Creators, Makers & Doers: Mark Baltes

At the base of a vast and well-loved trail system, the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center on N. 8th St. in Boise, ID hosts a striking 15 ft. tall weather vane, in the form of a native dandelion. Meet the artist, Mark Baltes, who created Aero Agoseries.


 

Creators, Makers, & Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Karen Woods

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With an impressive exhibition history, ranging from galleries in Boise, Boston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and New York City, Karen Woods is very modest and humble when discussing life as an artist. She works full-time as a painter in her studio, which she shares with three other artists. Staying motivated, working hard and often, knowing where to focus energy and being surrounded by supportive people, all play critical roles in her success.

Are you a full-time artist or do you have another job?

I don’t have another job, so yes I am a full-time artist. I’m trying to put this honestly, when I have a deadline I work a lot, but on average five to six hours is a work day for me. So it’s about full time. I had two consecutive shows, one here and one in L.A. in January and February and so since September, I was working six days a week and long days. So now, I have the luxury of shortening those a little bit. I was pretty creatively depleted after pushing so hard. So, yeah, an average of five to six hours to sum it up. I would call myself full time. There’s more and more computer things to do as far as record keeping and doing stuff like that. All the paperwork kind of things, there’s more of that now than there used to be. For me, that can cut into painting time.

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What drives you to paint urban traffic as your subject matter and do you think you’ll be drawn to a different subject matter down the road?

I don’t quite know why I do that. I’ve never been very good at figuring that out. I can suggest that maybe it’s the two-dimensional / three-dimensional thing that I like streetscapes so much and rainy windshields. It could be that it’s some metaphor for something, that things look pretty awful up ahead or that they look pretty good up ahead. Or it’s a love for just the everyday things that I see around me that I want to communicate to other people. It’s just that there’s something in there that I need to find and I’ll keep looking.

Where do you sell your work?

Through the Stewart Gallery here in town and then she (Stephanie Wilde) directed me toward another gallery, George Billis, who is in Los Angeles and New York. I was also approached by another gallery that’s in Boston and Nantucket and so I show there, too. Then there’s a little one in Connecticut that has had my work there but I don’t think they… I’m on their list but I don’t think they keep a lot of my work around. So because of all that … a lot is expected of me as far as sending work out so that galleries have fresh stuff. It’s a different kind of pressure then I had before. Before it was trying to get people to look at my work and now the pressure that I feel is to keep my vision honest and have integrity and yet a strong work ethic to be able to have a professional career and live up to those expectations that are out there.

Do you sell you work on line too or only through your galleries?

Only through the galleries, ethically speaking I don’t want to do anything behind their backs which I wouldn’t so if I were to sell something it would be through them. That’s kind of the understanding that we have. Also I’m terrible at all that kind of stuff, all the business end, marketing, trying to sell something, there are people who are very good at it. And I wish I were one of those people but I am not, so I am happy to leave that to the galleries and just work more. It’s a time consuming thing. I mean even online with shipping and trying to get social media, there’s some pressure to just be more exposed that way—and that just is so not my personality. I’m too introverted even online to do something like that.

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What keeps you in Boise?

What brought us here was my husbands’ work. We moved in 1994. He was hired at Boise State; he teaches Asian History there. So, that was how we arrived here and raised our son. That’s technically what keeps us here. The city I think now keeps us here. We have developed a community of friends and relationships that tie us to here and quality of life. It’s just beautiful and it is a very comfortable place to be because you can pick your pace of life. You can have a very slow paced rural type of life or you can have a very fast-paced life. Boise seems to accommodate lots of different lifestyles. It works for us. As a painter here it works for me very well. In a bigger city, to have studio space like this would just not be feasible. I’m able to work much more and better here.

Where do you find inspiration?

Lots of different places. Direct inspiration comes from the photographs that I take as I drive around here or where ever else I happen to be. So that is maybe the most direct answer. Live music inspires me. I’m inspired by Jeff (Krueger) and Gina (Phillips) (her studio mates) their work ethic, how they approach their art and just being around them and having that kind of accountability and fellow studio partners.

I’m inspired by artists who seem to blur the distinction or ignore the distinction between abstract and representational art. Gerhard Richter would probably be the most famous one but Christopher Brown, Chuck Clouse even, Per Kirkeby is in the Netherlands or Belgium maybe. Let me think, who else? There are quite a few who play with that representational verses abstract quality. Two dimensional, three dimensional and kind of go back and forth and I really like that. It suits my own sensibility because I think that’s what draws me to looking out of a windshield is that two dimensional verses three dimensional kinds of space and so I like artists that play around with that. Molly Hill did that beautifully and Charley Gill does that too, he’s very smart about it.

 

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Do you feel like Boise’s art community is thriving?

It depends on what you mean by community. I think there are artists thriving who are just doing incredible work. I think there are galleries working very hard to exist and to promote the artists that they have. I think the co-op galleries are doing an incredible job of just hanging in there. I think that it’s hard for Boise to support all the artists that it has. I’m thinking not in the sense of buying work as much as… Well yeah, no I should say that in terms of buying work. We have collectors here that are very passionate and I’m grateful for them, but I do think that because of Boise’s geographical isolation, it just makes it hard. It’s a small pool, so most artists I think are better off if they can get some type of artwork out of town, to be seen out of town. It’s a hard thing to get started up, but it’s really helpful to have more than one gallery. For me it has helped me immensely to get my work out on both coasts. So I would say yes and no. It is thriving.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for other artists?

