Go West

There’s this little blurb in the Indy today you can check out HERE about this art event happening in Missoula tomorrow called West: A True Romance. You should check it out.


The significance of it is that it is an art show put together by my wife, Julia. It features artists of a bunch of different disciplines all contributing pieces on what their ideas of the West are all about. I’m even doing a mini photography exhibition on, of all things, trailer parks.

The idea came out of Julia’s fashion design habit. When she is constantly making stuff that she thinks people will buy, she gets burned out. It loses its artistic luster. However, when she does periodic shows of fashion as “art” pieces, it keeps it interesting. This is one of those events, and rather than just make it all fashion (as her last one was, a collaboration with a friend of ours they called Order of the Red Antler), she decided to invite a bunch of different artists.

This is a sneak peek of one of the pieces she’s working on, or part of it. It’s a jacket, obviously, which she designed. It is made of brain-tanned buckskin, which she acquired from a friend of ours who does all the skinning and tanning herself. Another Native artist friend provided the beadwork. The rest is canvas (it was originally going to be all buckskin, which was a little cost prohibitive at the time). It looks great, if you ask me. I can’t wait to see the entire thing finished.

jacketSo if you live in Missoula, come out Friday night. It should be pretty cool.


Gratitude Monday

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I got a call from my friend Erika, the Arts Editor at the Independent. She was needing some stories for the issue that ran just this past week (the Indy is our local independent paper that publishes every Thursday), and gave me a choice of one of several options to run with. I decided to take a stab at a piece on an artist from Wyoming named Patrick Kikut who would be having an art opening at a local gallery this past Friday. The main reason I chose it is that I haven’t done anything on visual art before, and it seemed a challenge and an opportunity to explore an area I’m not overly familiar with.

That piece ran, as I said, this past Thursday. You can read it online; it’s short, and there isn’t anything particularly special about it, nor is it necessarily my best work. But I like it anyway. Here’s why.

I’m very grateful for the place I am artistically these days. An opportunity like this with the Indy allows me to interact with people I may not otherwise. I’m not sure I “get” modern visual art very often, but Patrick sent me an email after the story ran and thanked me profusely for it. As did the gallery owner. That almost never happens, and it kind of touched me. Patrick had driven up from Laramie, WY, to install his art and be on hand for the opening. It was terrible weather — the coldest we’ve had in some time — but Missoulians were still out in, if not force, at least decent numbers. I braved a stiff wind that had to have the temperatures well into the double-digits below zero to cross the Higgins bridge afoot and see his work. I introduced myself and Patrick and I had an excellent conversation about everything from road trips, the nature of creativity, and the role criticism plays in shaping us as artists and thinkers.

I feel like I’m pretty lucky to have the opportunity to interact with so many interesting, talented people. I do my best to not lose sight of that, though it’s easy to get self-absorbed and forget when things don’t seem to be going too well with my own work. If I ever seem to be sliding in that direction, don’t be shy about kicking my ass back in line via the comments section. I’m counting on you people. . . .


Creative People Being Creative

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 9.34.09 PMA couple things guaranteed to get me stoked are travel and art that I can connect with. When the two are combined, I become damn near giddy with enthusiasm. Recently this site called Drawn the Road Again was brought to my attention (I honestly don’t remember where or how). It’s the ongoing project of an artist named Chandler O’Leary, and the site, combined with her Instagram feed, has become one of my favorite things on the internet. Here’s the story from her website:

My name is Chandler O’Leary. I live in Washington state with my lovely husband (whom I refer to as “the Tailor” because he makes his own clothes and wishes to remain anonymous) and our tiny stick-shift Subaru sedan. We both love to travel, but I’m the real nut in the family. For one thing, I have lived all over the U.S. and even in Italy—so the urge to wander is deeply ingrained. And I am the one who will choose the squiggliest line on the map, rather than the Interstate highway, every single time. I am the one who gets excited about driving 200 miles out of my way to see a giant concrete prairie dog. I am the one who will add an extra day to our trip to make sure we have enough time to spend at Wall Drug. I also have a thing for jackalopes, I brake for any coffee-pot-shaped building, and I have a bright yellow hat shaped like cartoon Swiss cheese.

I’ve been recording my travels in my sketchbooks for years and years now. One day I realized I had literally hundreds of drawings hidden away, and only a few close friends had ever seen them all. I run a small business as an illustrator and lettering artist, so it’s not like I don’t have a creative outlet. But somehow my travel sketches just didn’t…fit…with the story I had been weaving through my other work. So thanks to some gentle prodding from my friend Mary-Alice, I finally decided it was time to start the next chapter.

I can’t express how much I love her work, which may come as a surprise considering Chandler’s style isn’t exactly Frazetta-esque. I have always imagined myself as becoming a sketch artist, and her work inspires me to want to apply myself to it anew. What I love best about it is how she captures simple moments with her paints, and the places she passes, similar to how I, and so may other people, have taken to using our cell phones and cameras to do the same. Only Chandler’s style is so unique . . . I really love it. I imagine this kind of sketching and painting must connect her to the image in the same way that writing stories and things longhand in a notebook somehow feels like it connects me more directly to the process of making images with words. That might sound like mumbo jumbo, but it does have a different feel from just always clattering stuff out on a keyboard.

I also love Chandler’s enthusiasm for the road. The detours to weird little spots. The willingness to drive a few hours out of the way on a spontaneous whim. That kind of enthusiasm for the open road, art, and for life in general, gets me every time. I’m glad there are people like this out in the world.

Chandler O’Leary isn’t someone I’ve ever met or corresponded with, but I’d like to someday. I’m a big fan. I hope people reading this check out her work.

The Right Tool for the Job
The Right Tool for the Job