A New Look for Old Favorites

By Beacon Staff

Sam Dauenhauer has always loved the creativity of painting. He has had an on-again-off-again relationship with brush and canvas throughout his life, but even with dalliances in different art forms, painting always seemed like the one.

That is, until Dauenhauer found out how fun computers can be.

“I’ve always painted, and lately I’m having an affair with the computer,” Dauenhauer said with a sheepish grin.

Flathead residents can be thankful he branched out. Dauenhauer’s latest art takes some of the most popular icons in the valley – Glacier National Park, Big Mountain, Flathead Lake – and portrays them in a unique, eye-catching way.

Dauenhauer’s paintings are at once simple and entertaining, with familiar landscapes painted on canvas with a background of colorful, defined lines. Some of his collection is currently at Ceres Bakery in Kalispell, with pieces depicting Big Mountain, bison near Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park and iconic scenes in Glacier National Park.

All of these designs start on the computer, Dauenhauer said, to make sure the lines are as distinct as possible and to keep the image as recognizable as possible. Once he settles on the design, the intricately detailed image is painted on the canvas.

On the wall opposite to the paintings, Dauenhauer, 27, has a collection of map art that he also creates on his computer. The pieces show outlines of Flathead Lake, Big Mountain, Glacier National Park and Montana, all packed with names of cities or trails or ski runs put in the correct geographical places.

These prints can take hours, but the time is well spent, Dauenhauer said.

“It’s important to be accurate,” Dauenhauer said.

All of his work could easily translate from canvas or watercolor paper to a poster or a T-shirt. Dauenhauer said this comes from his days spent screen-printing with simple designs and colors. Screen-printing entails using woven mesh to support a wooden stencil design and running ink over the stencil onto the preferred medium. Distinct lines and colors are necessary for a quality print.

Dauenhauer said he has almost perfected the screen-print for the intricate Flathead Lake map.

Dauenhauer said his work represents more than just fun colors and clever word placement. His goal is to raise awareness in current and future artists about the possibilities that the familiar can present.

“I take these images that I grew up around and that I’m excited to be a part of and turn it into something funky and fun,” Dauenhauer said.

A habitually early riser, Dauenhauer spends his time with his 5-year-old daughter, his art and his fiancée, Marissa Keenan. He credits Keenan with much of his success and says she acts as the business side of the art world while he creates.

People outside of Montana have started taking notice of Dauenhauer’s unique methods. A woman saw his rendering of Big Mountain and commissioned him to paint the Kelly Canyon Ski Resort in Idaho.

He was also commissioned by the San Diego Zoo to design the T-shirts for Frank, the zoo’s new baby gorilla, and is working on a design for a new panda cub that will be presented in December.

Art was not always his full-time job. Dauenhauer used to work in the mortgage industry, which has been all but frozen in the Flathead during the economic downturn. But Dauenhauer saw the recession as an opportunity to pursue what he feels is his true calling. He is confident there are other artists in the Flathead in similar situations and some are taking the risk of pursuing their dreams.

“There comes a point when you’ve had enough,” Dauenhauer said. “I decided that it was now or never.”

Eventually, Dauenhauer would like to move away from printing his work off a computer to producing all his work with screen-prints. This approach would keep his prices low and keep his products local, he said.

And in the end, it’s all about people enjoying the places they’ve been, Dauenhauer said. He would also like to branch out and design pieces based on different places across the country, but for now he said the focus is on Montana.

“It’s all about having fun,” Dauenhauer said.

For more information, visit www.designingsam.com

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