Every time I’ve been about to quit or when I think nobody cares whether I do this or not—which has been often—people have told me not to quit. I’ve kind of surrounded myself with people who keep me from quitting. Whether that’s artists or family, my husband is always quick to say, “Don’t quit we’ll have this conversation in another year and then if you still want to quit we’ll talk about it again.” And that has kept me going. Having that support system is vital for me, because as much drive as I have, it’s something I have to do.

I would also say, give yourself time to develop. It’s taken me a long time. I’m a slow person to get here, I’m 52 and it took me a long time just to get warmed up to be working at where I am now. Another thing is share studio space if you can, because it helps with accountability and it helps with encouragement. It helps when people know whether you show up or not, whether you’re there and being with people who know you and know how to talk with you about your work.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Ward Hooper

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Plaid shirts, vintage apothecary bottles and early American iconography fill the walls of Ward Hooper’s downtown gallery. The space features prints of and a myriad of merchandise incorporating the artist’s work, as well as a curated collection of antiques. Artists often struggle with finding balance between making and marketing. Some also grapple with fundamental questions about what art is and at what point it becomes something else. Unlike other career paths, those in the creative sector frequently don’t have a pre-scripted formula for success or a trodden path to follow. Ward Hooper, like many artists, is a sort of pioneer. The trajectory of his art making career has twists and turns in the search for personal success. Starting as a painter, he then moved into illustration and graphic design, which evolved into public art commissions. Now primarily a commercial artist, Hooper has found a formula that works for him.

What is your preferred medium?

For quite a few years, I’ve basically done all of my work digitally. It’s all computer generated. I hate to say that though, I generate the work and the computer helps me.

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What are you working on right now?

Gosh, I’ve got several things going. I’m always trying to do a fine art piece, no not fine art piece, but something I can hang on the wall here and possibly sell. I’m always working on other projects independent of what goes in this gallery. I get commissioned to do work as well. I was recently working on an illustration for a real estate company, but besides that I’ve been commissioned to do a lot of rock posters and gig/event posters, which is fun for me and more interesting because you can be avant garde and more experimental with the imagery. That work has taken me into more music oriented and rock and roll and more work in that vein. I’ve been working on some Beatles stuff and stuff like that. Basically I’m working on my own wanderings in that area and people seem to like it, so I keep doing it.

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What type of work do you do outside this gallery space?

I’ve done over 500 images created in this style, since I started in 2013. I have enough images that I can keep the walls filled with the ones I know people are drawn to; I also hang other things I like on the wall as well. It gets a little overwhelming sometimes, but it keeps me on my toes. I used to do a lot more commercial work; I don’t do as much now. By commercial, I mean logos and pamphlet design, but it’s not something l love to do. It’s not as creative as doing posters or event images. I also do private illustrations for people, like memorializing things for loved ones, a favorite place, or a pet or a dog. It’s a whole wide range of things. As a creative person you have to do a lot of things to pay the bills.

Can you talk about your process?

My process is to come up with an idea; hopefully it’s a good one, then play around with that idea. I then draw and keep drawing until I get something I like. I work that up into a full size image and then print that out as a proof. Generally, my proofs are pretty close and I’ll live with that proof. I will hang it on the wall and look at it and then I might decide to change it. I could have a proof that I’ve printed out and done two years ago and decide that I want to change it because I don’t like how the colors work or something that I don’t like. It’s usually something minor, but I’ll change it again. Then it’s finally an edition and I can print it out.

Generally, the hardest part is the idea. It gets harder and harder. If you have a successful piece, and everybody loves it and its commercially successful, then it’s just like the music industry, I imagine, you have to have a hit number two. People always expect something equally exciting the next time around, so it puts a lot of stress on your creative mind to try to come up with something. I’m not chasing the dollar or chasing the approval of the person who comes in here, I also want to please myself, but also make something that other people will find interesting too. It’s tough, it’s a tough thing to do.

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What’s your typical art making schedule look like?

It isn’t typical. I work here at the gallery, a lot. In the mornings there aren’t a whole lot of people here. I spend the morning working on art or doing other things that are art related. I will change things on the wall, or apply the artwork to different things, like magnets, stickers or t-shirts. These are all marketing one of the images that I have created. If I do get really locked into an image, I will push everything aside and work 24/7 until it’s done. If I lose interest, then I move onto something else. That’s the reason I got into digital. I may come back to it later on, but later on could be 3 years later, and I’ll generally change it. Your taste and interests change over small amounts of time. Something you did a year ago can be something you’re not even interested in today. For me, I have to keep moving along.

So there is no schedule?

No, well it is a schedule. I arrive here at around 9 and work until 5. Within that time frame, I am submersed in myself and doing something creative. As far as sitting down and doing something purely creative, like a piece of artwork for myself, that’s kind of sporadic.

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Where do you find inspiration?

I find it everywhere. When I was younger, I would clip stuff out of every possible thing I would find, anything that struck my eye. Nowadays, you can find anything in a second on the computer, especially as an artist. It’s great if you want to know what an armadillo looks like. Also, I find it just walking around this town. I do a lot of Boise stuff. I kind of feel like I’ve done everything Boise related, but I still see stuff.

