Chance Hays, artist and cowboy, paints and ropes in Breckenridge

Krista Driscoll and Allyson Litt
An original painting by Chance Hays, called "Reflecting on the Day."
Special to the Daily |

If you go

What: Artist reception for Western artist Chance Hays

Where: Breckenridge Fine Art Gallery, 421 S. Main St., Breckenridge

When: 3-7 p.m. today

Cost: Admission and refreshments are free

More information: Visit, or call the gallery at (970) 453-9500

When you hear the term “professional cowboy,” rarely do you associate it with hobbies such as creating fine art. Between taking care of his three horses, practicing for national rodeos and staying involved with the Oklahoma Relief Fund for the victims of the Moore tornadoes, Chance Hays has been painting — a lot.

It all started last winter when Hays walked into the Vail Fine Art Gallery wearing a cowboy hat, and the rest is history.

Already familiar with Hays’ art, owner Jim Tylich, who also owns Breckenridge Fine Art Gallery on Main Street in Breck, wanted to carry his work in the Vail gallery because of how different it was from other artists.

“I saw the work he was producing, this avante garde Western art, and it was extremely good,” Tylich said. “It’s bright, open; he lets the negative space speak for itself in a way that makes the artwork look very attractive.”

After agreeing to paint in-residence for the gallery, and with an offer to have his work on constant display, Hays moved from his hometown of Bristow, Okla., to Vail.

“I paint things from real-life experiences and things that I know,” said 28-year-old Hays. “It’s all derivative of journeys, whether it be from the rodeo or the world of ranching in Oklahoma.”

On the cowboy side, Hays is ranked third in tie-down roping in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys of America Mountain States Circuit, which includes Wyoming and Colorado, and has recently won roping events in Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge, as well as finishing third in tie-down roping at last month’s Eagle County Fair & Rodeo.

Cowboy color

Having a father who was a professional cowboy and a mother who was an art teacher, Hays was drawing by the time he was 5 years old and roping by age 6. Combining innate talent with an education in fine arts, the contemporary Western artist is influenced not only by his travels but other artists, as well.

While spending time in Santa Fe, Hays studied under Poteet Victory, a prestigious artist known for his Native American contemporary works.

“I loved his color palette,” Hays said. “I use colors from Arizona to Santa Fe, mixed with my love for the American West and the American cowboy.”

A cowboy’s best friend is his horse. Hays’ expressionist paintings of horses are some of his most popular, along with other Western imagery vibrantly done in watercolor and oil paint.

“If you can paint with watercolor, you can paint with anything,” Hays said.

Double dip in Breck

Hays, who goes by Chance Hays on the rodeo circuit but signs his paintings with his full name, Bradley Chance Hays, will be showing his art at Breckenridge Fine Art Gallery for one day only today.

“It’s part of the Artist in Residence program,” he said. “I’ll be painting live in the gallery, and they will have hors d’oeuvres and drinks for the public, free of charge.”

If you find yourself going home with one of his pieces, you’ll also be helping the victims of the recent Moore tornadoes. The Oklahoma native has made giving back to his state a top priority and has been working with Tylich to make sure a portion of the money from the paintings sold goes to the Oklahoma Relief Fund.

Most of the paintings that he had on display at the Vail gallery sold, which is good news for Hays and the people of his home state, but he will have about 10 or so to show in Summit County.

“That’s why I’m doing this,” he said. “It makes it really worthwhile.”

Following the artist reception on Saturday night, Hays will compete in the Breckenridge PRCA Prorodeo on Sunday. Hays said moving to the High Country has been good for him.

“I ski quite a bit, but shoot, just moving up here has been really good for my rodeo,” he said. “I’m in really good shape; the altitude has helped me get into good shape. The art’s been great. I’ve been commissioned to do a bunch of homes in Beaver Creek. It’s all good; it’s been a good move for me. It’s nice that someone believed in my style of artwork, which is very different from what’s usually shown in Breckenridge. It’s a nice change.”

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