SEPTEMBER 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY November. Turns out the hardest part was waiting until Christmas to show her father the thing. “I was so shocked and stunned at how gorgeous it was … I couldn’t stand it; I couldn’t wait till Christmas; I had to show it to him!” she said. So she unveiled it at a fundraiser the sheriff had at the Split Rail Links and Golf Club. And Sheriff Fowler’s jaw dropped. “I’ve never seen my dad speechless before. And Rylie was the toast of the event that night.” The young artist referred to the longhorn skull he created for the sheriff over a six-month period as his “pride and joy.” As of this writing, two years in, Rylie has sold a dozen skulls out of the 25 or so he’s made. Not bad considering a piece takes an average of three to four months to complete. Of course each work of art begins with a skull, generally one with only the hide removed, i.e., the flesh is still on the bone. Skulls are not an inexpensive medium. Rylie said they cost between $350-$400 apiece. If you want one already cleaned with the horns polished and clear-coated you’re looking at $800-$900. So Rylie does the prep work himself, boiling the skull to remove the meat then bleaching it for sanitation and whitening purposes. After the skull has cured in the sun a couple of days it’s ready for art and he sketches his designs on the bone. Then comes the high-pitched whine of the Dremel tool and the smell of burning bone which Rylie likens to the smell at a dentist’s office when teeth are being drilled. While he works a piece everything else falls away and becomes a blur — he’s “in the zone.” He deftly cuts away all that doesn’t fit his vision for the piece, or etches in delicate scroll work. As the accompanying photographs show better than words can tell, the result is aesthetically pleasing. The 52 crisp cuts in to the horn-crowned bone pop against the austere background of the medium, evoking an Old West air. Not surprisingly, ranches often commission a piece displaying their brand front and center. Asked why he chose the longhorn skull as his artistic vehicle, he chuckled and referenced the wellknown South of the Border holiday Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead. One aspect of the annual celebration is the making of sugar skulls, which in Mexico dates back to the 18th century. “I’ve always been just fascinated by them,” Rylie said. “And I wondered if instead of painting [the designs] on [a skull] I could just carve them out.” As it turns out, he could, and having been born and bred in Cowtown, he naturally chose the longhorn skull. A variety of animal skulls are used for carving. These days the 2012 Trinity Christian Academy graduate is hopeful. He has plans, and they include carving beauty in to skulls, but his art plays only a part. “My plan is to continue to better myself and to, hopefully, go back to school,” he said. “I’d like to go in to marketing, doing some event planning and coordinating. I’ll continue doing my skulls definitely. It is my art and something that I love, but I don’t want it to be my full-time work.” Rylie seems to be poised for good things. Word of his art is spreading online and by word of mouth and he loves his day job. He may have had a little trouble finding his “bootstraps,” but now that he has a firm grasp on them, he’s busy pulling himself up.