Art of the Outdoors: John Fellows
The Art of the Outdoors: John Fellows
We've collaborated with unique and talented artists, athletes, and storytellers to bring to life their unique blend of self-expression, passion, and love of the outdoors.
Meet artist, explorer, traveler, proud father, powder hound, and all-around good guy John Fellows.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a designer/illustrator/artist currently living in Crested Butte, Colorado. In these days of “internet everything” I still like to make things by hand. All my work is carved by hand and printed using a wooden spoon which transfers the image from the inked block to paper. I haven’t touched a printing press since college. I like to show people that you don’t need a fancy set of knives or press to make work. If you have a small table at home, you can create your own linocuts while only making a relatively small mess.
How did you fall in love with the outdoors and creating?
I’ve always loved the outdoors since I was a kid. My parents would take us camping, hiking and sailing all the time while growing up which helped instill the love of nature and the importance of protecting it.
As for falling in love with creating, for the most part, all kids draw up to a certain age. Some keep drawing while others get interested in sports, bikes, video games, etc and stop. I was one of those kids that just kept drawing because I loved it.
For the longest time, my love for drawing and the outdoors never intersected. It wasn’t until I started traveling, hiking and skiing more during college that the outdoors started creeping into my work. Once I moved to Colorado from Philadelphia in 2003, I really noticed there was a lack of outdoor-oriented artwork that appealed to me and my friends. And that’s what really started the drive to create my own artwork based on the outdoors and travel.
Can you describe your style of art? Why did you choose this as your main medium?
I would describe my art as “contemporary folk.” My work mainly has an old, vintage aesthetic due to the hand-carved blocks and old paper and maps I use. But the actual carvings themselves have a pretty stylized and graphic look.
I ended revisiting this medium in college while doing an independent study in printmaking. I found that it broke me of my “control freak-ness” that I had when I would draw. Basically, if my drawing didn’t look exactly like what I was looking at, I would get angry and not turn projects in causing me to sometimes get “C’s” in art class. Block printing helped me break away from this mentality because no matter what the initial sketch looks like, the finished piece will end up with a life and energy of its own.
And if you’ve ever seen me hold a pencil or pen, it looks like I’m choking the life out of it.
Where do you find your inspiration outdoors?
I find my inspiration in the outdoors in a variety of ways. It can come from the simple act of just sitting outside doing nothing to long hikes in the wilderness or spending a day on the mountain skiing with family and friends. It’s not just landscapes that inspire my art, it’s also the activities that are done in the outdoors that make their way into my work.
What do you consider art in the outdoors that others might not see/observe?
I think this is kind of a loaded question. Experiences in the outdoors and nature are totally subjective. Everyone's experience is different (for the most part). You can’t force your own views on others of what their experience should be. I might see the beauty in a remote confluence of rivers and something that needs protecting while someone else unfortunately only sees money and a place that should be developed.
What is important to you about balancing art, life, and being outdoors?
The outdoors is a big part of my life and when I found myself spending less and less time out there enjoying it, I started noticing I was getting depressed and finding less joy in the other activities that were taking the place of outdoor adventures.
I think it is extremely important to balance one's professional life with personal time. It’s the only way to clear your head and to recharge one's creative drive. For the most part, if you are feeling healthy and happy, that will spill over into all facets of your life. If you’re stressed out all the time, that can truly impact your personal relationships and jobs.
Unfortunately, it’s extremely easy to fall into this rut. I experienced this first hand recently. My wife had to point out to me that I was working too much this summer and that I was always stressed and not in the best mood. Basically, even if work is busy, you need to force yourself to get outside for a bike ride, hike or walk. You’ll always feel better and a lot of times that is when creative inspiration strikes. I’m lucky to have someone there to help me remember this and to make me get up from the work table when I need to.
What has been your most memorable adventure?
My most memorable adventure is a tie between a 14-day ski trip to the Swiss and French Alps and a raft trip down the Grand Canyon. We hit the Alps right after a big storm which was said to have been some of the best snow in 10 years and the raft trip was a 16-day private with my wife and only 6 other friends. Both trips happened in the same year which made it pretty epic.
What are three things about you that most people may not know?
1. I was an Army BRAT so moved every 2-3 years or so while growing up. Spent time in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia (multiple times) and even Europe.
2. I met my wife in Switzerland. She was backpacking around Europe while I was working at a hostel in a small car-free village.
3. I played rugby for 12 years and was actually pretty good. :)