Artists’ expedition captured on canvas, in narrative of trip


Montana Gallery

Daniel Keys, “Yellow Roses and Gladioli.”

Editor’s note: We went to the opening of “Young Guns,” a new exhibit at Tyler Murphy’s Montana Gallery, 2710 Second Ave. N., Friday night, and we liked what we saw.

It wasn’t just that the paintings were good, which they were. We were impressed with the way Murphy interspersed throughout the exhibit short, typewritten descriptions of the painting trip he made with a couple of fellow artists. Besides saying some cool things about Montana, Murphy really captured the joy of creativity, the inspiration of shared work.

We asked him if we could digitally reproduce his narrative, together with a selection of the paintings that accompanied it, and he said yes. The show will stay up for another week or so, but some of the pieces have already been sold and others doubtless will sell in the coming days, so it is an evolving exhibit. Without further ado:


Montana Gallery

Richie Carter, “Last to Leave Here.”

By Tyler Murphy

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. … As I’ve said, there’s always room for improvement.

Over the last couple of 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 the small mountain town of Ronan, Mont.


Montana Gallery

Forrest Dickison, “Battle for Ronan Keep.”

We were joined by our friend Forrest Dickison, who had driven over from Moscow, Idaho. Based out of Ronan, 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.


Montana Gallery

Tyler Murphy, “Late Afternoon and the Missions.”

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, Forrest 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 of which are inappropriate to share here.


Montana Gallery

Kenneth Yarus, “Just Another Season.”

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.


Montana Gallery

Daniel Keys, “Daffodils.”

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.

Bonus material: Watch Pete Tolton’s short video about the Young Guns exhibit.

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