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.