Cave Creek artist Marless Fellows challenged cowboy poets to look at images she gave them and craft poems to complement her work.
Fellows is this year's poster artist for the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering that will take place this week at Yavapai College, Aug. 7, 8 and 9, and she will be on hand during the event to sign her new book, "A Handshake Is Enough," which is a collection of the works of nine cowboy poets and her artistry.
Fellows said she chose the title of her book, because it reflects the code of the West - that a handshake is sufficient in settling an agreement honorably.
An Arizona resident since her early childhood, Fellows said she was "one of those kids who loved to draw. I drew everything in sight," she said from her Saddle Up studio.
But, it was not until her husband's grandfather came for a visit that she took her talent seriously.
"He opened the door for me," Fellows said, when he told her, "You're a good little painter." That was 24 years ago, and, acting on his word, she started taking classes and hasn't put her brush down since.
Her favorite subjects are horses, working cowboys and cattle.
The new 112-page hardbound book brings to life 36 images that illustrate the cowboy poets' poems.
During the two and a half years that Fellows worked on her book, she submitted two to four of her paintings to cowboy poets across the country, asking them to present poems written specifically for her paintings. As the poems came back to her, Fellows picked the poem and poet she felt told the story of her art and represented "the cowboy way."
Her goals, she said, was "to portray what life was like for the American cowboy of yesterday - a lifestyle of days gone by that can't be preserved as it was, yet one that I can share, symbolized through my art and that of the poetry contained in this book. Paintings and poetry heighten the impact of each other."
Fellows said she did not give cowboy poets titles of her images that she sent them.
"I wanted them to look at the image and come up with a poem that reflected what they saw as a story."
Fellows then chose the poems that best fit the images she had painted.
The book, Fellows said, is "a partnership between me and the poets."
Fellows will be available before and after each evening performance of the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. in the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center. Cowboy poets will recite their poems in venues on the college campus from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
For a complete schedule of the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, visit azcowboypoets.org.