I was fascinated for a while with these little linoleum blocks that were dropped on the asphalt. They had tar paper covering and as cars drove by, it wore off the tar paper, and there was some sort of political message or underground street message. It was kind of cryptic, you couldn’t understand it there was one right here on the corner forever, and one farther down and I saw the information on it. I think it was a website or name of a group, but it was really cryptic. I went online and found out it was this guy doing it in New York or Philadelphia. He was making these things out of linoleum and putting them on the street. He cut a hole in the bottom of his Pinto car and driving around and dropping them on the street. The cars would drive over them enough where you could see the picture or the message. That got me, just seeing that, got me into this whole street art thing.

So Inspiration comes anywhere.

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What are your thoughts about the art community here?

There is really no gallery scene here. You can find a coffee shop or a smaller gallery that’s willing to show your artwork. The galleries are getting fewer and fewer. Now there are tattoo shops that have galleries. There are so many non-gallery businesses opening up that want to show artwork. If you hang artwork in a coffee shop or any business, they’re getting a free service from the artist and the artist is generally getting zero sales. You might sell something every once in a while. I’ve done it, but it’s generally not good for the artist, because the artwork just becomes background noise.

I think things like the music scene, which is thriving, kind of helps the art scene. Along with music come artists doing stuff with, or for the musicians, so that’s cool. The art community is the same as it was when I started. I don’t really think it’s growing. There’s more of it, but has it grown? Maybe some opportunities have grown because of public art. It helps to fund the artists, but is there more opportunities gallery wise? No, I don’t think so. There are more opportunities to do things like the Modern Art and other First Thursday events, but you have to have the nerve to do it. Being an artist is always tough.

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Are there any resources missing here to make the community more appealing to artists?

It’s kind of a dumb question, or not the right question to ask me. I generally have all of the resources that I need. If you’re going to be commercially successful, you have to go out and sell yourself. There are just as many ways to sell yourself, as there are types of art. You don’t have to be a hard sell. You can just educate people about what you do. Find out where you can get involved, find out where to apply for shows and do stuff for free. If a band is playing, ask if you can do the poster. It’s amazing, you never know what will come from it. You have to put your name and email and website on everything. No opportunities can come if they don’t know how to contact you. Opportunities are where you make them.

Any inspiration, tips, or advice for other artists out there?

It really is about your personality. You have to find an art style that suits you, that you are excited about, and that is different, then go out and talk to people about it. You have to sell yourself.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Anna Webb and Reham Aarti

Located at corner of Crescent Rim Drive & Eastover Terrace, near the Depot in Boise, Idaho, sits 306,000 mosaic tiles, each one set lovely by hand. Meet Anna Web and Reham Aarti, the artists behind “Infernum Bestiae”, a public art roundabout, completed in 2014.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Lisa Flowers Ross

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Work spaces come in all shapes and sizes. Be it a small studio carved out of the garage, a backyard addition, or a warehouse, personal space proves to be essential in the creative process. These micro environments quickly become, more or less, an extension of the Artist, reflecting his or her attitudes, interested, favored tools, and supplies. These spaces become non-judgmental work areas, where, for many, messes are welcome and there is freedom for experimentation. Lisa Flowers Ross works from a spare guest room and talks about the limitations of space and challenges of balancing her art practice.

What is your preferred medium? What are you working in now?

Well, I’m mostly working in fabric now. I hand dye the fabric and I cut it up and create original abstract designs.

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What do you like about fabric?

Well it’s very tactile. I think people can really relate to it because we are surrounded in fabric from birth. There are a million things you can do with it. You can cut it, stitch it, fold it, drape it, print on it, dye it, shibori it, stiffen it, and make it 3D. There’s just a lot of stuff you can do with it. To me, it’s more of the tactile nature. I like the feel and the texture of the stitching.

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What does your art making schedule look like?

I don’t have a routine. I do aim, or my goal is, to work 20 hours a week in the studio, but I don’t usually hit that. I usually average for the year, between twelve and fifteen hours a week, but that doesn’t include all of the art business stuff. The marketing and keeping up a website. That is taking up more of my time now.

Can you talk about your workspace? What is your relationship to it?

This is my studio and guest room. It will actually transform tomorrow into a guest room. I have everything on wheels; my stuff can be wheeled out when needed. I did work in this space for a few years when it was the permanent guest room. Finally, I decided that people don’t visit that much, so I took over the space. The biggest limitation here is that I can’t actually work really big. My biggest piece has been fifty by fifty inches. I’ve been thinking about how to work bigger in this space by working on pieces, then later connecting the pieces in a gallery. The really nice thing about my work is that they can be rolled up to ship or store.

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Is there any specific inspiration for working with fabric? How did you get started?

That’s a long story. I have an art degree in drawing, but over the years I’ve dabbled in a lot of different things and nothing really stuck. Then, my friend asked me if I wanted to take a quilt class, it was a traditional and functional class. Later I found a book called The Art Quilt. It is a history of the art quilt and then I realized that I could make art with fabric. I decided to try it and I made my first piece in fabric in 2001. It’s funny looking back at it now. Over the years I just started reading a bunch of books, taking workshops, and learning as much as I could. I decided that I wanted to hand dye my fabrics because you can’t get all of the colors you want at the store just buying them. This way I can create my own colors and my own palette. I taught myself how to do that, kept learning, and kept going.

