OKC VeloCity | Chamber Holiday Card Q&A: Dusty Gilpin

Chamber Holiday Card Q&A: Dusty Gilpin

By Josh Vaughn / Lifestyle / December 25, 2018

Every year the Chamber spreads some cheer by creating its own festive holiday card. This season, we commissioned locally acclaimed artist Dusty Gilpin to collaborate with us to create an original design that would reflect on our city’s accomplishments, while pointing us forward toward an even brighter future. The result is a beautiful, timeless work that encapsulates a modern Oklahoma City that believes it can do anything. We sat down with Dusty for a Q&A about him, his art and his vision of our city.

VeloCity: Can you tell me a bit about yourself? (What do you want our readers to know about you?)

Gilpin: I am a seventh-generation Oklahoman on both sides of my family; a mixture of Czech and Choctaw landrunners. I live and work in Oklahoma City, and the Plaza District has been my stomping grounds for the last eight years. Professionally, I am an artist for hire. I like to build and design things, I love to paint, and I really enjoy drawing cartoons. I ran a print shop and retail store called Tree & Leaf for 12 years in OKC, but recently decided to go 'all in' on commercial art.

Dusty's Grandfather Dick Gilpin worked with Robert Jacobson in 1954
to start the Graphic Arts Center. Greg Gilpin, Dusty’s father, now carries
on the family business.

You come from a lineage of illustrators and artists. How has your father’s and grandfather’s work influenced your own?

My father and grandfather cultivated my art very early on. Some of my earliest memories are from their design studio 'Graphic Art Center.' To entertain me, they would set me in front of an Art-O-Graph and have me draw cartoons. My father has always been encouraging of my art. Although he wasn't thrilled when I dropped out of college, he was supportive of me pursuing art as a career even though our styles and approaches are different.

Were they the only two creatives in your family?

I was surrounded by creatives as a child. My mother owned a bakery and is a phenomenal cake decorator. Her father is an extremely skilled carpenter and furniture builder. My sister is a wonderful violinist. Creative expression and hard work were definitely tenets of our family.

As you were growing up, were there any creative influences outside of your family that inspired you to pursue your art?

I source a ton of inspiration from cartoons I watched as a child. Preston Blair, early Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons are hugely influential to me drawing cartoons. I still reference a ton of classic graphic design and vintage typography. When I got into my teens I started noticing that graffiti artists use cartoons and characters to accent their letters, so inevitably I got into graffiti. I also look up to a lot of local artists and illustrators. When I came back to OKC from college, I realized that there had been a really great art scene that I had overlooked.

Creativity in OKC

This large acrylic painting of a Chevy Luv pickup truck was part of a recent
exhibition entitled “Horsepower” in which Dusty exhibited alongside his
wife and fellow artist Kristen Vails.

Being a full-time artist in Oklahoma City can be a challenge. What influences you to create art here in OKC?

The community of artists that I surround myself with influence me to create art here. The OKC art scene is not big, but it is welcoming. I've met a ton of designers, painters and illustrators here that are nationally recognized but are hardly recognized in this state. As artists, we need community and encouragement from each other to continue creating here. Although this won't scratch the surface, some of my best artist friends are Tanner Frady, Jason Pawley, Dylan Bradway, Kris Kanaly, Denise Duong, Kristen Vails, Edgardo George, Ashley Smith......on and on and on.

How would you describe the art scene in OKC?

Underappreciated! We have so many good artists right here in OKC (and in Tulsa)! We have wonderful illustrators and painters. We have incredible sign and mural painters. We have nationally recognized designers. We have excellent tattoo artists. We also have some incredible musicians. There is a renaissance happening in the OKC art community and my biggest fear is that it will be appreciated more by folks looking inward from other states.

One of Dusty’s regular customers, OKC’s own iconic Tower Theater keeps him
busy hand screening beautiful posters like this one for a recent concert.

Creativity and community have always been at the center of whatever you have been doing. For you, it seems the two go hand-in-hand seamlessly. What role would you like to see the art/creative community play in the future of OKC? What part would you like to play in this vision of a future OKC?

I think I will always be a proponent for more murals. Murals and painted signs add so much value and aesthetic to a community. Murals add civic pride, and they are placemakers. This is something that we (painters) have had to fight for in OKC. Because of city ordinances, it is still a lot of work and very time consuming to pull permits for a mural in OKC.

Besides that, there are a lot of art happenings that just need more community participation. The Fresh Start program at the Homeless Alliance is a time when artists can work with the homeless in creating art and having art shows. The Pencil Pushers (aka Drink & Draw) host community drawing events. AIGAOK has been hosting a ton of wonderful guest speakers and drawing sessions. I always try to keep an ear on what's happening around The Paseo and Plaza District.

Holiday Card

Stylistically where did you draw your inspiration for your vision of the holiday card?

The holiday card concept was proposed to me by the Chamber. They wanted to highlight a few iconic sites from OKC along with including new and future buildings and amenities. My illustration work is typically clean and simple, so I ran with creating bold line illustrations of buildings and the streetcar. It has a little bit of a whimsical feel to it. All graphic design projects go through their own series of artist concept and client revision.

What was your favorite part of working on this project?

I enjoy the research side of design. I like digging through old photos of downtown buildings, or sourcing images and reference material for projects. Graphic design is all about troubleshooting, so making revisions to meet the client's need can require some flexibility.

While the imaging of the card celebrates current and past projects, the messaging encourages us to keep looking forward and to keep our eyes to the future. What excites you about what you see in OKC’s future?

I'm really looking forward to the new park downtown. In the summer, my wife and I really enjoy the outdoor events at Myriad Gardens and the new park looks to be a wonderful extension to that.

Future Plans

Dusty in his workshop. Photo Credit: Quit Nguyen.

What projects do you have coming up that you are excited about?

I had a really great season of work recently. I had opportunities to install new murals on Maples Barbeque and Schwab's Meat Co. I had a great opportunity to do some design work for the NBA on TNT and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The guys at the Tower Theatre have been giving me great poster printing gigs. I have a lot to be thankful for and I'm just going to keep my head down. I have some great projects coming down the pipeline for the beginning of 2019, but this is the first year in 12 that I haven't had a retail store during the holidays, so I'm just going to try to soak that up!

Find out more about Dusty Gilpin, his art and Tree and Leaf on www.okiedust.com and www.treeandleafclothing.com.

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