Community museums, historians, writers, and educators across the country are dedicated to preserving the heritage of an industry that shaped and defined the 20th century. Oilfield artists have been important recorders and interpreters of petroleum’s influence in the United States.
Museum adds enlarged “Derricks After the Rain” Print by JoAnn Cowans to Permanent Collection
California artist JoAnn Cowans’ first “specialty enlargement” giclée reproduction of her “Derricks After the Rain” is a recent acquisition to the permanent collection of the Brea Museum & Historical Society in Brea. The special print, 75 inches tall and 56 inches wide, was donated to the museum by Jeffrey Cooper of Cooper and Brain Inc., a family owned oil company in Brea.
At an August 2019 event honoring his company’s donation, Cooper accepted a plaque engraved to Cooper and Brain Inc. featuring a small giclée print of the same painting. Cooper also serves on the board of directors of the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA).
Cowans, an internationally known artist-historian, says she is now specializing in the custom, over-sized prints. The available images, which include much of her other work, “are available nationally and may be released internationally in the future,” she adds.
According to Brea Museum Curator Linda Shay, “The canvas of ‘Derricks after the Rain’ is amazing. The board was blown over, they each had to go right up to it and prove it was not an oil painting. It is phenomenal. Again JoAnn, thank you for all your efforts.”
In 2007, Cowans received the Petroleum History Institute’s prestigious Keeper of the Flame award – the only artist ever to have won the award. The super-sized version “Derricks After the Rain” is the first she has done as part of a new THINK BIG! promotion of her collection – and a perfect focal point for the Brea Museum.
Black Gold, the Artwork of JoAnn Cowans
JoAnn Cowans, among the earliest California advocates of the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, has donated artwork to the society’s energy education events – and to several community petroleum museums.
By painting derricks in the 1960s, Cowans documented a history when few if any of her generation thought to do so. According to the magazine American Art Review, “Few artists, however, were devoted to the subject of the oil industry in the 1960s. Stylistically, artists were interested in the modernist concerns of abstraction and expression, rather than documentation or narrative.”
Award-winning oil patch preservationist, historian, and painter Cowans is among them – and one of the most dedicated. In recognition of the 2009 150th anniversary of America’s first oil discovery, the talented California painter (many of her works are in corporate, private and museum collections) published a “gallery edition coffee table book.”
Black Gold, the Artwork of JoAnn Cowans includes 42 paintings. Visit her Black Gold Prints website. With her canvas, paints and easel (and later, a hard hat), Cowans captured for posterity an important part of what is today the nation’s third largest oil producing state. One-hundred years earlier, in the 1860s, the first oil derricks began appearing in California. Oil was so plentiful here that seeps bubbled up out of the ground. Learn more in First California Oil Well and Discovering the La Brea Tar Pits.
Edward Doheny drilled a well into the Los Angeles oilfield in 1892. Within five years, the number of wells increased to 500. produced four million barrels of oil in 1900. By 1910, California produced 77 million barrels of oil.
In Venice, the Ohio Oil Company brought in a wildcat well on December 18, 1929, on county property just east of the city’s Grand Canal. This is where Cowans painted.
JoAnn’s collection includes stories about California oilfields of the 1960s and other more recent of paintings: Black Gold, the Artwork of JoAnn Cowans.
“Once seen, the depth and significance of her work becomes clear,” notes her publisher. “Her place in plain air painting and her own unique view helps us see the majesty of the oil tower.”
California Artist seeks Home for “Oil and Guts” Oilfield Mural
Artist Barbara Fritsche began painting “Oil and Guts” at the end of 2007 – just when the fictionalized movie “There Will Be Blood” was hitting theaters, she says. Meeting with roughnecks provided her a petroleum industry education.
Fritsche adds that her her 48-foot by 12-foot oil on canvas board mural, which originated as a commission for an independent oilman, took a year and a half to complete. Today, this original work of oilfield art is looking for a home in a museum, corporate headquarters, or other appropriate location.
“My drawings and the landscape in my painting resemble the Buena Vista oilfields, as stated by roughnecks that offered their nods of appreciation,” she explains.
“My concept for ‘Oil and Guts’ – a slice of time in the oil business, using a narrative, acknowledging the blue collar appeal and respect of the environment surrounded by a biblical sunset, famous in this area,” says the artist.
“An old Roughneck remembers the roughnecks that have passed on, depicted by workers drawn in chalk, then to the past, depicted by wooden platforms, archaic equipment – wooden platforms changed to metal – then to the present times, depicted by metal platforms and modern day workers,” she adds.
“In addition to the story, the mountains are sculpted with figures – surrealism – referencing fossil fuels,” Fritsche concludes. “Without people there would be no need for oil.”
Fritsche, whose studio is in Los Angeles, is contacting news media, petroleum companies and museums seeking a purchaser of her epic oil patch mural. Contact Barbara Fritsche at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Barbara Fritsche website.
Canadian Author Joyce Hunt tells the History of Alberta’s Massive Energy Resource: Oil Sands
After years of research and interviews, Joyce Hunt of Calgary, Canada, in 2012 published her 400-page illustrated book, “Local Push – Global Pull” is a documented history of Canada’s Oil Sands from 1900 to 1930.