How do you feel about the art community here in Boise?

I think it has improved over the years. It really improved because of the recession. I think a lot of artists figured out that we have to make our own opportunities and get together to make it happen. The Treasure Valley Artist Alliance is great in helping group artists together. They are doing well. The Boise Open Studio Collective Organization is great. I think it is improving and has improved over the years. I think we still have a ways to go, though. There isn’t a lot of opportunity for artists to show their work here if they’re not already established.

ross4Do you sell work? Where do you find the venue or opportunity?

That’s a tricky question. Most of the art that I have sold here in Boise has been to people that know me, or have visited my studio and have gotten to know me. So I don’t currently sell my work in a gallery in Boise. I don’t think my market is to strangers who would walk into a gallery. I tried the Silver Creek Gallery in Ketchum and didn’t have any sales. I tried a few places here, but I don’t think there is quite the market that I need. In general, people here aren’t used to seeing fabric as a fine art form. I think it will take some time for the audience to get used to that. I’m hoping what I am doing is helping that cause. This isn’t my big market, but I am working on it. I have sold pieces back East through exhibitions. I am almost thinking that the preference for style here is more landscape oriented, more realistic, or photos. Part of my thing is that I work in fabric and I work abstract, not traditional. I just don’t think there is a market here for that. I have had better luck in the Midwest and back East. Mostly, if I do sell here, it’s person-to-person.

What resources are lacking here for artists?

Like I said, there need to be more opportunities for emerging artists. The artists who have been around here for years, the ones that people know, have connections and they have more opportunities than emerging artists. The Treasure Valley Artist Alliance and the Department of Arts & History are doing well in educating artists about what they do need to do to get out there. There are maybe resources lacking with technical help, like how you set up a website or how to get things out there. It seems to be improving. You can now find a lot of resources online. You can find some workshops around about how to market your work or how to write a statement. It’s getting better. I would use other cities as examples against what we have. Portland has a really active program. They have a lot of opportunities for locals. There is always room for improvement.

Would you say you make a living as an artist?

I would consider myself a professional artist. I am not to the point where I can make a living from it. I am about to the point where I am making money, a little bit. I have been improving my gross income every year for the last few years. It then becomes more work on the business end to ramp up the marketing and making sure you are in exhibits and getting exposure, making connections with people, sending out a newsletter, and just getting out there, even on social media. These are all things today that an artist has to keep up with and work at. Someday I hope to have a personal assistant to help me with that stuff. There are artists out there that can do that. I am not there yet, but I am working towards that. I am very fortunate that my husband supports me. I don’t have to, but it’s something that I want to work towards.

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Do you work aside from your artistic practice?

Yes, I work intermittently at the Boise Art Museum installing and de-installing exhibits. I have been doing that for over twenty years now. I occasionally teach workshops. I will be doing a workshop at the Boise WaterShed this summer and I recently taught some workshops here at my home. I taught one through the Treasure Valley Artists Alliance and one through the Live Strong program at the YMCA. They have art classes for cancer survivors. That’s about it as far as income. I also volunteer when I have time and I am a mom. That’s a full-time job.

Why do you stay here in Boise? What keeps you here?

My family has been here for many years. The livability is great. It is a great city to live in. Now that there is so much access on the internet, I think an artist can live anywhere and attempt to make a living. It is nicer if you have support where you are living, or have a gallery where you live. It is more difficult to find a gallery or opportunities that are not where you live. The livability is definitely why people stay, why I stay. I think the internet is helping artists live where they want to. We can still improve Boise.

Any advice or inspiration for other artists?

My advice is to keep working. Just keep working and getting your work out there. Keep doing your best. You will get rejected, but you have to let that go and just keep going and keep making art.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

 

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Sue Latta

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Sue Latta welds, grinds, casts, cuts and pours an assortment of materials in her downtown Boise warehouse studio. Finding inspiration in women who break the rules (like Kiki Smith) and Bob Dylan lyrics, Latta’s work is strong, luscious, and saturated. She generates an income through cobbling together multiple artistic endeavors, such sculptural installations, public art projects, and teaching.

Latta’s ongoing quest to find the right formula for financial independence is a common challenge for full-time artists, but it is a path she is compelled to follow. This week Sue Latta talks briefly on the ups and downs of being an artist.

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What is your preferred medium?

I work in mixed media, so I work in metals, cast metals, wood, plastics, paper, image, text, and light. I think of myself as a relief sculptor though, because primarily the work that I do hangs on the wall, but it it’s sculptural in nature.

I started as a photographer which really is as flat as it gets, but I think I got kind of bored with photography and started taking sculpture seriously. I was a sculptor for many years and then realized that I really liked the image, so I created a hybrid of image-based sculpture. That way, I could accommodate all of the things that I like do.

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Do you work in this space every day?  What does your typical work schedule look like?

I teach on Mondays, and then I’m here at the studio Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The weekends are kind of hit or miss. Sometimes I’m teaching workshops here, sometimes I’m working on my art, and sometimes I’m taking days off.

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Would you say you are able to make a living as a full time artist?

