Before becoming an iconic acrylic artist in the Flathead Valley and beyond, Rocky Hoerner sold his first piece of art at age 14 when he was attending high school in Kalispell, where he was born and raised.
“I stepped out into the world and I started selling it and it’s kind of been up and down, but I built my name around that,” Hoerner said.
Fifty years later, Hoerner’s mountain landscapes, wildlife acrylics, calendars and his artist signature are recognizable across the valley, nationwide and his work has even been sold internationally.
Hoerner’s new exhibit, “Timeless Montana,” is showing at ImagineIF Kalispell where his acrylic paintings and prints are on display on the first floor of the library until the end of November when it will be relocated to ImagineIF Columbia Falls. Hoerner’s show is the first exhibit since they were put on hold in March 2020.
“That was a big part of resuming art exhibits,” ImagineIf Libraries Marketing and Communications Coordinator Lune Axelsen said. “He’s so iconic to the area and … even if people don’t know his name, they know his art.”
Hoerner’s artistic process begins with a pencil outline, followed by ink and paint, finishing the details with a fine-tip Sharpie marker.
As a self-taught artist, Hoerner’s attention to detail roots from his youth where he started creating art with pen and ink. He describes his work as realism mixed with surrealism, using a wide color pallet to create anything from mountains to elk to mythical creatures.
In Horner’s early years as an artist, he drew mostly fantasy art, much of it inspired by the 1977 animated film, “Wizards.” But he veered away from fantasy as he got older, realizing there was probably a better market in the wildlife genre.
“I started doing more mountains and wildlife and it just evolved from there,” Hoerner said. “Now I’m doing a combination.”
Now, Hoerner is reigniting his youth and he’s working on a series called “Yordel,” which are creatures resembling a mix between ostrich’s and horses, inspired by “Wizards.”
Much of Hoerner’s other work is influenced by the 1970s, along with classic artists like Charlie Russell and art featured in Mad Magazine and Crack Magazine.
“I’ve still got one foot in the ‘70s,” he said.
Hoerner reflects on the 1970s as an integral time period in his career, where his artwork launched and he began making important connections with well-known artists in the valley who helped get his art in galleries and create an established name.
“It was my 20s and my youth,” Hoerner said. “My career was taking off … I kind of built from there.”
For the first time since the 1980s, Hoerner has a marketing director who he started working with this summer and is helping him “get into the 21st century,” and creating a more established online presence.
In the coming months, Hoerner is revamping his silk screening business, Rockoon Design, which he started in the 1990s where he screen-prints his designs on apparel that he plans to sell in local shops.
Hoerner also recently finished his 2022 calendars, available at local businesses, which he started creating 35 years ago as a way to make money during the holidays.
Over the years, Hoerner’s artist career has ebbed and flowed and he’s picked up odd jobs throughout the valley when art sales were slow, but he’s maintained a positive attitude.
“I just love doing it,” Hoerner said. “I’ll do it the rest of my life … My daughter said ‘I’m so proud that you didn’t give up.’”
“Timeless Montana” will be on display at ImagineIF Kalispell until the end of November before it relocates to ImagineIF Columbia Falls until February.
Hoerner will host a meet the artist Facebook Live event on Oct. 20 at 5 p.m.
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