Wild Inspiration by Tyler Voorhees

We had begun the hike mid-morning as the dew began to evaporate into mist, which now blanketed the peaks surrounding us. Locals had warned my two brothers and me of the bears along the trail and we did our best to stay noisy as the steep, rugged path climbed its way out of the berry-strewn thicket.

Read More

The Wandering Easels by Ashley Voorhees

Sunlight pokes through the leaves swaying in the warm breeze. I feel the cool of dusk coming on as I dip my brush in an unnamed shade of gray. The depths of the forest beyond my easel beckon me, the still wilderness full of endless adventure and hidden wonders. But instead of venturing I stand, eyes darting between my sketchbook and canvas and the dancing shadows of the woodlands. I am in my happy place and it could be anywhere.

Outdoor studio  |  Sobieski, WI

Outdoor studio  |  Sobieski, WI

Most artists that I know come from humble beginnings. They began their art careers as hapless hobbyists, holding down a mundane job that pays the bills but offers little fulfillment, especially when compared to the thrill of creating art that they keep as their (often) secret pastime. They spend every spare moment in their makeshift "studio", often a rickety table in a spare bedroom or the dinner table once the dishes are cleared. They long for more time, more space, more money so that they can ditch the nine to five and put their artist smock on full-time (it's just an expression, nobody wears smocks). They are well-fed but yet, they are hungry.

I was a once a waiter at a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado called Turley's. The money was good and I'm a people-person so the work was enjoyable enough, but every weekend and many late nights during the week, I would go to our tiny spare bedroom and lose myself in my art. I had set up a mammoth wooden easel given to me by a prep cook who had acquired it when a boss from his second job was clearing out a storage garage. It's heavy, handmade, and perhaps the object I've sat in front of most in my life (a TV with a Nintendo plugged into it coming in at a close second).

Spare bedroom studio  |  Boulder, CO

Spare bedroom studio  |  Boulder, CO

This easel, currently standing idly next to me, has been lugged around to four different Colorado locations and one in Michigan, banging into my shins countless times and always presenting a challenge to my packing process when we move. It has held over a hundred paintings as they evolve from the proverbial "blank canvas" to a completed work of art. It has had paint hurled at it, been gouged, seared, and occasionally cursed at, but it holds firm. My easel is the best kind of friend.

The beginnings of the ORIGINAL Lamplighter and very first Job of Yesteryear in my first Boulder studio  |  Boulder, CO

The beginnings of the ORIGINAL Lamplighter and very first Job of Yesteryear in my first Boulder studio  |  Boulder, CO

The original Ice Cutter in the same Boulder second bedroom studio  |  Boulder, CO

The original Ice Cutter in the same Boulder second bedroom studio  |  Boulder, CO

Ivan's always been my right hand man in the studio  |  Boulder, CO

Ivan's always been my right hand man in the studio  |  Boulder, CO

Garage studio - no heat, ac, or insulation  |  Fort Collins, CO

Garage studio - no heat, ac, or insulation  |  Fort Collins, CO

This companion also has two little brothers: a couple of travel easels that I pack into my traveling artist bin when we hit the road. These two lively little fellas get all the action, bouncing around in the camper as we amble down a gravel road towards hot springs in Wyoming. They get to stand on a picnic table at the foot of the majestic Catalina mountains outside of Tucson as the warm desert sun welcomes the vibrant desert bloom. Or, as I described at the beginning of this essay, they sit with me beneath the towering oak trees on my sister's Wisconsin acreage. I've painted in a dank basement in St. Louis, on a lake in Utah, and in countless spare bedrooms of my relatives. It's not always ideal or efficient to create this way, but I've got to admit, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Munich studio circa 2010  |  Muenchen, Deutschland