My primary income is from teaching, more so than from selling art. Given that I teach in my area, I’m not sure how to categorize that. I don’t make a living only from selling art.

You are able to actively maintain and support your art making practice though?

Yes, of course. I just had a show in April, I have a show in June, a small show in October, one in January, two in February, and one in the coming October. I basically have seven shows in the 2015-2016 seasons. With that being said though, who knows whether I will break even with any of them?

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Do you consider the art community thriving for artists here in Boise?

I think that there is a lot of really great stuff going on and there are really great artists here, but there is not much of a market. I’m not sure that I have found my audience. I think that I could be making more money, if we are talking about making a living as an artist. The audience or market or collectors don’t seem to be here in Boise, at least for my work.

Are there any resources lacking for you here?

There’s not much in the way of a gallery scene here. There are a few co-op galleries that have popped up that are filling that need. There’s VAC and the co-op galleries, but there’s just not much in the way of galleries. I’m not really sure what that would look like, because I think the market doesn’t support it here. Galleries don’t seem to make it unless it’s a frame shop, a bar, or something else that pays the bills.

In part, we’ve spent a couple of generations creating visually illiterate people by taking art out of schools and demeaning art as a practice in our culture. Also, Boise is a community with a lot of money, but it’s very conservative money. Media has something to do with it too. It’s become so easy for anybody to take a picture or buy art from Ikea. Popular culture has devalued what the artist does. People have this expectation of what things are going to look like. The art that they want is the same kind of thing that they’ve seen before. So, new and innovative isn’t what people are really looking for. Anything that is challenging is hard, and that just plays into this being a conservative market.

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Are you selling work now and where do you find the outlets to sell?

I do sell some work, I have a couple of collectors, and I do get some commission work. I’m not really sure because sales are random. The art sales are so few and far between and it’s such a random mix of people. I have moved in the last few years towards work that is not so deep, dark, dour, or scary to people. For one, because I want to, and another thing is that I don’t want to own it all when I’m dead. I’ve brightened it up some and it’s more fun, I’m making work that is more fun and more fun for me to make and less hard and heavy.

What keeps you in Boise with the limited market?

Well, I’m planted here. My wife owns a business and I have kids and grandkids here. This is where I live and where I will probably die.

What keeps you making work?

For many years, I said that this is the thing that I can’t not do. That is the truth of it. It’s somehow innate in me that I am a maker. Whether I’m making or building hardscape for my yard, building bunk beds, or making art. I am always making something. It is the thing that is always in me and I can’t help it.

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Where do you find inspiration for making all of these things?

It’s a good question. I think everywhere. I am one of those kinds of people that are constantly in awe of the world. Like driving down the freeway and you see that big puddle in the freeway interchange, I get excited about that, how interesting the reflections, the cracks in the sidewalk, or any urban ruins. I get inspired by music, movies, and just everywhere. I am in awe of the world around me.

Do you have any inspirational words for other artists?

Perseverance is the key. This is not an easy road; you have to hang in there, work hard, and show up. Just keep showing up.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Charles Gill

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Now in his eighties, Charles Gill paints nearly every day as he has for roughly 68 years. He paints with no commitment to specific style or subject, with work ranging from representational to totally abstract. As a past instructor at an impressive variety of art institutions, including the California College of The Arts, San Francisco Art Institute and the Osaka University of the Art, he is now retired and spends his days in the studio next to his artist wife.

Finding the right formula for personal success in the arts is nothing short of a monumental struggle. Often measuring and celebrating success is the last thing we do, as our multi-tasking hats are more focused on developing a personal brand, selling work, making work, getting work “out there” and so on.   This week, Gill speaks on living in Boise, making work and “tips” for aspiring artists.

How much time per week do you spend in your studio?  

Just lately in the last few months, probably less than usual. Probably only twenty hours a week now, but I for years, pretty much put in about a forty hour week in the studio. Just like going to work.

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Where do you find inspiration for your current work? 

Oh boy, uh. Inspiration… I go for the joy of actually doing it. Making a painting. Seeing it up. When I get my tools out and set up the easel, I anticipate the pleasure of it. So, that’s an inspiration. Where I look to what I want to paint? I can look almost anywhere. I’m willing to try to make a painting of almost anything. That’s a dilemma, because I’m constantly bombarded by possibilities. For instance right here, this painting of a jacket that I habitually wear and it was hanging on that door over there, where that towel is, that’s it. Then, I haven’t done it yet, but I’m going to make a painting of the door knob that’s on that door, just the door knob. Why? I don’t know.

Inspiration is not exactly the right word, just the opportunity. I see opportunity in a thing, in a subject and then there are moments when the opportunity presents itself — right in the material itself, the paint itself. That leads to a non-objective, totally abstract work, but the driving force is pretty much the same, it’s just what I see. That I see, I can make something of it. The inspiration, the real you know thrill of it, is in the joy of actually seeing it happen and being a part of it. Being the agent through which it happens.

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What is the driving force behind your work?

Well, that’s a big question. It’s what I do. You know, I’m in my eighties now and at this age you do have a lot of time to mull this over and wonder how you got this far and why you do what you do after all these years. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of verbal stimulation, I mean I wasn’t neglected, but I was over protected actually. Because of that I didn’t socialize very well. My father had been a violinist, he died when I was very young and I never knew him.

