When it comes to life experiences, Bird Rock resident Anne Waddell (nee Rubel) has had a wild (and wide-ranging) ride — taking honors in equestrian events, traveling the world as a fashion model, racing sailboats around the Pacific and being the wife of a future U.S. Senator.
Through it all, a paintbrush and canvas have never been far from her side, her realist paintings often mirroring her life pursuits.
In the early 1980s, Waddell met with President Ronald Reagan and was commissioned to paint a portrait of him on his horse, “Little Man,” by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness (then chaired by Waddell’s former father-in-law, legendary NFL coach, George Allen).
The original painting hung in the White House and is today displayed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
“The only thing I could really say to him when I met him was, ‘You’re my hero,’ ” said Waddell, who has resided in south Bird Rock for the past 28 years with current husband, Jim Waddell. “I really liked him. I thought he was an amiable guy and a good politician.”
Waddell’s work can also be found in the private collections of the Scripps and DuPont families, and of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.
Waddell, who has won awards for her equestrian-themed paintings, attended the renowned Orme School of Arizona, a private boarding and preparatory school with extensive equestrian facilities, including 26,000 acres of riding trails. There she learned various rodeo skills, also picking up dressage and English style riding at other points in her youth.
“My father told me to get into racing horses, because people that have racehorses can afford paintings,” said Waddell, who continued to ride while a student at Sweet Briar College, a women’s liberal arts college in Virginia. There, she returned to riding in the more accepted English style.
“She wasn’t real well liked by the other hoity-toity, super-proper ladies there, because she’s walking around in cowboy boots and roping goats,” quipped husband Jim Waddell.
Although she studied art in college, Waddell said she chose to major in economics, “because I thought it would look better on my resume.”
No shrinking violet, she landed her first job — a nearly two-year internship with
magazine in Washington, D.C. — by walking up to the editor and asking for work when he visited the Sweet Briar campus.
After several years as the employee of a defense contractor, Waddell took her parents advice and moved to England to pursue a modeling career, landing work around the globe for Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Vogue, residing in Tokyo for a spell.
She returned to the United States when George Allen, Jr. asked her to marry him. Allen, whom she met in college, would later go on to become Governor of Virginia and a U.S. Senator.
After several years, Waddell found the life of a politician’s wife wasn’t for her, and separated from Allen, moving to San Diego to live with her brother on their parents’ yacht, “Shear Terror.”