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.


Scamp Life Lessons by Tyler Voorhees

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. 

Selling our stuff and packing the rest into storage  |  Boulder, CO


mobile campground studio  |  boise, id

[ 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.

doris  |  salina, ks

Impromptu neighborhood art talk  |  cedar falls, ia

Impromptu neighborhood art talk  |  cedar falls, ia

The shores of lake michigan  |  grand haven, mi

[ 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.

jack sisemore traveland rv museum  |  amarillo, tx

Are you sure about this mom & dad?  |  grand haven, mi

weko beach |  bridgman, mi

[ 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. 

be weird  |  evergreen, co


Garden of the gods  |  manitou springs, co

Garden of the gods  |  manitou springs, co

[ 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.  


help from family is the best kind of help there is  |  sobieski, wi


[ 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. 


Pony express station  |  Gothenburg, ne

chop chop chop  |  Park city, ut

[ 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.


the ice cutter finds a new home  |  madison, wi


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

city museum ball pit  |  St. louis, mo

Seven Artists Who Fuel My Fire by Tyler Voorhees

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.

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Job Creation by Tyler Voorhees

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.

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Inside The Scamp Life by Tyler Voorhees

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.

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And then one day... by Tyler Voorhees

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.

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