Written by Kim Weeks from her interview with Caleb Meyer.


A budding artist never quite knows what is going to spark his passion and awaken his talent. For landscape artist Caleb Meyer, it may have been a grade school pumpkin carving contest in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho. While he described his pumpkin design as “traditional,” Caleb said his classmates loved it. And his teacher, who also recognized his talent and potential, encouraged him to be even more creative with his design, a lesson he remembers to this day.


“I always think about that, because I think the teacher was correct. I needed to be more fun or exciting or interpretive,” he said. “Sometimes I think about that in my own artwork. How do you think not just about technique or trying to create the illusion of space, but [also] how do you make it  unique to who I am as an artist. To find a personal voice in that.”


Caleb’s personal voice is more than apparent in his work today in his use of color, drama and texture. His work is recognizable and, regardless of its size or subject matter, elicits even more positive reactions than his pumpkin did, all those years ago.


Though the schools he attended where small, Caleb said he felt supported in his art throughout those years and was once voted “Art Student of the Year.” After high school graduation, Caleb moved on to Boise State University, where he studied art education, played drums in a band, and met and married his wife Jacque. It was also there that a professor nudged him in the direction of his current career as a full-time artist and painter.


“We did some plein air paintings … and one turned out kind of cool, and the professor said, ‘Oh, you should change your degree from teaching to fine art with an emphasis in painting.’ So, that was really encouraging. I ended up sticking with teaching, but it did encourage me to seek out an apprenticeship,” he said. “It’s cool. People can help change your trajectory.”


Caleb was fortunate to have grown up in the company of renowned artist and family friend, Robert Moore, who became influential in his choices as an artist. As part of the art education curriculum, Caleb was required to take classes in a number of different media, including oils. He said these classes, coupled with his boyhood memories of Moore helped him to discover a love for oil painting.


“We went outside to paint a footbridge on the campus of Boise State. When I look at [the painting] now, it’s pretty rough, but in the moment I was like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good,’” Caleb said. “Up to that point, I knew I just loved all types of art, and I never really dove into one specific medium. So, when I did the oil painting, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is something I could really just grab a hold of and run with and specialize in.’”


Soon after, Caleb landed an apprenticeship with Moore and spent the summer with him before beginning his student teaching commitment that fall. Upon graduation from Boise State in 2006, Caleb went back to work with Moore and spent almost two years working and apprenticing for him. During that time he earned his living by helping Moore remodel an old bean warehouse which would become Moore’s studio, but he also was able to lay a strong foundation for his own painting through Moore’s tutelage.


“[Moore] was really generous with his instruction, and I was painting probably 20 hours a week and working the rest; just doing manual labor type stuff,” he said.


Caleb saw some immediate success during this time, securing representation in two area galleries. But by then, he and Jacque had two young children and the recession was beginning, so when he got an offer from the school in which he student taught, he took the job. For three years, Caleb taught high school art classes by day and painted in his garage on evenings and weekends. Like many, Caleb found teaching to be both frustrating and fulfilling and looked forward to a full-time career as an artist.


“It’s such a hot and cold thing, because parts of it were great. Having relationships with the students could be really fun. But then there were some classes where they’d shove in 30-plus freshman who didn’t want to do art and just wanted an easy grade. That felt like hell,” he said. “Then there were the advanced art classes where you had ten kids who were pretty cool and wanted to do art, and then [I thought], ‘Oh, this is the best job in the world.’”


After a couple of years teaching, Caleb made a deal with Jacque. They agreed that if he could earn as much money from one year of gallery sales as he did teaching, he would leave his job and take up painting full time. He hit that milestone, but, Caleb said, the transition was not without its lean times, and he had to consider going back to teaching full time.



“I was like, ‘Okay, if things don’t turn around in the next month or two, I’ll look for another teaching job.’ And then I had a show at Park City and sold, I think, 11 paintings. And that was kind of a big God thing. I felt like He opened up the door to keep going,” Caleb said. 

 Soon after, he participated in another show at which he sold another dozen paintings, which gave the young family even more stability and a stronger basis for continuing his full-time painting career. Caleb attributes that success to both fortuitous timing and hard work.


“You get that fire in your belly, where you’re like, ‘Okay, this is kind of a make-or-break [moment].’ With the amount of effort [I put in] in the studio, I was really just trying to push it,” he said.


Since then, Caleb and Jacque have moved to another place just outside of Missoula, where he designed and built his own studio with the help of some friends. He continues to paint full-time while Jacque handles the “numbers” of the art business and also manages their nearby four-unit vacation rental property. Caleb enjoys success in a number of Western Art galleries, including Montana Trails Gallery, which he joined thanks to his friend and fellow MTG artist, Troy Collins.


MTG employee Megan Molyneaux says Caleb’s paintings are consistently popular with clientele, and they appreciate the partnership they have developed over the last several years.


“Caleb is so great to work with and his art is always in demand. His paintings are so distinctive, and clients are just drawn to it. When it sells, which it usually does quickly, we look forward to getting new pieces from him,” Megan said.


Caleb loves the challenge of landscapes and scenery of all types, including cityscapes, agricultural scenes, and iconic street locales. But it’s his powerful cloud depictions that have brought him both recognition and creative rejuvenation.


“In southern Idaho, especially in the spring, they get really dramatic clouds. And I remember being out in the farmlands one afternoon and I saw these epic … cumulus kind of huge, billowing clouds. And I took a couple photos, and then the next day I was in the studio and painted them. And I just kind of went in for thick paint and tons of movement with the pallet knife, just trying to capture the energy. And I think that definitely had an impact on the connection I have with the sky. [I had the] feeling like there was a real breakthrough with that, and it didn’t feel like work or a struggle. It was just really fun,” he said. “Sometimes, when I want to feel the excitement of painting again, after I have worked really hard on something that was more technical …  I’d [think], ‘Oh yeah, I need to do a big cloud painting and just have fun.’”


Caleb likes to work quicky, applying wet paint on wet, using a pallet knife or mudding trowel. He usually tries to complete a painting in one sitting, so as not to overwork it, and often uses bright, contrasting colors, which are natural in tone, yet striking to the viewer.


“I just start going in with thick paint and usually start on top and just basically work down. If there are layers, I’ll do back to front. So I paint the sky and then if there are mountains in front of it, or if there’s a street scene, I start in the back and move forward. Or [I’ll paint] dark to light, layering. If there’s a car, I’ll save the bright headlights for last, so I can lay over the highlights across the other parts of the painting,” he said.


Caleb says he stays inspired by traveling, taking photos, visiting galleries and constantly looking around for potential subjects for his paintings. He is always mindful that, while he needs to be joyful in his work and stay true to himself, his paintings must also connect with a viewer, and that, too, brings him joy.


“I love the fact that my paintings can brighten someone’s life, or their day, or their house,” he said. “It’s just really an amazing privilege to be a blessing for others in that way of bringing some beauty into the world in a small way.”


Throughout his artistic life, Caleb was insightful enough to listen to the words of teachers and mentors as far back as grade school, and we are grateful for it. And whether he is painting landscapes or abstracts, clouds or neon signs, Caleb’s work is a reflection of his talent, passion and creative instincts. 





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