wild West Show & Circus. She has raised, trained and ridden horses and mules all of her life. She also attended art school in Los Angeles and is an accomplished artist, but says that one artist in the family is enough and leaves the painting to Nick. Maxine has been active for many years in support of the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. She is also a member of the Santa Barbara County Cowbelles, and Sage Hens riding Groups."

The Nick that I knew was much more comfortable at the corral around the horses, than in a room full of people. Maxine was the social mixer of the two. She was always the picture of western elegance, and comanded attention when entering a room. It was she who did most of the promotion of Nick's work. Nick was great friends with another wonderful western artist named Paul Solosy of Arizona. As young men they often played cards together, with Nick getting a chance to display his talent for cooking. In many of Nick's paintings you can see the influence of the Cuyama Valley in California, where he spent much of his time during his early years. A good example of this influence can be seen in his painting "Roundup". I could almost take you to the spot that inspired the scene. Having been a cowboy & horseman all my life, I can attest to the fact that Nick's work captures the life and the details perfectly. I hope this has given you a little more insight on the man.

Sincerely, Darrell

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