Art Spreading Like the Plague by Tyler Voorhees

The original painting sold before it was ever shown publicly. The wood panel prints sold out quicker than any other image. It has been an instant favorite among my patrons and yet, I would have never imagined that it would garnish such popularity. Which painting gets to wear this crown? The Plague Doctor! And I’d imagine that he’d prefer his customary top hat and beak mask to the crown.

 
The Plague Doctor | acrylic, watercolor paper, kraft paper on stained birch panel | 2015

The Plague Doctor | acrylic, watercolor paper, kraft paper on stained birch panel | 2015

 

This painting has been surprisingly popular among folks of all ages. The original was purchased before it’s debut at the solo exhibition in Wichita, Kansas a few years back and afterwards, the image was tucked neatly away in the files. Recently, after noticing some unexpected interest in The Plague Doctor, we decided to release it as a panel print and see how it fared. Well, its popularity was palpable and we sold out of all 33 limited edition panel prints in record time.

The Original Plague Doctor at Wichita Center for the Arts, it’s only public showing. | April 2015

The Original Plague Doctor at Wichita Center for the Arts, it’s only public showing. | April 2015

So why all the popularity? Well, The Plague Doctor’s iconic uniform has an eye-catching look and a great story to back it up.

By “The Plague”, I am referring to the bubonic plague that ravaged much of Eurasia in the 14th-17th centuries. It peaked in Europe from 1347-1351 and is estimated to have killed 30-60% of Europeans during its 300-year rule.

The bubonic plague is thought to have originated in the dry plains of central Asia, expanding west via the Silk Road and merchant ships. As this mysterious illness spread like wildfire through the medieval towns and cities of Europe, the local governments were left without enough medical staff to treat victims.

Enter the plague doctors, who were hired by local governments to fill the gaps. These were not well-trained physicians; rather, they were often second-rate doctors unable to run their own practice or young physicians seeking to establish themselves. They rarely cured their patients and served more of an administrative role in counting the victims for demographic purposes.

Most people recognize the iconic top hat and beak mask associated with plague doctors. The reason they wore this odd outfit lies in the medical understanding of the day. The leading researchers thought that diseases were spread through foul-smelling air. Thus, they wore protective suits of various kinds to guard against exposure to the “bad air” and the disease.

In the 17th century, towards the end of the bubonic plague’s reign of terror, a French doctor named Charles de Lorme invented the beaklike mask that we now associate with the plague doctor as an added protection from the foul air. His design allowed the wearer to stuff the mask with dried herbs and flowers, which would help filter out the odor and protect them from catching the plague, or so it was thought. His design caught on quickly among plague doctors and it carried through the next few centuries as various plagues ran their courses throughout Europe.

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As you may very well know, I always put a detail or two in my Jobs of Yesteryear paintings that show why this particular job became a thing of the past. Can you find it in the Plague Doctor? The answer lies in looking back at why the bubonic plague finally ended. Historians believe that two main factors helped to eradicate the bubonic plague in medieval Europe: 1) burning the bodies of the victims rather than burying them, which killed the bacteria responsible for the illness and, 2) the effective use of quarantining to separate the sick from the healthy. The flag flying on the ship in the background of the painting is the quarantine flag flown by ships with sick sailors while the pile of burning bodies can be seen on the other side.

Detail of The Plague Doctor showing why this occupation became a thing of the past.

Detail of The Plague Doctor showing why this occupation became a thing of the past.

Dark, right? Which is way my wifeboss and I had never thought that releasing The Plague Doctor as a panel print made much sense. We thought there would be a few fellow weirdos out there who found it interesting and it would be off-putting for most. But boy were we off the mark. Most of you are weird and that’s oddly comforting. Thanks for being strange like us and here’s to flying your flag this Halloween season!

And not to worry, we’ve recently released THREE NEW 6x24 WOOD PANEL PRINTS so you’ve got Job options: The Milkman IV, The Soda Jerk III, and The Brewer.

The Milkman IV

The Milkman IV

The Soda Jerk III

The Soda Jerk III

The Brewer

The Brewer

The Auto Workers of Jackson by Tyler Voorhees

"Your grandad worked in that factory."

