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Cowboy Artist Gets Paid to Do What He Loves

Work is fun for a cowboy who has allowed his God-given talents and abilities to determine his occupation.

"I feel like I haven't worked a day in my life," says Albertan Ben Crane. The comment may seem contradictory when one realizes that in a given year Crane, 40, performs at concerts, cowboy poetry gatherings at corporate functions, shows his artwork, draws cartoons for Leanin' Tree greeting cards (one of only two Canadians to do so), does art commissions, produces CDs, and is husband to Sharmon and dad to their daughters, ages seven and nine. Crane goes on to elaborate: "I'm working with the talents the Lord has given me and making an income out of it."

Ben Crane

He was born in Three Hills where his parents were on staff at Prairie Bible Institute. Of his family, Crane says, "I come from a family that was very serious about its relationship with Christ." He accepted Christ as a six-year-old ("My mother led me to the Lord") and went through the succession of schools at Prairie: grade school, high school and Bible school. While in high school and for about ten years afterwards, he worked as an illustrator in the graphic arts department.

Given all that he has to do how does Ben Crane prioritize his activities? For a long time, Crane chose art over music because "Family is a high priority to me, and I knew that if I chose music, I wouldn't be able tot, with a clear conscience, get married and have a family, because a musician is always on the road." However, of late the balance between the two is close to 50/50. It's easier now, because they have started home-schooling their daughters, and the whole family can sometimes come along to the gigs. Also, as Crane puts it, "I have a phenomenal wife who understands the passion that art and music have for me."

Humour is also a quality that is important to Crane. He says, "I'm convinced that life is a whole lot easier when you learn how to laugh at it." This comes over in his performances and in his art, both of which contain a lot of humorous elements.

Crane generally travels in two circles. The first is the cowboy poetry gatherings—and if you envision these as staid and dull, think again: the poetry is usually rhyming, down-to-earth and very humorous. The gatherings usually have a lot of western music as well. There are a number of them held every year: in Kamloops, B.C., Vernon B.C., Pincher Creek, Alta. and Maple Creek, Sask., to mention a few.

He does not make a secret of his Christianity, and was instrumental in "cowboy church" being held as a part of the gatherings. He says of these, "We don't come in mouth-first at those places. It's always been a relationship type of event, and several people have come to the Lord—poets and performers—who made serious commitments." In Crane's other circle, that of cowboy cartoonists (Leanin' Tree), he says "They know where I stand, yet I've never felt free to start preaching at them." He feels that the way for him there is to live Christ and to answer questions when people ask—which does happen. He also seeks to be a spiritual encouragement to other Christians he may come across in the course of his work.

His goals? "To show people that you can laugh and be a Christian, to continue to do what I love and love what I do, and, along with my wife, to train up my kids and help them find the things their hearts are asking for and go for it with everything they've got."

Originally published in Faith Today, July/August 2003.




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