Step by Step: The Making of a Stunning Leland Christensen Tribute Portrait
The untimely death of Wyoming's Leland Christensen struck far too close for those across the state of Wyoming who knew him.
So much so that Wyoming artist Tim Mandese was commissioned by one of Leland's friends, state senator Ogdon Driskill of Crook County and Devil's Tower fame, to draw a portrait.
Further below you can see the progression of the portrait.
Of his friend Leland, Senator Driskill Writes:
Senator Christensen and I went into the Senate together in 2011 and became fast friends.
The sketch came from a group picture at the National Finals Rodeo this year. I believe it was one of the last times he was out. He and his son Hunter went with my wife Zannie and I.
I think in the 12 years we have known each other -we only missed one NFR. He was one of the most influential leaders I have ever been around.
He had a presence like no other I have ever seen. An infectious sense of humor and wit connected with a deep intellect made him an amazing individual. Has well rounded in many arenas,
With careers in Law Enforcement, Special Forces in the military, hunting, outdoorsman on other areas, he was an expert with common sense in a broad range of areas.
Never met a stranger and he and I were known to challenge each other on who we could approach and meet. From Governors to rodeo performers, he always made new friend. He quickly became a leader in the senate and trained many of the fine skills of legislating.
Leland Christensen was a Teton County commissioner from 2005 to 2011, and before that worked in law enforcement for 20 years with the Teton County and Lincoln County sheriff’s offices. The Wyoming native served 15 years with the 19th Special Forces Airborne Army and the National Guard.
In 2011, Christensen began an eight-year stint as a Republican state senator in the Wyoming Legislature. In 2019, Gordon appointed him to the post of deputy director of Homeland Security, and in 2021, he began working for U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis as her state director.
Progression Of The Portrait of Leland Christensen
Tim Mandese is a recipient of multiple awards for his drawings. Since moving to Wyoming his artwork has included scenes of the state that he now calls home which hangs in fine dining restaurants and doctors' offices as well as people's homes.
He is also a photographer with works displayed around the state. Many of these photos have been used in news articles for Wyoming news publications like Townsquare Media, local newspapers, and Cowboy State Daily. Mandese also writes a food column for Cowboy State Daily.
Senator Driskill had also commissioned Tim to draw a photo that sat on Governor Gordon's desk of the governor's father in a rodeo scene. Governor Gordon now has that drawing.
According to Tim, the eyes are the hardest. Once he has them done he can breathe a little easier.
Tim's work schedule is erratic. He'll turn on the television or some music just to keep that side of his brain occupied, then sit and draw for hours.
Sleep happens when he reaches a point where he can't focus anymore. Even then sleep comes at strange hours. He'll draw through the night, sleep most of the morning, then get up and draw most of the afternoon.
The only way to get the drawing done is to push through all at once until the end.
Once the face is done it's time to make the photo stand out from the page. A lot of work goes into making something flat look 3D. That includes drawing something in on the background, even if that's just shading.
If you're thinking you could never learn to draw like this, Tim would tell you that you're wrong. He also teaches his own techniques.
Don't think of this as one picture that needs to be tackled. His method is almost scientific. Tim takes the photo he is given section by section until he has filled every part of the grid he laid out across the photograph.
More than anything it takes a lot of patience.
After this portrait, Tim Mandese will draw almost anything anyone commissions him to draw or anything that inspires him.
Wyoming will miss Leland Christensen.
His friends are still paying tribute to him with things like this drawing.