‘Gunsmoke’: How One Actor Started a Second Career as a Professional Painter

by Matthew Wilson
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“Gunsmoke” may have been a steady income, lasting for 20 years on the air. But one actor found a new career after they parted ways with the show. That’s right, Buck Taylor started a career as a professional painter later in his life.

Taylor, of course, played fan-favorite Newly O’Brien on “Gunsmoke.” He appeared on the show from 1967 to 1975. After starring on the show, Taylor also picked up the pen and brush and took up painting, initially as a hobby. But it quickly transformed into a way for Taylor to supplement his income as well.

In a 2017 interview with Tulsa World, Taylor discussed how he discovered the passion and the types of paintings he created.

“I tell them I was broke,” he said he told people when they ask why he became a painter. “I needed the money. It was another way to supplement my income. I knew I had this talent, and these voices told me, ‘OK, start using it.’ … At the time, I was kind of desperate.”

Buck Taylor, the Painter

Buck Taylor described himself as a watercolor expressionist. He first picked up the craft as a hobby when he was just a child. Creativity must have ran in his family. Because his aunt Fay Taylor was a fashion illustrator. She helped foster his love for painting and art as a kid while his dad inspired him to pick up work as an actor in Westerns.

The two creative outlets became passions for the rest of Taylor’s life.

“I thank God every day when I wake up and several times during the day,” he said. “I have this talent for painting and being able to work in movies. They are similar. They are both creative talents. I create paintings from watercolor, so it’s on paper, and I create characters on the screen, so they are very similar in a way and it’s gratifying, both of them are. But I wake up every day and thank God.”

Taylor told the outlet that he could paint just about anything. But he had his muse as well, and that’s often the sun-drenched prairies of westerns. Taylor honored his cinematic past by turning such locations and characters into portraits. He felt inspired by scenes from films like “Tombstone” and even his own former TV show “Gunsmoke” as well.

Taylor may be one of television’s great cowboys. But he was also a cowboy with a paint brush.

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