Periodically I'll get emails or messages asking how I learned to do what I do, what sort of art education I have, and why I draw random stuff for a ski website now. The answers to those questions are: YouTube, barely any, and because it's more fun than installing flooring. It's that simple. Done. Go skiing.
But, I know that ten years ago, when I was embarking on this quest to be heard in ski media, or five years ago, when I really put my focus towards being a ski illustrator, or five minutes ago, when I got a big old blast of imposter syndrome, I would have really appreciated someone who'd done what I'm trying to do laying out where they came from and how they got here. So that's what I'm going to do here.
Recently I was cleaning and stumbled across a collection of old sketchbooks, and I realized that through their pages, the story of how I came to spend a bunch of my time drawing skiing makes a fair bit of sense. So this is a sketchbook tour, as well as a journey through my growth as an artist. You don't have to do it this way, but this is how I did it, and hopefully it provides some insights that can help you!
In high school I took one semester of one two-day a week art class, and then dropped it for weight training. So this story, and these notebooks really start in 2012, the year I graduated high school and started college, and also the first full season I really skied, hard.
All I remember about this is that I drew it for some sort of contest evo held. I'm not sure I ever even submitted it, or heard back, but I still like the concept here. I love that year of Bacon top sheet. This was back when skiers were sponsored by Target, and had matching Target logos on their tails and their gloves. You can see the origins of the obsession I still have with portraying actual gear in my art.
Lots of time spent drawing logos in these days, figuring out the shapes and the branding, zoning out during classes and tagging everything I owned with hand-drawn stickers.
This was the year I got an NS account, and I was obsessed with the site, it felt like the center of everything I cared about.
Lots of Pollard influences, I drew these trees of his hundreds of times, playing with his signature Nimbus clouds.
At this point I was surrounded by better artists, and figured it wasn't for me. So I was focused on film and photos. I worked for a production company, even appeared in a film that was briefly on Netflix. So my drawing was spent on doodles to kill time, and stuff like this, a diagram of how to run a Red Epic camera. That camera was very cool, still wish I'd gotten to shoot skiing with it.
I met Caleb Ehly through Newschoolers, in what proved to be a major inflection point for me. We went on a few trips together, that really pushed me to get all the way into skiing. Now he's out there kicking butt as an architect.
Tons of aimless doodles at this point. I wasn't trying to be an artist or an illustrator or anything, I just had restless hands, and always had two notebooks out during classes, one for the class, and one for doodles. In retrospect, I'm really grateful for this time. There's a lot to be said for loosely free drawing, building coordination and mark making skills.
I also used to keep track of every day I spent on snow, where I skied, and who it was with. This season marks a big turning point for me. Several trips to shoot for NS, the end of an almost-relationship, and a pretty crappy winter of snow. I was really driven to shoot photos, but also didn't have great conditions to do that. So I started drawing the photos I wanted to be taking. I also moved some things around so that I could do my final year of college classes remotely, and plotted my move to a ski town. I was tired of driving 3+ hours each way to ski.
Will Burkes was the first real "pro" skier I shot with consistently, and he shows up as reference for a bunch of doodles from this time period.
More photos I wished I could have taken with Will.
Doug Bishop was one of the first people to really encourage me to just chase whatever I wanted in skiing, be that art, writing, or photos. So here's Doug, in a Llama, from an epic Whistler trip.
Spring 2015 I shot a ladies' trip to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for NS. While I was out there, I did my first two days touring with Sander Hadley, Bo Ferro, Tsak the Cat, and Meaghann Gafney. I was absolutely hooked on walking up mountains. Here's that crew walking up Glory.
I missed the shot of Sander boosting a big 360 off this cliff, so I drew it instead. The first of many times I underestimated how friggin big this guy goes.
That spring I cold emailed every company and outlet in skiing, trying to find an internship. Blister Review responded, I edited a few videos for them, did some copy editing, and then got hired to work remotely as an editor. So, I promptly packed my bags, bought a wireless hotspot, and drove to Hood. I'd work from camp most of the day, taking my laptop down to Trillium Lake to edit photos and fix grammar, and then bang out laps on the glacier. I drew this at Trillium, so enchanted with the life I was living.
My early experiments with color were really, really, really bad. Like, So bad.
When I moved to Bozeman I resolved to fill a page of my sketchbook every day with doodles of some kind. I still wasn't getting paid to make art, and was really focused on photography, but I still loved drawing, and invested a bunch of time into it. Also, obviously, I was homesick.
More Bozeman stuff.
That summer was long and hot.
I've drawing this guy a lot.
Eventually Bozeman's housing market chased me out, and I made my way to Driggs. The Tetons had loomed large for me ever since that Jackson trip. And yes, I've been backcountry blading here since 2015.
I really loved my car.
But then I totaled it on an elk and entered a weird period of trying to ride my bike to the resort.
One of the first things I ever drew that got used by a company. Thanks Bloom! Pretty sure they traded me a jacket for this one. Sky was massively influenced by Adam Haynes, one of those guys I really look up to.
Nerdy stuff, designing skis I wished existed. Ryan Schmies has always been a huge influence, I worshiped his work (still do) and always aspired to draw a ski graphic that made it into production.
That 15-16 winter got me really into backcountry skiing, but I was such a mess that I rarely got good photos, so instead, I drew a lot.
Winter culminated with a gnarly trip that took me all over the west. I was falling apart on the Olympic Peninsula with David Steele when I graduated college. That's what's going on here,
More from that trip. That's Jackson's sled, now he runs Big Sky Mountain Products and I draw stuff for him sometimes.
Sander Hadley from that period. I believe he was between ski sponsors, so I drew these terribly ugly generic top sheets.
I was still really hit or miss with color
During the 16-17 winter I started actually getting commissions, where folks paid me a little bit to draw stuff for them. I was still making most of my money off photos and words though.
Ravens and axes were a common theme.
These were a big friggin deal to me. I got to draw the Moment/Blister collab Bibby Pro. This was a dream come true. In retrospect, I don't love the graphic. I'm so thankful I got the opportunity, but man, I'd love a shot at redemption with ski graphics someday,
This one marks an inflection point. It's of the girl I'm married to now, and she's really encouraged me to push the drawing side of things more, and make it into a career.
I'd try watercolor paints every few months, get disgusted with myself, and give back up.
This sort-of self portrait was my season pass photo for a lot of seasons, before RFID tickets killed it.
So, there's the story, told from my sketchbooks of 2012-2017. The first five years. Summer of 2017 I quit my job at Blister and started working construction. Not much drawing happened that summer. Fall 2017 I was hired by a PR firm in Jackson, and even less drawing happened. Spring 2018 I was laid off from that PR firm (thank the lord) so I remodeled my girlfriend's basement to help cut down on rent and tried to draw full time. I ended up working construction again and drawing sporadically, until spring 2020 when I started drawing comics for NS , and you've been stuck with me ever since! I haven't really kept a notebook since 2018, too much of my work has been commercial, and I haven't really had time to draw just for me that much. So I don't really have anything from the intervening period.
I'm not sure if any of that's helpful. My path won't be your path, but your path is out there. If you want to draw ski stuff, or any other outdoor stuff, you should. Keeping a notebook, practice, doodle, study folks who's work you like. Drawing is great. You don't need a formal education or a fancy internship or expensive equipment or any of that to become a mediocre illustrator like myself.