From thirty feet above, I heard this quiet declaration being passed from father to son amid the crowd gathering to watch the muralists in action. I paused, set down my paintbrush and began to lower the hydraulic lift, fumbling a bit with the controls that weren't yet familiar.

As I completed my jerky descent, I saw a man in his 50s standing with his wife and twenty-something son. He pointed to the lanky auto workers taking shape on the red-brick wall and again remarked, "My dad worked in that exact factory."

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The Cullercoats Fishlass by Tyler Voorhees

These women were strong. Hefting 50-pound baskets of fresh fish from the shores of the North Sea to the local market, calling to customers all the while in their signature colorful language, the Cullercoats fishlasses were a sight to be seen and a force to be reckoned with. But peddling fish was just one aspect of their interesting tale and one that I am excited to feature in my latest painting in The Jobs of Yesteryear Series: The Fishlass.

Cullercoats is a village in Northeast England and was founded in 1539 as a fishing outpost. It has gone through many industries over the years including coal mining and salt production, but fishing has always been at the heart of this charming coastal town. A semi-circle of sandy beach with cliffs and coves abound makes it an idyllic setting for our story of fishing, cursing, and putting all hands on deck to run a family business.

The day began before dawn for the fishing families of Cullercoats. The fishermen rose early to prepare their open-top fishing boats called cobles. These distinctive boats have a flat-bottom, which allows them to land on shallow, sandy beaches and a high bow, which helps them navigate the dangerous waters of the North Sea. These were challenging vessels to command but in the skilled hands of a weathered Cullercoat fisherman, they were safe and speedy.

A Coble Under Sail, Courtesy of Museum of Hartlepool

A Coble Under Sail, Courtesy of Museum of Hartlepool

As the first rays of sun began to illuminate the misty sky, the men prepared their cobles for the impending day on the North Sea while their wife (and possibly daughters) would be searching for bait. These fishlasses would dig sand-worms, gather mussels, and find limpets (sea snails) and dog-crabs in the hopes that these little creatures would translate into a healthy day’s catch. Next, they set to clean the fishing lines, baiting each of the 1,300 hooks on each of the two lines their husband or father would use that day. This required great speed and skill and the fisherlasses were known to do it while singing tunes to help pass the time.

After they helped push the cobles into the icy waters of the North Sea, the fisherlasses would then tend to the other tasks necessary to raise a family and keep a home. Once the men returned in the afternoon, the women would meet them at the shore and they would all gather together to clean the day’s catch. With their hands plunged in the icy, salty water for hours on end, these women would clean herring and other fish swiftly and deftly. Accidents were common and many of them wore bandages hiding deep gashes. Women of all ages were involved, many of them elderly, and their skilled hands could clean as many as 20,000 fish in a few hours.

Fisherrow Fishwives at Musselburgh Fish Market, Scotland

Fisherrow Fishwives at Musselburgh Fish Market, Scotland

Once the fish were cleaned, the fishlasses would heft their baskets full of fresh fish into the market to peddle to the townspeople. The fishlasses were shrewd negotiators that employed foul-language and keen wits to get the most shillings for their family’s catch. The action was quick, as the fish had to be sold before the day’s sun spoiled them and the fishwives didn’t waste a second. If the market for their fish wasn’t favorable, the Cullercoasts fishlasses would grab their 50-pound basket and walk nearly TEN MILES to a larger market in nearby Newcastle. I’ll say it again; these women were strong.

The Cullercoasts fishlasses weren’t just mighty by today’s standards; they were depicted in the political cartoons of the day as standing up to the French while the British Prime Minister stood by idly, their bottles of gin and foul-language wielded as their weapons. These were women that were not to be taken lightly.

“A New Catamaran Expedition!” - Political Cartoon by Isaac Cruikshank

“A New Catamaran Expedition!” - Political Cartoon by Isaac Cruikshank

The Cullercoasts Fishlass was also the subject of one of the most beautiful watercolors I’ve ever seen: Inside the Bar by American artist Winslow Homer. Homer spent 18 months in Cullercoats from 1881-1882 and was taken by the stoic strength that the fishwives exhibited mending the nets, baiting the lines, peddling the fish, and waiting on the shore for their fishermen to return. It’s a captivating scene gorgeously rendered by a true master color and light.