Munich studio circa 2010  |  Muenchen, Deutschland

Wooded sand dune studio  |  Grand Haven, MI

Wooded sand dune studio  |  Grand Haven, MI

Putting that travel easel to work  |  Fort Collins, CO

Putting that travel easel to work  |  Fort Collins, CO

Scamp studio  |  Galveston, TX

Scamp studio  |  Galveston, TX

Michigan cottage studio  |  Frankfort, MI

Michigan cottage studio  |  Frankfort, MI

Shed studio  |  Laporte, CO

Shed studio  |  Laporte, CO

Jordanelle Reservoir studio  |  Park City, UT

Jordanelle Reservoir studio  |  Park City, UT

Red Feather Lakes bedroom studio  |  Red Feather Lakes, CO

Red Feather Lakes bedroom studio  |  Red Feather Lakes, CO

Van Buren State Park studio  |  South Haven, MI

Van Buren State Park studio  |  South Haven, MI

Gallery studio  |  Wichita, KS

Gallery studio  |  Wichita, KS

Through hard work, grit, a lot of mistakes and a whole heap of little gifts from God, my wife and I now own a building where I can create art in relative comfort. I have a dedicated space to stain and prepare panels, storage for shipping supplies and finished artwork, room for my drum kit that I bang on from time to time, and most importantly, a spot by two windows (natural light!!!) for my trusty easel. My wife finally has a dedicated office space (blog post on the horizon about ALL that she handles) and we even managed to squeeze in a little gym space for our pursuits in sweat. We feel so blessed and grateful for all that we've been given and looking back, it's been such an adventure to get here.

The unassuming outside of the new studio/office/gym  |  Glenn, MI

The unassuming outside of the new studio/office/gym  |  Glenn, MI

The happenings on the inside  |  Glenn, MI

The happenings on the inside  |  Glenn, MI

Different view  |  Glenn, MI

Different view  |  Glenn, MI

My old trusty friend  |  Glenn, MI

My old trusty friend  |  Glenn, MI

Studio details  |  Glenn, MI

Studio details  |  Glenn, MI

WIndowsill of inspiration  |  Glenn, MI

WIndowsill of inspiration  |  Glenn, MI

Work table  |  Glenn, MI

Work table  |  Glenn, MI

Tools of the trade  |  Glenn, MI

Tools of the trade  |  Glenn, MI

The garage has been filling up with a lot of deliveries lately  |  Glenn, MI

The garage has been filling up with a lot of deliveries lately  |  Glenn, MI

Yes, I've come a long way from hapless hobbyist to full-time smock-wearer and my hope is that my travel easels never get dusty. This family of four has some big travels planned and I appreciate you coming along for the ride.

Stay tuned...

A Pirate and a Pencil by Tyler Voorhees

Every year, every day, every in the studio, I strive to create something new.

I'm not interested in finding a winning formula and riding that horse until it's taken its last breath. I don't want to create an art factory that churns out slight variations of the same old ho-hum art. I seek to grow closer to being my true self, uninhibited and unapologetic.

Read More

Storming the Castle by Tyler Voorhees

This past year has been a foundry, where all of my actions, ideas, and experiences from the past 33 years of life have been shoved into a cauldron, melted down, and forged into something new, something stronger as a composite than as singularities. Weapons were formed from this molten soul-metal and this coming year will be a time to get out in the world and brandish them in beautiful strokes. These are not weapons of mass destruction; rather, they are weapons of mass CREATION.

Read More

Goodbye Colorado, Hello... by Tyler Voorhees

Ashley and I were fresh in love. On a bluebird winter day in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, we had hiked the winding sledding trail to a hut overlooking the Alpine valley, where we enjoyed some Weissbier and sausages. Before pushing off for a thrilling ride down the forested trail on our sleds, I swallowed the butterflies trying to block the words I wanted to say to this beautiful woman and got down on one knee. Moments later, snow was spraying in our faces as we rocketed through the Bavarian pines, a newly engaged couple on yet another escapade together, smiles broader than ever.

Oktoberfest - September 2009 - Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest - September 2009 - Munich, Germany

At the end of our two years living and loving in Germany, we knew that it was time to return to our homeland and start the next chapter in our lifelong adventure. But where to go? After weighing various options and throwing many darts at maps of the US, we decided to head to a state that had charmed us from many angles on our countless excursions there: Colorado.

Seven years ago, we stumbled into Boulder with a pocket full of Euros and head full of possibilities. Since then, we've bounced around various parts of the Front Range of the Rockies, finding our proverbial path and never ceasing to be amazed by the beauty of this region. The people are wonderfully weird, the arts are thriving, and the entrepreneurial spirit is ubiquitous. Simply put, it fits us as snugly as the spandex bodysuits Colorado folks like to wear to brunch.

