The Robbery of the Katy Flyer


Here’s an illustration I made for this years Katy Days, a railroad heritage festival that takes place in Parsons, Kansas (a town founded by the MKT – or Katy – railroad) every Memorial weekend. I’ve participated the last few years as a demonstration painter, and I always like to come with a few new train themed pieces.  Most of the time I gear the paintings towards kids but the old railroaders seem to dig them too. Anyways this year I decided a train robbery scene might make for something interesting to look at.  Let me know your thoughts!  

As an aside, I’ve discovered that old railroaders are sticklers for detail.  They can pick out a multitude of anachronisms!  I love it.  I’ve had to tighten up my game!



Here’s some close ups:




9 responses »

  1. Oh, yes. This is such an exciting picture. The whole story is there! I love the colors and composition too, it remends me of Thomas Hart Benton– a lot. I am waiting back to hear if the childrens biography I wrote about THB is being published, so my first thought was to hope someone out there is already calling out for illustrators for that book. I think you hit the historical part really well too. Yes, it would make a great book if you could divide it up into 16 spreads or so 🙂 I’ve been to Parsons many times. I’m glad to know they have some annual events with art. Would you like to make more pictures of this scene so you can get into the facial expressions more on a different scale? They are great faces.

    • Thanks! It’s really cool that you’re making a childrens biography of THB. A while back a friend gave me Thomas Hart Benton by Henry Adams (published by Alfred A Knopf, 1989). I figured I’d just browse the pictures and read some captions…I ended up reading the whole thing cover to cover. That man had a fascinating story, and the local connection (both KC and Neosho) just added to it.

      I realized I wanted to do a bigger detail of the robbers about the time I was painting them in. In this painting I had to keep them interesting with a minimal amount of strokes due to thier size, and I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Happy enough that I wanted to see more of who these guys were. In hindsight I could’ve done that in the same painting with a different perspective, maybe the view would be right in the midst of the guys on the creek bank with the train through the reeds, but I really wanted a “big picture” feel. I might have to explore this “story” more!

      Keep us posted on how the Benton kids book goes!

    • Thank you! I should’ve mentioned that… my medium is acrylic paints and its painted on a 48″x24″ canvas.

  2. This is lovely, John! I also admire and enjoy all of the details, and think the lighting is great. It’s a complex piece, and historical, both of which are of interest to me and a challenge (I think) for artists. Well done! I bet you could make a story out of this!

  3. I like all the details you’ve put in. It’s fun just to look around and see what all the characters are doing. My favorite part is the guy under the bridge, he’s got a great expression! (I think it’s the unibrow that makes it for me.)

    • Thanks! I too like the unibrow. Always nice and menacing! Originally I considered only four horses and putting a badge on the man under the bridge as if the sheriff had snuck up on the gang. Not sure if I like how the characters at the lower right are layed out. If I did it again I would work them a bit differently. Perhaps position them differently and conceal them more with reeds.


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