I sat idly at my easel in our spare bedroom. Outside my window, the moon shone bright, illuminating the massive heaves of rock resting against the foothills of the Rockies. The Flatirons have always inspired me but offered no answers this night. What to paint. What to paint. What to paint. Silence.Read More
For most folks, we have stories like this that define us. Some are joyous, some are tragic, but they all provide a shortcut to get at the heart of our identity. We use them to try and illustrate who we truly are underneath it all because those stories somehow transformed us, however slightly.Read More
As the crowd mingled, taking in the three newest exhibits at the Yuma Art Center, a tall, lanky cowboy strolled into the gallery. My latest series, Tall Tales, was making its debut and one of the four characters, Slim Pickens, was now being embodied in the flesh by this lanky fella' making his rounds at the opening night reception.Read More
The Jobs of Yesteryear Series have been coursing through my creative veins for nearly seven years. My brother-in-law recently reminisced about seeing an innocuous post-it note with the words "Jobs of Yesteryear" stuck among the myriad of half-baked ideas adorning my desk back in 2010. Since then, I've completed almost 50 paintings depicting obsolete jobs from the past and collected innumerable tidbits of history in the process. This idea, to learn about how the life of the worker has changed throughout modern time and explore the stories I find with my art, has become an integral part of my identity as an artist. The Jobs of Yesteryear allowed me to take the leap of faith and quit my job to pursue this idea full-time. It has fed my family of four and allowed us the freedom to roam this great planet of ours.
And now, The Jobs of Yesteryear have evolved.
In my research of the history of the worker, I often come across occupations that are historic and intriguing, but that don't quite fit the bill of being an "obsolete" job. For example, firefighting has changed a lot since the Romans organized the first bucket brigade back in 300 BC. The Ancient Egyptians invented the first water pump a century later and this evolution has continued down the halls of history for two millennia, connecting those first Roman bucket slingers to the brave men and women who respond to all sorts of calls these days. It's quite the story.
And up until this year, the history of the firefighter wouldn't fit in with the obsolete Jobs of Yesteryear, since it is a job that still exists. However, I've made the decision that stories like that of the firefighter are too important to not include in my survey of the history of the worker. Thus, I've expanded The Jobs of Yesteryear to now include jobs that aren't necessarily obsolete, but that have a rich history and have changed dramatically throughout time.
One of the very first paintings exploring this new territory is The Firemen, which was commissioned by a lovely family in Michigan with firefighting in their blood. This piece, which includes an uncharacteristic splash of red, is one my favorites and I am excited to announce that I will be offering prints of The Firemen on our 2017 Art Adventure. I will have a whole slate of new prints and original mixed media paintings coming to an art festival near you, starting in Tucson and Tempe the next two weekends. For the full schedule, check out my calendar, which will continue to fill up in the coming months.
I'm grateful that I've found The Jobs of Yesteryear and I will continue to explore this intriguing subject through my art. If you have any ideas for historic occupations that I haven't painted, give me a shout. And thank you always for supporting for my art. Stay tuned...
2016 was weird and hard and wonderful and triumphant. But my favorite year is always the one on the horizon...Read More
I breathed out the sadness and the stress of the flood onto the paper. The irony that I was using water, the element that caused us so much hardship, to create something new, was not lost on me.Read More
Back in 2011, I created The Lamplighter, the very first painting in The Jobs of Yesteryear series (I've painted 50+ since) and the most popular image I've ever made by a long shot. Since that first Lamplighter, I've painted two other versions, both of which were very different portrayals. But I had yet to revisit the original composition. It has been my golden calf and I've always thought that creating a new version would just lead to disappointment because it wouldn't live up to the original creation.
Then Clyfford Still stepped in.Read More
...we've decided to make our family a party of four and have realized that our cute little cheese curd on wheels just won't cut it anymore. So alas, this is perhaps our last summer living the Scamp life and I thought I would take this chance to tell of our highlights so far.Read More
My relentless months in the studio had culminated to this moment and I took the time to let it all soak in. I felt like I could finally breathe and boy did that gallery air taste good.Read More
On April 6 at 8:46am, I put our newest steed, a sharp 2011 Chevy Express 2500 into drive and eased out of our parking spot. Our little 13' Scamp was in tow and this was the first mile of nearly 20,000 that my wife, son and I will drive on our Art Adventure 2016.Read More
Last June, under the towering oaks of Salina, Kansas, I talked with some nice folks about my art. A young woman casually walked by my tent, pausing to grab one of my business cards, and continued on before I had a chance to say hello (something I try to do to every person who visits my display). This happens thousands of times during the course of an art fair season, but, little did I know, this seemingly insignificant event would forever alter my path as an artist.