When we first arrived in Boulder after hopping over the pond. - May 2010 - Boulder, Colorado

When we first arrived in Boulder after hopping over the pond. - May 2010 - Boulder, Colorado

The birth of our first son, Ivan Lee. - April 2013 - Lyons, Colorado

The birth of our first son, Ivan Lee. - April 2013 - Lyons, Colorado

Those views though. - September 2014 - Boulder, Colorado

Those views though. - September 2014 - Boulder, Colorado

Arriving home after our first ten weeks on the road. - August 2015 - Colorado/Wyoming Border

Arriving home after our first ten weeks on the road. - August 2015 - Colorado/Wyoming Border

Broncos fans 4 life. - August 2016 - Denver, Colorado

Broncos fans 4 life. - August 2016 - Denver, Colorado

Hiking Horsetooth - September 2016 - Fort Collins, Colorado

Hiking Horsetooth - September 2016 - Fort Collins, Colorado

The birth of our second son, Orin Jo. - November 2016 - Fort Collins, Colorado

The birth of our second son, Orin Jo. - November 2016 - Fort Collins, Colorado

The boys. - January 2017 - Fort Collins, Colorado

The boys. - January 2017 - Fort Collins, Colorado

But we're moving. It has been a harsh realization to accept but we simply cannot afford to run our business, raise our family, and lead the lives we desire in this Rocky Mountain haven. We've been priced out of Colorado and it stinks. But who can blame all the young professionals flocking to this wonderful state? Who can blame the homeowners selling their modest home for three times what they bought it for ten years ago? Supply and demand. The ebb and flow. We have to go.

As we traversed these United States of America during our art adventures of the past few years, we've always kept an eye out for a new place to build our hive. We loved Arizona and New Mexico, but the location wasn't very central. San Francisco and the West Coast were great, but that wasn't any easier on the pocketbook or the drives to our Midwestern art fairs. We've been charmed by many regions, but none checked all of the boxes for the life we envisioned.

But then we realized that there was one spot that we always came back to, year after year. One place that always felt familiar and inviting. Where property is unbelievably affordable and the region is rife with outdoor enthusiasts, art-centric folks, tasty beer, and juicy blueberries. Where the vineyards thrive in the sandy soil and maple syrup flows like wine. Where the Dutch have built windmills and effigies to their (and our) motherland. Where an ocean of a lake is skirted by sugar-sand beaches and forested dunes. Yes friends, my little family and I are packing up our life and planting our roots in the fertile soils of southwestern Michigan.

From our conversations with close friends and strangers alike, the wonders of Michigan have eluded many. Most folks outside of this region don't know about the incredible natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline and its charming lighthouses. But it's AWESOME here. The people are friendly and the landscape is scenic. Breweries and wineries are abound and you can pick fresh blueberries from the countless farms in the area and enjoy them on the endless beaches lining the coast.

The location is great for us as well. From our little acreage, we will be two hours from Chicago (where more of my paintings live than anywhere else) and closer to all of the Midwestern shows that we frequent. In addition, the East Coast, a market that was always too far away to explore, is now a day's drive away. As an added bonus, there is an awesome little elementary school just down the road where they teach an outdoors-centered curriculum. Booyah!

Lastly, the affordability of the area has allowed us to not only get a house, but also a separate building that will make a perfect studio, a dream that I never thought possible after perusing the Colorado real estate market. With our new workspace, Ashley and I will be able to work efficiently while keeping our personal and business lives separate. More space to work means room for bigger art and my lofty ambitions of creating large, sculptural work now seems more attainable than ever.

While we will have a somber time packing up our Colorado life and saying goodbye to the many fine friends we've made there over the past seven years, we're excited about our new beginnings in the Wolverine State and hope you'll stay tuned for the many artistic moves on the horizon.

From the mountains to the lakes. Goodbye Colorado. Hello Michigan!

Those beach sunsets though. - June 2015 - Grand Haven, Michigan

Those beach sunsets though. - June 2015 - Grand Haven, Michigan

Straight off the bush, so fresh. - July 2016 - Fennville, Michigan

Straight off the bush, so fresh. - July 2016 - Fennville, Michigan

Hiking in the UP to the beaches of Lake Superior. - July 2017 - Yoopee, Michigan

Hiking in the UP to the beaches of Lake Superior. - July 2017 - Yoopee, Michigan

The boys exploring Windmill Island - October 2017 - Holland, Michigan

The boys exploring Windmill Island - October 2017 - Holland, Michigan

Mistake Maker by Tyler Voorhees

Something just didn't look right. Did I get the perspective right? Was his expression on point? Is it something in the background?