Inside the Bar by Winslow Homer, 1883, Watercolor and graphite on off-white wove paper, 16 x 29 in.

Inside the Bar by Winslow Homer, 1883, Watercolor and graphite on off-white wove paper, 16 x 29 in.

My depiction of The Fishlass began in the sketchbook, just like every painting. This allows me to work out the composition before I begin on the large panel, saving time and toil. As you can see, I had some help from our oldest artist-in-training, Ivan, as he worked on drawing hands over top of my initial sketch. While creating this piece, the color blue kept standing out to me as I read that the fishlasses were often recognized by their blue duffle coats. Also, blue and brown has always been a favorite color combo of mine and I’ve been enjoying a particular hue lately called Azurite. It’s from Golden and it’s top shelf in its consistency and vibrant color.

As with all the Jobs of Yesteryear paintings, I’m also interested in why this particular job became a remnant of the past. The demise of the fishlass is really a tale of how the market where she sold her fish was rendered obsolete as we began to choose supermarkets instead of local markets. As she hefts her basket full of freshly cleaned fish and gazes toward the market where she will earn her keep, The Fishlass also looks away from the vestige of a grocery store, an unfamiliar and unfitting shape in the natural harbor where her family has carved out a decent living for generations

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The Fishlass is a powerful reminder of the effort it takes to run a family business and the women who can most often be found doing their share the heavy lifting. One needs not look any further than our own art business and my boss/wife Ashley to see a shining example. It is a celebration of an incredible worker in our collective history and a testament to doing your part for the greater good. Long live The Fishlass and long live the family business.

As of today, July, 31 2019, the original of this lady is still available and you can find it HERE.

The Pirate Queen by Tyler Voorhees

The words “pirate” and “queen” aren’t often used together, but during my recent residency in Tetouan, Morocco, I caught wind of a pirate queen that once ruled there. This story takes place 500 years ago and features a badass woman who ruled with intelligence and diplomacy and backed up her words with a fleet of ruthless pirates. It’s a tale of revenge and romance fit for a Netflix series and a story that I just HAD to paint.

This saga all begins in Granada, Spain during the Reconquista in the late 1400s. Ferdinand and Isabella were mounting an effort to put all of Spain back under the rule of the Catholic monarch and Granada was one of the last strongholds of Muslim power. After a bloody fight, their Christian forces prevailed and the remaining Muslims were given three choices:

  1. stay and convert to Christianity

  2. flee across the Mediterranean Sea to Morocco

  3. die

The Alhambra in modern day Granada.

The Alhambra in modern day Granada.

Into this bloody conflict and forced exile, a young girl is born to noble parents who were previously enjoying a comfortable life Granada. The writers of history never recorded her proper name but she would eventually be known and feared by merchants and governments throughout Europe and North Africa. She is known as Sayyida al Hurra, which translates as “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority”. This description also fits my wife.

So this daughter of a noble Muslim family is just a young girl when they are forced to leave Granada and settle in present-day Morocco. She grows up and eventually marries the governor of Tetouan. As a young bride, she learns the ways of governing and quickly gains prominence as an intelligent woman who can handle the demands of her husband’s position when he is away on government business. When he dies a decade later, she unquestionably becomes the governor of Tetouan and begins to amass the army of pirates that would help her exact revenge on Spain for her family’s exile.

Also during this time, the Sultan of Morocco begins to woo her from his throne in Fez and eventually asks for her hand in marriage. She accepts, but only on her terms: she is allowed to continue to live and rule in Tetouan AND HE must come HER for the marriage. He agrees and this is the only time in history that a Moroccan King married outside of his capital. This is like if Prince Harry flew the whole royal family to Los Angeles so that he could marry Meghan Markle. What a boss.

Now that she is the Queen of Morocco, Sayyida al Hurra senses that the timing is right for her act of revenge 24 years in the making. She aligns herself with the infamous Ottoman pirate Barbarossa and they rule the Mediterranean Sea for 30 years, looting Spanish and Portuguese vessels and taking many of their sailors captive. The Pirate Queen was a fair yet ruthless leader, demanding respect and the highest ransoms for the return of her Christian captives.