“If the Oil Sands have been a curiosity to you and you want to fully understand and appreciate the events that shaped the development of the Oil Sands industry in Alberta, this book is a must read,” notes a February 2012 review. “In order to have an educated opinion about the Oil sands, one must first understand the history that led to the development of this massive resource.”
While the time period Hunt focuses on is quite different from the significant growth of today’s oil sands projects, there are common threads. “The major issues 100 years ago were not that different from the major issues the big players face today,” Hunt says.
“It is expected that the history of the petroleum industry will again repeat itself and that the higher crude oil prices now prevailing will stimulate production and bring into existence new sources of supply which will ultimately overtake the increasing consumption,” notes a 1920 article in Imperial Oil Review (Canada).
The high price did indeed stimulate exploration throughout the world, and Alberta, Canada, was no exception, says Hunt, who explains the role of technologies, economics, regulations, war and energy demand has shaped this energy resource.
“This economic environment provided the global pull that furthered the local push for ways to develop the Athabasca tar-sands. The deposits had been the subject of examination by curiosity seekers, investigation by government officials, attempted exploitation by promoters, as well as analysis by scientists,” Joyce explains.
“These deposits, unlike conventional petroleum sources, were visible, and well known throughout the petroleum industry, although they were still misunderstood,” she adds. “While many recognized the potential value of the deposits and pushed to develop them, others struggled with suitable terms to describe them, where as some searched for an explanation of their origin.”
Jack Westbrook chronicles 35 year history of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund
In 1976, Michigan became the first state in the nation to earmark state revenue generated through mineral, including oil and gas, activity for acquisition and improvement of environmentally sensitive and/or public recreation lands.
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) was created by the Kammer Recreational Land Trust Fund Act, signed by Governor William G. Milliken on July 23, 1976.
Through 2010, the Fund has awarded 1,601 MNRTF project grants either active or closed (completed) in each of Michigan’s 83 counties totaling more than $816.6 million.
From the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula to a harbor park in downtown Detroit, more than 1,600 public recreation facilities from rail trails to parks to fishing piers statewide have benefited from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, born of a unique alliance of government, environmental groups and the Michigan oil and gas industry in the mid-1970s serving as a solution to a seeming impasse.
Michigan has produced over 1.25 billion barrels of oil and more than seven trillion feet of natural gas since the discovery of the Saginaw Field in August, 1925.
Now the history of the MNRTF has been brought to life by a new book from retired Michigan Oil & Gas News magazine Managing Editor Jack R. Westbrook, who covered the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund “from embryo to adulthood.”
In his Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35 year Michigan investment heritage in Michigan’s public recreation future, Westbrook takes the reader on a tour of the places to play in Michigan’s great outdoors made possible by this historic Fund, listing the projects in each county with general, and oil and gas, histories of their county home venues.
The 222 page soft-cover book, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011, published by Jack R. Westbrook. Contact him at (989) 773-5741.
The Natural Gas Industry In Appalachia
In March 2011, David Waples announced McFarland Publishing had published a second edition of his The Natural Gas Industry In Appalachia – in order to incorporate information about the Marcellus Shale natural gas production now ongoing in the region.
“For those of you familiar with my book, if you know of any area, technology, incident, persons, issues that you noticed not explored in the piece, I would appreciate it if you could let me know,” David notes. Contact him at email@example.com.
The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia explores the evolution and significance of the natural gas industry. Early chapters discuss the first natural gas discoveries in the 1800s, the way in which entrepreneurs used the fuel, and the displacement of the manufactured gas industry.
The practical uses of natural gas were introduced by innovators Joseph Pew and George Westinghouse for the steel and glass industries in Pittsburgh. Today, gas is a prevalent part of American markets, filling the critical void left by a lack of new coal, oil, and nuclear power. This vital American enterprise, however, began in the Appalachian states as an unwanted or underestimated byproduct of the oil rush of 1859.
Later chapters discuss the growth of the Appalachian drilling industry, the first wooden and metal pipelines, the development of gas compressor engines, the pioneering of gas storage fields, and the genesis of gas marketing for lighting, heating, cooking, and industrial use. The final chapter describes the growth of the Appalachian natural gas industry since its major source of supply shifted from local wells in the 1950s to new discoveries in the southwestern United States and the Gulf of Mexico.
Fueling America: An Insider’s Journey by Jack Kerfoot
“Fossil fuel was the life blood of the industrial revolution. Initially, coal was king as it fueled steam engines that revolutionized agriculture, manufacturing and the railroads,” notes an Oklahoma geophysicist and author. “Oil surpassed coal in the 1900s with the development of the internal combustion engine, which revolutionized transportation.”
After spending over 20 years working in the energy industry overseas, Kerfoot in August 2018 published Fueling America, which in 244 pages discusses, “our global energy conundrum of finding reliable, sustainable, reliable energy that won’t harm our environment.”
Originally from Tulsa, Kerfoot received a bachelor of science degree in geophysics from the University of Oklahoma. He spent more than four decades in the energy industry, including working for multi-national companies Mobil and Conoco, and independents like Forest Oil, Apache, and Murphy Oil. He today operates a consulting company, J.L. Kerfoot Energy Services, LLC.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.org energy education website with a donation today. For membership information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.