So very early on, I got the notion I wanted to play the violin. I was given a violin and lessons. I was six, I must have taken lessons for six years, from the age of six to twelve. I probably never practiced in that whole time. Maybe an hour, I don’t know. The teacher that came to my house must have just despaired.

I was always coaxed to play, to practice, but I wouldn’t do it. But I loved to draw. I was never coaxed to draw, never required to draw, never. I wasn’t discouraged, just allowed to draw you see. So, I was developing a visual language as opposed to an audible language. It was just what I was allowed to, how I was allowed to develop and a way of dealing with my reality.

This is a stretch but thinking of James Castle as someone who was certainly deprived of audible information. He developed a language thing, that’s what he did, that’s how he coped with his reality. I’m not so isolated in that sense. Back at the beginning that was my avenue for looking, seeing and making sense of what I saw. When I started teaching I had to learn how to talk. Just on the job training.

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Are you represented by a Gallery?

Yes, I have a gallery here in Boise, the Stewart Gallery which handles my work and the Tayloe Piggott Gallery in Jackson Wyoming. Those are my only two galleries. It’s not a lot of action. The art market is, Eh. I couldn’t make a living on painting sales; I go out to dinner a couple of times if I sell a painting.

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Do you have work in museum collections?

I have more at the Boise Art Museum then typical, because I’ve been here now for seventeen years and I’ve been wonderfully well received here. I’ve just felt really welcomed by the arts community, so I’ve had a good run. It’s not so much having them in their collection, it’s just having the opportunity to show in a serious venue. The Stewart Gallery is a very small little space, she’s moved every few years, she has moved from one space to another. Right now it’s very small but boy she puts on great shows. Just impeccably curated exhibitions and I enjoy seeing my own work handled with that kind of care and attention and just to show it to people.

Do you sell work online too or just through your galleries?

I only sell through my galleries, there’s an ethical question there in my opinion. If you sign on with a gallery their job is to promote your work and sell it. It costs them a lot to run a gallery, they’re investing a lot. So when they sell something they get their commission, it’s fifty percent typically. I don’t resent that a bit and I certainly wouldn’t turn around and sell to an individual for half price because that’s all I’m going to get anyway, that’s tacky.

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Do you think there’s a thriving art community in Boise?  Is it enough to keep you interested and active here or are you more studio based, doing your own thing?

Frankly, I wouldn’t call it thriving. It’s a struggling art community. The people I know, who I see regularly at art exhibitions, have good reason to interact with. Earnest and skilled, they’re all very much involved in what they do. You don’t necessarily like what they do to appreciate their commitment, you see. So there’s a lot of stuff going on here, it’s strange and weird, Freak Ally art and stuff.

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So what keeps you in Boise? Why did you come back to Boise after teaching in California for so long?

Birthright. I was born over in Caldwell. My father grew up in Boise, went to Boise High. My grandfather was a sign painter here. He was listed as a decorative artist in the directory back in 1915 or ‘16. So I have these deep family roots here. We came back partly because of that, but more just the economics of it. Coming back to a more affordable place to live and a quieter town, we were pretty tired of the urban pressures of living in the Bay area. I mean, it’s a very exciting place, but excitement is overrated. It’s very expensive to live there, so we couldn’t afford it and have studio space.

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Is there anything that you feel is lacking here?

I don’t have to pursue a career, career isn’t even a word I like to use. I’m an artist. It’s just what I do. So if I were more dependent on sales I would want to live in or be connected with a little more vital art market city then Boise. It’s just not enough, there’s not a critical mass. It’s here, but it’s just so small, that’s reality. The museum is a good museum, but it’s small too, it doesn’t have the resources of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for instance. So what’s happening here is good. There is a very vital art scene, but it is small and it struggles.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for other artists?

Get a good day job and keep it. I guess that’s always been my focus, even as I was teaching at California College of Arts and Crafts (now known as California College Of The Arts). I was teaching fine arts, I wasn’t teaching graphic design or video or those subjects where there are job opportunities. I was teaching painting, drawing and printmaking. So mine was always, get a day job.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Grant Olsen

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Adorable dogs, strong black coffee, musical instruments, and a collection of Richard Nixon photographs all comingle in Grant Olsen’s live-work space. Grant’s full-time art career began in 2002; in that time his work has evolved through experimentation within  a wide range of mediums stretching from painting, to sewing, to now mainly digital. Grant’s art can now be found in almost all four corners of the city. Grant discusses with A&H staff the challenges of holding on, staying inspired, persevering, and making a living in Boise, Idaho.

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Have you been able to make a living as an artist?

Yea. I had this sort of immediate recognition in 2005. My work was selected for inclusion in the Boise Art Museum’s Triennial. I was very happy to have been juried into the show by Arthur Danto. Shortly after the Triennial, I received a fellowship in visual arts from the state. I had this career going, this real excitement from other people about my work. I had a group show in LA, I had work in Portland and work in NYC.

Then everything started collapsing, in terms of my ability to deal with the world. The first hints of a disorder. A major depressive disorder started rearing in my head. It was a slow and difficult slide that lasted 8, maybe 9 years. Pretty significant. I really felt like I was doing something that was exciting and meant something, and then it stopped. I didn’t have a career anymore. I was just treading water. Everything I did was about trying to stay ahead. I was trying to make money and trying to find work.

