Tillman Goodan (1896-1958)

August 30, 2023 3 min read

Born Tillman Parker Goodan in Eaton, Colorado on March 27, 1896, his father was a true western pioneer, mayor of Eaton, publisher of its first newspaper, and County Commissioner for several years.

After moving to California in 1905 and settling on a little farm that bordered the Michel Cattle Ranch, Till spent much of his boyhood with the Michel sons working on their ranch. There he developed his expertise as a calf roper and the skills of a working cowboy.

As a young man Till pursued endeavors that would initially callous his emerging artistic hands. He worked for the famous Miller and Lux Ranch in California. He packed mules and ran pack trains into the Sierra Mountains. He broke horses and competed in local rodeos riding saddle broncs and roping calves. And during the quiet hours he would draw pictures of ranch life and the action of the rodeo. People began commenting on his talents as an artist.

In 1917 he left the rodeo circuit and turned his full attention to a career in art. He studied with Roger Sterrett, William Paxton, and Dana Bartlett, all highly respected California artists. Till soon became a free-lance commercial artist and later assumed a position as Art Director for the Richfield Oil Company. However, his first love was still the art of the old west, horses, cowboys, and ranching. So, he left Richfield and gave his full attention to the field of fine arts.

He did oil painting, water colors and lithographs. He drew the Gene Autry Comic Books. He illustrated and hand lettered a large collection of western stories. In association with W.C. Wentz, he started producing a complete line of western gift wares, ceramics, bronzes, leather, paper, and fabric.

By the 1930’s he was beginning to receive recognition for his western art and by the early 1940s, he and his daughter, Betty, were illustrating comic books for his longtime friend, Gene Autry. Betty was also a world champion cowgirl.

Till Goodan designs appeared in virtually every medium. But, the most famous was the four lines of dinnerware produced by Wallace China. The “Rodeo” pattern was a tremendous success. The wonderful action drawings of Rodeo events surrounded by authentic cattle brands appealed to Westerners of every persuasion. “Rodeo” dinnerware graced the tables of restaurants, hotels, and ranches. Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Bing Crosby owned sets of “Rodeoware”. Today all the dinnerware patterns are prized collectibles.

Till Goodan spent most of his life in California. He established a permanent studio/home in Hollywood and over the years he owned a ranch near the town of Lebec, along with a mountain retreat in the Sierras. He painted the California landscape, but, many of his paintings reflect his love for the Arizona and New Mexico desert. His artwork was always authentic in every detail because he painted what he knew from first hand experience.

On May 24, 1958, while serving as Grand Marshall of the Tulare California Rodeo, he succumbed to a heart attack while sitting on his horse. Serious collectors seek out all of Till Goodan’s work–not just the Westward Ho designed dinnerware lines. Till Goodan was a versatile artist whose love for the rodeo and the west was reflected in all of his work. Western decorated tablecloths, ties, prints, calendars, postcards, and paintings make up the wide variety of collectibles designed by Till Goodan.