The woman's name is Lindsay Benacka and she is the Artistic Director at CityArts, a sprawling visual arts and cultural facility in the heart of Wichita, Kansas. Lindsay later wrote me an email to offer what I thought would take years to acquire: a solo exhibition in their main gallery space.
Fast forward nine months and I'm currently painting like a madman, churning out up to three paintings a week, as I prepare for a giant leap in my career. In November, we were lucky enough to discover a quaint house for rent on the outskirts of Fort Collins, Colorado for the months of January and February, and we've settled in nicely here to life off the road. As an added bonus, the woman is an author (whose book, Wild Mama, I highly recommend) and has a lovely little writer's studio in which I could create. I affectionately call it The Shed (The Scamp sits nearby awaiting its next departure in April).
My solo exhibition will run from April 29-May 21, 2016 and my work will fill all 1600 square feet of CityArt's main gallery. It is a chance to show the world what I can create, to excite the public with stories from our past, and to paint like I've never painted before. It is, by far, the biggest undertaking of my budding career as an artist.
When this opportunity plopped itself in my path, I knew that it was also a chance to experiment a bit and reimagine the way I depict The Jobs of Yesteryear. Last Fall, as my wife and I perused the amazing galleries of Santa Fe while pushing our sleeping toddler around in the stroller, it dawned on me: many artists I admire paint on wood panels. Why can't I do that? Wait, I can do that.
Previously I had always painted on canvas, since that seemed like the popular choice among artists. Painting on wood panel offers a smoother surface and a more solid material to affix my long-limbed and collaged workers. I also thought of the added depth I could achieve through letting some of the wood grain show through in the finished painting. This adds a nice layer of subdued color as I can use different stains on the wood to change the overall feel of the painting. It was the exact epiphany I was waiting for.
Never in my life have I created art full time. I've always tucked painting into the weekends and late nights, longing for a time when my art could be my main focus. Well, my dream has been a reality these past two months and I'm absolutely electrified by what I've been able to manifest. As of writing this, I've finished 18 new paintings and hope to have over 30 by the time my solo exhibition rolls around in April.
It's a very exciting time in this artist's life and I appreciate you taking the time to share it. Follow my progress on your social media of choice, and check out the facebook event for my exhibition here.
Wow, what a year it's been! My wife, son and I have been very blessed with our new life on the open road getting the word out about my art and peddling our collective wares. We've had our triumphs and our failures; we've had our dreams come true and our hopes dashed; but most of all, we've found that this new life suits us well and we are more excited than ever to see what's next for this humble trio.
As with any new experience, I feel that the key to learning the most from it is to pause and reflect from time to time. Being the end of the year and seven months into my new life as a full-time artist, I thought I would take a moment and share what I've learned so far from my family's adventure in art.
[ O N E ] Grit & Discipline
Painting is a lot of fun when your creative tank is full and you've got a pocketful of fresh, exciting ideas and a good night's sleep. Painting is not as fun when you're tired and unmotivated from being on the road for 9 hours the day before and that looming commission deadline is creeping closer by the minute. The majority of artists who I've talked to that are making this artist life work hold themselves accountable to be productive every single day, no matter how full their tank is. Being a successful artist takes grit and discipline and I admire those artists who've stuck with it through the easy days and the rough.
[ T W O ] Find Common Ground
From my experiences on the road (all 15,000 glorious miles of it) I've learned that we are all more alike than we are different. At festivals I set up my booth and talk to nearly every single person that wanders in, mostly about art, but often times our conversations go beyond that. My Jobs of Yesteryear series stirs up memories of grandparents, history, technology, how far we've come and so much more. The folks I meet don't always strike me as people that I would easily connect with, but I've found that it's not too hard to find common ground as long as you speak from the heart, listen attentively, and keep an open mind. One example is Doris (pictured below) who I met in Salina, Kansas. She took one look at The Ice Cutter and told me a comical story about her three year-old sister getting her tongue stuck to the ice chest when she was little. Like Doris, the vast majority of people are good-natured and would rather share a laugh with you than anything else.
[ T H R E E ] Trust the Path
There hasn't been a clear path down this road as an artist and I don't expect the fog to lift anytime soon. I've learned to trust the path I'm on and trust my gut (and brilliant wife) when it comes to decision making. I do my best not worry too much about the future, which helps me be present and enjoy every breath God blesses me with. Sure, there have been times when the bank account is dwindling and we're not selling as much as we'd hoped, but then, just at the right moment, an email will show up about someone interested in an original painting or we'll have an incredible show the next weekend. I've learned time and time again to trust the path because it'll all work out somehow.