None of these internal questions helped me find the "something" that was off, but I knew in my guts that The Gas Jockey II had a problem.

Such is often the case when I'm painting. I always strive to push myself and grow as an artist and the contemporary artists I most look up to are those that continually reinvent themselves and think outside of their comfort zones. (e.g, Michael Reeder, Jenny Morgan, Basik). One vital component of achieving this type of creativity is making mistakes.

To err is human, but it is what that human does with those errs that shows their character. As I continue to explore the history of the worker with The Jobs of Yesteryear, I am continually searching out for new, subtle ways to enhance the visual narrative I'm spinning. One example is changing the surface I paint and collage on from canvas to wood panels, a move that I have been delighted with. Another, more recent change that some of you may have picked up on, is the use of graphite to sketch in some of the details in the background of my work. Both of these moves worked out to great effect, but the sailing isn't always that smooth.

Sketched people in the background of The Elevator Operator.

Sketched people in the background of The Elevator Operator.

And as I put what I thought to be the finishing touches on The Gas Jockey II, that nagging feeling that there was something off continued to well up in my guts. When my own eyes fail to solve a riddle like this, I often turn to my favorite fresh (dare I say inviting) set of peepers; those of my wife/muse/boss, Ashley.

As she gave my latest work a once-over, I stood anxiously by, still wanting to impress this fair maiden after nearly six years of marriage and ten years of chasing her adoration. Her reply was quick and to the point, "What's wrong with his arm?"

AHA! His arm! It made logical sense that the gas station attendant's right arm would hang by his side, similar to the left arm pumping the gas, but the fact that he was wiping the windshield made the posture look awkward and unnatural. His upper arm should be lifted, making it look like he was applying pressure to the rag.

The right arm mistake.

The right arm mistake.

I began work immediately on remedying The Gas Jockey II's arm. Luckily, the mistake was caught quickly enough that the glue hadn't had a chance to set. I carefully peeled the arm off, made a couple of careful cuts with my trusty X-acto knife, rotated the arm at the elbow, patched, painted, and re-adhered it. The whole process probably took another two hours, but I was so relieved to have finally found the culprit of my uneasiness and look at The Gas Jockey II with that satisfaction of completion.

Right arm removed for repair.

Right arm removed for repair.

Right arm ready for patching.

Right arm ready for patching.

In my studio, I follow a simple rule that I will never let fear of failure keep me from attempting to do something new or challenging. As a result, mistakes happen and are expected. I am not ashamed by them; rather, I'm proud to know that I'm challenging myself to the point where I am making occasional blunders. The Gas Jockey II had an ambitious pose. He was in the three-quarter turn towards the viewer and set in the scene between the car and gas pumps. It was a challenge to get the perspective right along with his posturing, and because I had refused to let the challenge scare me into switching his pose, I went for it and slightly missed the mark.

That's better.

That's better.

From these missteps comes growth and over time, they allow me to evolve and develop my distinct voice as an artist. And it is this bold voice that helps me celebrate and preserve the stories of these antiquated workers. May I never stop making mistakes in the studio and may their stories never be lost in the sands of time.

The Gas Jockey II found a home over Labor Day Weekend in Sausalito, California, along with The Elevator Operator II and The Lighthouse Keeper. I am truly humbled by the patronage and support that you all provide and I promise to continue to push the boundaries of my abilities, celebrating my marvelous mistakes along the way.

SOLD! (in record setting heat in the Bay Area)

SOLD! (in record setting heat in the Bay Area)

Bowling Since Birth by Tyler Voorhees

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

A Cowboy Walks into a Gallery by Tyler Voorhees

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 Report 2017 by Ashley Voorhees

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.

The third Job of Yesteryear I created, The Lector.
48x24 inches  |  acrylic, watercolor paper, kraft paper on canvas

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.

The Firemen  |  36x24 inches  |  acrylic, watercolor paper, kraft paper on stained birch panel

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...

Then Clyfford Still Stepped In by Tyler Voorhees

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

Life Off the Road by Tyler Voorhees

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.

I was probably taking a picture with this guy and his mustache when Lindsay walked through.  |  Salina, KS

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).

Applying stain to a fresh panel outside of The Shed.  |  Laporte, CO

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.

Working on  The Crosscut Sawyers  in The Shed.  |  Laporte, CO

Working on The Crosscut Sawyers in The Shed.  |  Laporte, CO

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.