During our time in Tetouan, my family and I saw the caves where these Christian slaves were kept while they waited for their government to meet the Pirate Queen’s demands. It’s also rumored that in the secret tunnels underneath the Medina (old city), there is a makeshift altar and church where the visiting Spanish monks would perform mass with the slaves. That’s quite a scene to imagine…

The Pirate Queen amassed many riches during her rule of the seas and much of the booty that she collected went into rebuilding Tetouan. Most of what still remains from this period is due to Sayyida al Hurra’s efforts during her rule and many credit her care for the city as the main reason that it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Medina in modern day Tetouan.

The Medina in modern day Tetouan.

Now seen as one of the most important female figures of the Islamic West, the Pirate Queen was known as a powerful ruler who was fair to her people and ruthless to her enemies. After three decades as the Queen of Morocco (a lengthy rule by any standard), Sayyida al Hurra was overthrown by her stepson and fled to the neighboring mountain city of Chefchaouen, which was my family’s favorite place in Morocco. She lived there for another 20 years until her death in 1561 at the age of 66.

The Jobs of Yesteryear Series has always been about celebrating the storied workers of the past and their incredible tales. The Pirate Queen is such a fascinating example of an individual defying expectations and I’m honored that Sayyida al Hurra will live on as my 100th Job of Yesteryear painting (100! WOW!).

 
The Pirate Queen | 7x24 inches | acrylic, watercolor, watercolor paper on found plank  |  SOLD

The Pirate Queen | 7x24 inches | acrylic, watercolor, watercolor paper on found plank | SOLD

 

This painting found a new home during a festival in Dallas, Texas and will hang on the wall of an interesting fella from Rock Springs, Wyoming. As I continue to create new work for this year’s shows, I’ve been remarking on how I often get asked where the women are in my art. It’s a justifiable question.

The fact is that when studying the jobs of the past, there just weren’t that many occupations that women were allowed/able to hold; they were often too busy keeping the home in order and raising the children. It’s a great reminder about how wonderfully different our modern times are. But there are definitely some stories to be found and I recently completed three powerful paintings celebrating women workers: The Typist, The Hello Girl, and The Teacher.

The Pirate Queen found a home.

The Pirate Queen found a home.

The Typist | The Hello Girl | The Teacher

The Typist | The Hello Girl | The Teacher

Thank you for all the incredible support and enthusiasm for The Jobs of Yesteryear Series since it all began with The Lamplighter in 2011. 100 paintings in a series is a proud milestone for me and I’m so excited to see where the next 100 take me. The journey is all the more enjoyable with all of your feedback, support, and love. Thank you and stay tuned…

Tyler Meets the Tilers by Tyler Voorhees

It was 1994 and I was in fifth grade at my little school in Tulare, South Dakota, population 239. I looked around at my eleven classmates (yes, 11) as we awaited our next task from the imposing yet intelligent Miss Murphy.

That day in class, we were going to research the meaning behind our names. We all excitedly dove into the pile of books amassed to aid us in our research, this being the 90s and well before the internet search had infiltrated the elementary schools of rural South Dakota.

My friend Jason found out his name meant “healer”. “Cool!”, I exclaimed. My friend Amber’s name meant “jewel”. “Wow!” My eyes scaneed the pages as I frantically searched for my name in the listings. I imagined my namesake meaning “warrior” or “dragon-slayer” or something comparably fifth-grader cool. Finally, I found my name in a book taken from the bottom of the pile and excitedly read the following:

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A Mural in Morocco by Tyler Voorhees

“Stay loose, stay loose, stay loose…” was my inner mantra. I found Menomena’s 2007 masterpiece Friend or Foe on my phone and pushed play. The drums began to kick my senses into gear and my painting hand started to twitch with anticipation. As the Moroccan flag fluttered in the gentle wind from a rooftop behind me, I muttered a simple prayer for strength and courage, took another breath, and dipped a three-inch brush into a rich yellow ochre. My first outdoor mural had begun.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...