As the artwork arrived and we began to work with it more and more, I became impressed with feelings of overwhelming gratitude to each of these painters. The work they’ve done, the level of excellence they bring to each painting inspires me to become a better representative of their art. That’s a never ending journey with constant room for improvement but this has definitely been the kick in the butt the gallery and I needed!
Here’s the story of the show.
Daniel Keys called me up and said, “Hey I need to paint some snow.” Not long after, Daniel flew to Billings. That week we worked around the gallery, and he painted yellow roses in front of an audience of 40 people! If you’ve ever seen him paint for a demonstration before, then you know that’s where all the good stories are told. It was a great night—we got a lot of it on film. However, I forgot to record the audio...Like I said, there’s always room for improvement.
Over the last couple years it’s become clear that we can’t do a Montana painting trip without an overnight with Ken Yarus, Nate Closson, and Richie Carter up in Kalispell. They’ve become essential ingredients.
Well, these Northslope boys said they’d been meaning to paint the Mission Mountains, so Old Man Ken set up a cabin for us to stay at out near Ronan, MT.
Based out of that small mountain town, we bummed around, painting old grain elevators and worn down buildings. At night we relaxed by finding an old bar where we could grab a bite and a pool table for me to whip everyone on.
In the mornings, we jumped into Ken’s van, the ultimate paint mobile. We’d take turns climbing on top to get different vantage points. Ken even let Forrest and me drive. Sure enough, Mr. Dickison peeled out and hopped it right over several curbs—much to Ken’s delight!
Once we’d had our fun painting in the cold we headed back to Ken’s parents’ place where we enjoyed Diane’s homemade chicken pot pie.
The Yarus home is truly a bit of heaven on earth. They put me up in a tree house with a wood burning stove. The room is covered with hilarious bumper stickers, some that are inappropriate to share here. Every morning they made breakfast and kept us hydrated with coffee as we started our day with a morning soak in the hot tub out back. When we were ready to face the day, we posted up in Ken and Richie’s studio.
Here’s a day in the Northslope studio: Paint. Listen to music. Nap with Sweet Potato, the cat. Paint some more. Get fed by Diane and Bill Yarus. Head to town to play more pool.
Eventually the time came to say goodbye. Forrest slipped away in the early morning and drove back to see his honey in Moscow. We dropped Dan off at the airport. And I began the eight hour trek home. All I could think about that day was the Yarus family and the joy they each bring hosting and serving one another. I’ve heard it said that when families are at their best there is “love for just showing up.” I saw that in them. I meditated the whole way home on a thought I hope will embed itself into the fabric of my soul:
Consistently create things that bless other people’s lives...and that can be as simple as a meal.
For those who follow what we’re doing here in Montana, thank you. Thank you for the support so many of you have given us through the purchasing of our paintings. We all hope our work will be a beautiful reminder that there is nothing like the touch of a human hand. As with fine woodworking, there is no comparison between what is mass produced and what has been crafted through years of toil, determination, and love.