Depression is not a friend to art and not pivotal to work. It is destructive. It makes it impossible to do anything, including making art. It was only in the last year or so that I’ve really been able to find a safe place again.

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Do you still have support from the community?

Yeah, people here were wonderful to me. Boise has been so supportive and incredible. People are so welcoming of who I am both as an artist and as a person. Obviously the city has always been supportive with as much budget and time as they can offer people. I have never hesitated, when people ask me for advice, to say that I could tell you a thing or two, but you are much better served talking to the city, or speaking with the Idaho Commission on the Arts.  I don’t think I could be more supported anywhere else.

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Are you optimistic about the art scene and community?

I have nothing but respect and excitement for my friends and the work they do here. I love my friends’ work. It’s almost an automatic thing; as soon as I become friends with someone I will always support them no matter what. Even if I’m not that excited about the music or art necessarily, I will stand up for them because there’s something in our friendship that is clearly something that I will be attracted to in their work.

In addition, Boise State has transformed itself in a really magical way. The people who are there now are so much more focused on contemporary work, making work, thinking about work, and understanding how to deal with the world. The MFA program is really fantastic and I see now the fruits of that.

It’s pretty incredible to see what Boise has been able to do; new galleries existing that are vital; new spaces that are embracing public works; new guerilla style installations, and people who are willing to work outside the system and do exciting and vibrant things.

Is there anything that you feel is lacking here?

Yes, but changing it would involve Boise not being Boise. I would rather Boise just stay what it is and keep what makes it vibrant.

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Do you have any inspirational words for artists out there?

No, that’s not my job. I only know how I work. I don’t know how other people work.  I trust that other people are doing exactly what they need to be doing and have their own process, their own things that they’re attracted to, and their own pace at which they need to work. While I have my own course of action, which is exactly what I need to be doing, my process would absolutely not work for anyone else. We all think of art as bodies of work. We all think about being an artist or making work that spans a lifetime. That’s a mistake in a lot of ways. Look at the way music works or literature. There are people like Jim Thompson, a genre writer, who wrote many novels and wrote them in such large quantities because that was the way he had to work. He was functioning in a different system and was writing basically a penny on the word. Art was a way to support his family. Then there are people on the other side of that spectrum like Ralph Ellison, who wrote The Invisible Man. He never wrote another work. Everyone just has their own way of working and I can’t tell anyone what’s right or wrong.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Amy Westover

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In Amy Westover’s studio—a modest yurt on her property in Boise, Idaho—, it’s not uncommon to find shards of glass, printing presses, kilns and planning documents. This multi-faceted, non-medium specific artist has public artworks scattered throughout the city. From her first public art commission in 2003, Grove Street Illuminated, to her most recent work Virgo in 2014, Amy has managed to stay very, very busy. This artist, designer, and fulltime mother discusses her work, workspace, and the ever-changing landscape of Boise’s creative class.

What’s your favorite piece of artwork that you’ve created?

They all have reasons for being a favorite, but my most recent work “Virgo” was special. Usually an install is very intense and fast paced, with no time to interact with the public. The slow pace of this install was the best thing that could have happened. We had a great deal of intimate conversations with onlookers about the work. It was great to see people interacting with the work and not just kids, adults too.  I would see people standing at the crosswalk waiting for the light to turn green wondering what the random assemblage of parts and pieces were. Then, a light bulb would go off and “ding” they understood what they were looking at! It was so fun to see.
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What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a design team for the Boise Watershed River Campus. The Boise Watershed Environmental Learning Center is located at the waste water treatment plant in Boise and is now creating a three-acre campus around the education center. Essentially, we’re creating a mini watershed system as an educational tool. Educational vignettes will be placed throughout the property telling the complete story of what happens with our water, how precious the resource is and how we can be more responsible with it.

In my own private studio work, I’m just plugging away on glass projects and printmaking projects in the time I have between other things. I don’t have another job. I’m a fulltime artist and a fulltime mom.

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Where do you sell your work?

I was one of the ten artists who started Enso. I was with Enso Art Space for a couple years, before that I was with the J Crist Gallery. I have a website, but don’t sell my work online. Most of my commissions come from past work. I think some people don’t have it in their consciousness that the public artist also has a private practice.

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How much time per week do you spend in your studio and what kind of relationship do you have with your workspace?

I spend about 4 to 5 hours per week creating, of course when I’m really working on a project that’s very different. Since I’ve moved to Hagerman, I come back to Boise every other week to work in my studio. Eventually, I plan to build a new studio space where I live. As far as my relationship to my workspace, it is my sanctuary. I’m surrounded by natural light and wood in this round space. I don’t feel separate from the outside, because it’s basically a tent. It’s wonderful. I hear the birds. I hear the wind and rain in this space. A connection to nature in my studio is really important to me. It’s really functional for me too; I can easily rearrange the space for printmaking or glass work or whatever I’m doing.

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What types of resources do you need to further your art career?  

The thing that I struggle with so much is documenting my work properly. It’s so tedious. I don’t have the patience for it and it’s not something I’m super interested in. It’s also really hard for me to relinquish my work to someone else. I have so many projects that aren’t photographed.