[ F O U R ] Be Bold
I've learned to put myself out there and make mistakes. I try not to play it safe with my art and I do my best to continually push the boundaries of my abilities. This often takes the form of an uncomfortable feeling when it's time to tackle a challenging part of a painting. When I was painting The Reinsman, I was dreading painting the carriage and horses. I knew that they would be the focal point of the painting and challenging to depict. The only reason I had to not paint them was because I was afraid to fail. I've learned to choke that feeling down and just go for it. Paint hard. Be Bold. Throw caution to the wind.
[ F I V E ] Accept & Give Generosity
Life is too hard to try to do it all yourself. I've learned to accept generosity from others, to compliment strangers (even if it's a bit uncomfortable) and take time to pay it forward when the opportunity arises. Back in July, we were on a long stretch of road, traveling from Michigan to Washington in four long days. We had just hit Wyoming when the "Check Engine" light came on. "Uh-oh", I thought, as I exited the interstate to the nearest parts store. After checking the cause of the light being triggered, I talked over options with the store clerk. Lo and behold, the fella in line behind me was a mechanic with 20 years experience and he happily helped me fix the vehicle right there in the parking lot. Afterwards, he refused to take anything for his services other than a handshake. I always think of that man when I'm given the opportunity to help someone else out and be kind.
[ S I X ] Slooowww Dowwwnnn
There are always a million things to do and it's easy to sink into the mindset that you need to figure them all out right this instant. Even typing that sentence got my heart racing. I've learned the value of slooowwwwiiinngg dowwwnnnnn and enjoying the little gifts given to us each and every day. The most common form of this lesson from our life on the road is the frequent breaks we need to take so that our two year-old Ivan (and his parents) can retain a level of sanity during long days of travel. We've discovered some neat little gems along the way, simply because we took the time to seek them out and fought the urge to get to the next destination ASAP. The Pony Express station in Gothenburg, Nebraska, the amazing Ice House Museum in Cedar Falls, Iowa and the world-class smoked meats of the Konop Meat Market in northern Wisconsin would have all been missed, had we not slowed down and enjoyed the sights along the way during our journey.
[ S E V E N ] Celebrate the Small Victories
As we forge ahead on this new trail, my wife and I often take a moment and celebrate how far we've come. Five years ago, we did our first art fair in Estes Park, Colorado using a rickety green (green?!) tent and chains to hang the art on. It was a meager first effort but it was a place to start. Since then, we've experienced thousands of little victories that have led to where we currently are. We've learned to take the time and celebrate those little triumphs before pushing them aside and starting to work on the next task. We've had many brews to celebrate selling an original painting or having a successful fair or just finishing a long, stressful drive, and it's this practice that helps us cultivate gratitude and a sense of accomplishment about the new life we've created.
Thank you so much for supporting our adventures in art. Stay tuned for more big moves being made by this little art family in 2016. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you and yours from the Voorhees crew.
Tyler, Ashley, and Ivan
As an artist, I am particularly invested in inspiration. It is the fuel that feeds my productive fire, the food that fills my creative belly and the spark that ignites my passion to paint. To continue to grow as an artist, I must keep my tank of inspiration full so that I can always push the boundaries of my abilities without running out of gas or ideas. I fill this by visiting museums and galleries, following my favorite artists on Instagram or perusing my fellow artists' tents at art festivals.
With the festival season drawing to a close, I thought I would share a list of seven artists, both past and present, that have been big sources of inspiration for me.Read More
I create my characters from hundreds of hand-torn collaged bits of kraft paper. I do this not only to make them "pop" off of the canvas but also because I want the job to be the focal point. The main reason that I created The Jobs of Yesteryear was to preserve the stories of these forgotten occupations. Collaging the figure out of paper drives that story home more effectively and leaves a lasting impression.Read More
A large portion of our comfort on the road comes from the amazing cheese curd-shaped vessel we purchased last November and affectionately call The Scamp. The Scamp serves as our new home, office, my studio and Ivan's mobile play fort. It is a wonderful little egg and I thought I would give you glimpse into this captivating compact camper.Read More
One month, four art fairs and 2,000 miles into our art adventure and I feel alive. Our new life as "art carnies" has been eye opening, energizing and not without excitement.Read More
My life as a full-time artist will begin June 2, the day I bid a fond farewell to my extraordinary compadres at Friends' School, where I have taught second and third grade for the past two years. Me and my little family are going to put our belongings into storage and for an undetermined amount of time, we are going to hit the road with our 13' Scamp in tow. What lies on the horizon is relatively unknown and this looming abyss is both enthralling and frightening.Read More