My First Western Masters Show

Submitted by Gary on Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:37

North Wall of the Exhibit

The highlight of the year so far was participating in the Western Masters Art Show in Great Falls, Montana. It was my first time in the show and what a fantastic experience!

The show is part of Western Art Week and one of many art venues open during the third week of March. It's been operating at the Western Heritage Inn for over 40 years and used to be called the Charlie Russell Show, named in honor of the famous western artist who made Great Falls his home and helped put Western Art on the map. While the show's name has changed it's still the same great exhibition of famous and emerging western-themed artists. You can find all types of western art including cowboys and Indians, wildlife, and pure landscapes as well as some work not of a western theme but by western-based artists.

There are over 100 artists in the show, most of whom occupy a single hotel room in which they set up a display of their work. I had room 177 all to myself which had its benefits and deterrents. Having one's own room can be an expensive proposition but gives one more freedom of expression than sharing a room. I was fortunate to have enough work to fill a room so opted to make the investment in enough lights and display panels to exhibit it to great effect. That was partly the result of having so many galleries close in recent years. With fewer outlets, the work tended to remain with me longer. Many of the paintings on display had been to one or more national pastel shows and won awards. The result was a room full of luminous pastel paintings aglow in soft light that wowed nearly every visitor.

Some of the interesting comments and questions I got were about the quality of work achievable with pastel and some of the misconceptions about the medium. Since pastel paintings do not dry like an oil painting they must be protected with glass. I use a very high quality museum glass that eliminates almost all reflections. A lot of visitors to my room assumed they were looking at oil paintings and asked questions like, "Do you use a palette knife to get that effect?" Several people saw the glass on one painting and asked if I had any other pastels. That was surprising to me because all 40 paintings were pastel. One person showed me that I can't assume everyone knows what "pastel" means in the context of art mediums. When told they were pastels, they commented that they realized they were since the colors were muted. It was then I jumped into educator mode to explain that pastel was a form of solid paint pigment, not a range of pale (or grayed) colors as the word implies to an interior designer.

Overall the show was an excellent experience, great exposure, good for the bank account, and I recommend that any artists thinking of applying should do so in case there are any openings for new artists next year. For art lovers, by all means put this show on your bucket list and get there sooner rather than later. Friends that came at my recommendation this year were so glad they did. In addition to finding some great art for your home you can feel good for helping support up-and-coming artists of all ages. I donated a small painting to a raffle that offers financial support to young artists wishing to become part of the show.

My good friend Bob Cherry was kind enough to take some photos of me in the room. Click on any of them to see larger versions though I encourage it only to see the paintings better. I tend to squint in bright light as you can see.

Below are two more images showing the hotel room before it was set up and just before the show opened with everything hanging straight and well-lit. The final image is on the snowy day some friends helped me pack for home. I wouldn't have gotten out of the room by checkout time if not for their very generous help. People stopped to stare at the back of the rented mini-van when it was loaded. In spite of selling paintings at the show, the van was still chock-full of panels and equipment. It's all now stored in readiness for next year's show!

Ready for My Closeup, Mr. DeMille

My Largest Aspen Piece So Far

Before Setup

Ready to Go!

Packed Up for Home