It’s an interesting time to get to know the work of oil painter Jordan Porter.
Porter, who grew up in Whitefish and lives here now, first started his journey as a professional artist with his renderings of the Flathead Valley in the winter, with a particular focus on Big Mountain and the snowghosts that live there in the coldest months.
These are the pieces — with their fluffy snow, recognizable geography and perfect light — that caught his friends’ eyes when he first started painting again a few years ago, after a break with the art form in adulthood.
People who had moved away from the Flathead and saw his work wanted to buy it because it felt like home, which to Porter is an incredible compliment on his paintings and how they render this amazing place.
“It really brings them back to home, which I love,” Porter said, looking at a few of his pieces hanging at Going to the Sun Gallery here. “I’ve been trying to do more complex stuff.”
Which is why it’s an interesting time to start watching Porter, whose work gained popularity so quickly that he has been able to work full-time as an artist for a couple years now. With his first solo show planned for Missoula in September, Porter is evolving in front of his audience’s eyes.
Porter’s journey as an artist started young, and by the time he was at Whitefish High School, art was his full focus. But by the time he graduated in 2005, Porter felt burnt out on art. He stopped painting, and got more into mountain biking in his early 20s.
Then, he went to Whistler, British Columbia, where he encountered a lively community of artists creating work. It was a way back into the art world he’d left on pause, Porter said, because it started out with just wanting to decorate his home.
“I was inspired by a lot of artists in Whistler,” Porter said, adding that Michael “Chili” Thom’s wildly colorful creations projected not just the landscapes he loved, but also the feeling of seeing those landscapes.
Porter couldn’t afford Chili Thom’s work, so he started painting his own snowghosts and other Whistler winter scenes. Then, proud of his work, he posted them on social media, where friends began asking if they could get a painting like that.
Eventually, it happened often enough that Porter was able to pursue painting full-time. He switched from acrylic paint to oils, which he prefers because oil paint doesn’t dry as quickly and allows the artist to continue changing or adjusting a piece after letting it alone and putting it from his mind for a bit.
“I like to work on it for a while and then let it sit,” Porter said. “Knowing when it’s done can be the hardest part.”
Now, his paintings are shifting from mostly portraying winter to showing off the beauty of this region in the summer. Porter said he’s slowly changed to prefer the summer scenes because of the light he gets to play with on the canvas, such as a sunset on Glacier National Park’s peaks.
Living in Whitefish and playing in the outdoors means having unlimited inspiration, Porter said, which is one of the reasons he loves living here. He’s painted the aspen trees in his front yard, and plenty of river scenes from his time out there fishing.
“I paint the stuff I see around here every day,” Porter said. “No matter where you go, it seems there’s always something to paint around here.”