People also say that you need someone to market you and your work. I don’t even know what that means. I don’t really feel that I need “marketing.” I need an “agent,” someone to help place my work in different galleries or helping send out applications for projects. It would be amazing to have someone working on photography and documentation of my work.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for other artists?

As far as I know, we have one life to live. If you have something that needs to be expressed through sculpture or glass or printmaking or dance or theatre or puppets or whatever, do it now. Make your priorities yours. If you don’t live your life, there are a lot of other people who’d be so happy to live it for you.

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Do you feel that Boise’s art community is thriving? Is there anything lacking in this art community?

For the last three years I’ve been living in Hagerman, so I’m not as active in the local art scene. I don’t have a good thermometer on it to tell you the truth. In general, I would say that over the course of the last four or five years there has been less gallery activity and less visual artists doing their own self-motivated projects. I remember going to more random visual art performances on the street.

On the flip side of that coin, the music scene has just blown up in Boise. I think the pendulum has swung towards music. I really wouldn’t be able to say if there’s something lacking necessarily, the public art in Boise is phenomenal and that has been a life line for visual artists here.

I think things ebb and flow naturally, the pendulum swings in different directions.  Trey McIntyre Project was a huge force in Boise’s arts and culture scene, dance was huge. There was an incredible force of combining visual arts and dance with opportunities to collaborate. Maybe we’ll see more of that with this pendulum swinging more toward music.

I think the arts and cultural scene of Boise as a whole, is still thriving. Right now, visual arts might not be the driving force, but it’s alive and well for sure.


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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Creators, Makers & Doers: Rick Friesen

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At his North-End, Boise home, Rick Friesen quietly paints with a humble determination. Snapshots of landscapes and familiar faces adorn the studio walls of this 21-year veteran to Boise’s creative class. Quoting Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,” Friesen opens up to Arts & History staff, discussing the challenges of living and working in the City of Trees and where he finds inspiration. As one of the original founders of The Basement Gallery (a local gallery, now closed), Friesen’s artwork can be found in the City of Boise’s public art collection, including a recent  purchase of artwork added to the Boise Visual Chronicle.

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What is your preferred medium and why?

I like all mediums, but painting seems like the easiest one to turn into money and to make a living with. I’ve also made a lot of sculpture, but sculptures don’t sell. I do like oil painting; I’ve taken a lot of painting classes and really enjoy painting portraits and plein-air landscapes. I just roll with what feels right at the time.

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What are you working on right now?

I’m working on local landscapes mostly inspired from photographs I’ve taken on walks. I’m trying to get set up to paint from life, but, I have a big French easel which weighs about 20 pounds. I’m working on a kit so I can paint quick, small works instead of relying on my iphone for my images.

I’m also trying to work in a looser style, just to be a better painter. I’d like to get to the point where I can paint all the right tones right off the bat. I like the looser areas in paintings. It becomes about knowing when to stop sooner and not overthinking it. I’m always trying to learn new stuff about painting. I don’t think painting is something you can ever master. If you think you’ve mastered it, you’re pretty delusional.

Have you always been able to make a living as an artist?

Just barely, I am always scraping by. You have to live on faith when you do this. I like to design and build sheds and redo rooms and bathrooms. I’ve done murals and a little bit of design work, which to me is all creative.

What is your art making schedule like and how many hours a week or day do you work?

Sometimes I go for weeks without painting and sometimes I paint every day for weeks, up to 4-5 hours a day. I tend to work when I feel comfortable, when I think I can do whatever I want because I have enough money in the bank. It depends though, I might have to go look for a remodeling job or something else to supplement my income. It’s just life, right? I’m not considering a regular job.

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What’s the history of this workspace and your relationship to it?

It’s been through a few evolutions, this workspace. I have considered selling and moving to Garden City and doing what Surel did. I don’t know how soon or if for sure at this point. I’m not sure if I have enough equity to buy a lot in garden city and build a studio from scratch, which is what I’d like to do- design and build my own space. I have been trying to do some teaching out of this space, which is another reason why I’d like to move. In Garden City, I could build a nice big space with plenty of room and proper sinks.

Are you able to sell work in Boise? What kind of work sells best?

The kind of work I sell is local and more traditional work. There are so few people doing it here. It seems like people are taught in school, not to do regular, traditional oil painting. Some people think landscapes are so passé, or old school, but it’s what people are buying here. I also love doing portraits, but I don’t think people are into having their portrait painted; it’s almost tacky to have your own portrait hanging in your house.

I’m getting, or staying busy, by gaining friends on Facebook. People see my work on Facebook and immediately ask if it’s sold, then buy it. Most of the works are two to three hundred dollar paintings. There is however, a need for galleries in town.

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Are there any particular artists that you look to for inspiration?

There are some local artists doing great work, like Rachel Teannalach. She’s up every morning with a picture of new work posted before I get out of bed. It’s very inspiring in a way. I’ve also been following an artist out of L.A. named William Wray. He’s a great painter, doing really loose and large work. Like me, he goes out and takes photos and paints from his images. It’s funny though; he was the Ren & Stimpy artist and now paints traditional and loose works.

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Do you ever reach a period where your inspiration dries out?

Well I have enough images to inspire me and keep me working for a while. However, I just read a quote by Picasso where he says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,” so if you wait around for inspiration to strike you, you won’t get much done.

 


Creators, Makers, and Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.

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