My Last Year and This Year’s Western Art Week…

A lot has happened since I posted my last blog entry so I thought I’d check in. Most importantly, last summer my painting schedule became so demanding that I decided to quit my day job and pursue my art career full time- and my wife went for it! While we were making big changes, we decided to move to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and buy a house.

I also picked up two more galleries, the beautiful Dick Idol Gallery in Whitefish, Montana, the West Lives On Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming. I am honored and thrilled, they are both galleries that I hoped would represent me someday.

I had a couple of shows in 2018 including the Out West show in Great Falls and a one man show in Dayton, Washington at the Wenaha Gallery. It was awesome to be at the Out West show for the first time. I know my dad would be so proud. This was something he and I both dreamed about for me. The Wenaha Gallery did a really nice write-up for their blog and newsletter, which you can read if you’re interested here:

I am excited, as always, to participate in Western Art Week in Great Falls. I am happy to announce that my 24″ x 40″ piece, Almost Home, will be at the Saturday night auction, 5:00 p.m. of the Russell Event at the Mansfield Convention Center. I also have a 24″ x 30″ piece, Swing Shift, that will be auctioned at the Elks Lodge at 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning. I will be at the Best Western Heritage Inn at the Out West Art Show again, but this time I will be in Room 226, so please drop by if you can! It is scheduled for March 19-23. I have attached images of some of the work that will be available in case you are not able to make it.

ALMOST HOME small export 300dpi
24″ x 40″ Oil on linen, Almost Home

24″ x 30″ Oil on linen, Swing Shift

28″ x 21″ Oil on linen, Showdown. Available in Room 226, Best Western Heritage Inn.

11″ x 14″ Oil on linen, Gettin’ Ready for Work. Available in Room 226, Best Western Heritage Inn.

18″ x 24″ Oil on linen, Straight from the Horse’s Mouth, Available in Room 226, Best Western Heritage Inn.


Thanks to Those Who Came Before Me

I started off as an art major in college.  I don’t want to rag on the school or the program, because there were some great artists there, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t for me, and I finished my degree in Environmental Studies.  A lot of my artist friends, particularly those who do realistic representational work, have the same story: their art program did not teach how to paint, but rather, how to express.  This is fine and good for those who want to, well, “express” for a living, but not those who want to paint cowboys and bears, like I do.  And when it comes to teaching how to run an art business, well, we certainly didn’t receive any instruction in that area.  Unfortunately, artists who want to make it as artists are pretty much on their own.  Gone are the days of the master/apprenticeship model, (or at least mostly gone), that Leonardo and Raphael enjoyed.  Nowadays you just have to hope that those who came before you are magnanimous enough to impart their wisdom to those who are just starting out, wondering what to do.

Luckily, I have found some amazing mentors who have really guided me in the right direction so I can make a real career out of my art.  In fact, I have found that most of the successful artists I have met and gotten to know are more than willing to lend me a listening ear and offer a word of sought-after advice.  I haven’t asked permission to name them, but they know who they are, and I wanted to take another opportunity to thank them.  To other artists who are wondering where to start because no one bothered to teach you to be a businessperson as well as an artist, my advice to you is to find someone who is where you want to be and see if they willing to take you under their wing in some small way.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how collegiate the art community can be.

Since I’m not always great at saying where I’ll be and when: my next show will be in Great Falls during Western Art Week, March 14-17.  I will be at the Out West show at the Best Western Heritage Inn, Room 220, sharing a room with the great Kat Houseman.  My work will also be available at a couple of other locations, including the Elk’s Lodge with Coeur d’ Alene Galleries, and with Terakedis Fine Art at 1301 5th Ave North, across from the C.M. Russell Museum.  I will try to be better at keeping an up-to-date event schedule.  I have been having a lot of fun at the art shows I’ve been at recently.  I told my wife today that I couldn’t wait until I got to Great Falls so I could have a break.  She said she had not heard of working 10+ hour days at an art show as being a break!  But talking to people and being with other artists while I pursue my dream feels like a vacation to me!  I’m sure I will get less excited as the years go on, but I’ll enjoy this feeling while it lasts.

The following paintings are available for presale, so feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call.  Also, I have a newsletter now!  Send me an email if you want to be added to and receive updates from me in your inbox.


*Guest Post: Andrea Sauer, My Wife

Throughout Toby’s art career, I have often wondered and sometimes asked others what makes them buy the art they do, and what makes them buy art in general?  I have learned that there is no one answer to these questions.  They have as many answers as there are people to respond, and maybe even more, as I, myself, have different reasons for acquiring each piece in our very modest collection.  I have heard some say that it brings them joy when times are tough, others that they connected with the artist personally and wanted something that he or she created, and others that they like that nobody else has a piece just like theirs.
Toby and I are fortunate early in our life together to have a few pieces of beautiful original art, as artists tend to trade with one another.  My favorite piece is a sculpture by Robert Brubaker, and I love it because of deep emotional significance.  I have such a strong connection to it that it feels almost like an old friend.  It is a sculpture, and it protects my heart.  Let me explain:
I have two baby girls up in heaven, and their ashes rest in two small urns in our house.  They are so small that most people don’t recognize them as urns, and they look like two lovely little pieces in and of themselves.

Last year at the Heart of the West show, Mr. Brubaker honored my husband by proposing a trade of one of his pieces for one of Toby’s bison paintings.


I was reluctant of the trade at first, not because I didn’t like the piece but because my husband was short on paintings and his time is precious.  But then Mr. Brubaker told us the inspiration for this piece: it was a smaller version of a sculpture inspired by his wife, who had terminal cancer.  His friend had told him he would send prayers upon the wind for his ailing wife.  Mr. Brubaker then sculpted a beautiful piece of a figure sending prayers upon the wind.  When I heard this meaning my heart melted and I cried.  It was so beautiful.  I immediately treasured this sculpture, took it home and wanted it to be on display always, which it will be, next to my daughters’ ashes, eternally sending prayers upon the wind for them.  Here he is, watching over them:

the darkness in-between
I love this sculpture so much- I am so grateful to this little guy and his constant vigil, and so grateful to his creator.  Thanks again, Robert, for the beautiful piece, and thank you to all artists for providing an avenue for the rest of us to connect with parts of our souls that are impossible to access through reason or study.
Of course, not every piece has to have this much personal significance, and each person can find his own reasons that they appreciate and/or acquire art.  I’m so grateful to be involved in the art world, which has afforded me the opportunity to explore why I enjoy the art I do.  I would love to hear about the art you enjoy.  Please feel free to share a picture or a story of a piece that you have purchased or admired.

In Review: Western Art Week

I can’t really post about anything else until I do a quick review of the Charlie Russell Auction and Western Art Week.  I built it up pretty big on my social media accounts, so I wanted to talk about it at least a little bit:

I was at the Holiday Inn in Great Falls, Montana, for the Western Heritage show before the Charlie Russell Auction.  For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Central Montana, Great Falls is about 100 miles from Lewistown, Montana.  And for those of you unfamiliar with the cultural practices and lifestyle of Central Montana, a 100 mile drive is not very long for the average Central Montanan.  Therefore, I got a ton of visitors from my native town that visited me in my booth.  It was really fun, and so nice to see familiar faces and feel their love and support.  As an added bonus, I made lots of sales and was fortunate enough to have my best show yet!  It was exhilarating.

On to the auction itself:  I loved it.  I didn’t want it to end. I drove there with my wife and my father-in-law.  My mother-in-law watched the booth (and sold a painting while she was at it!) and my mother stayed at home worrying.  She is of an anxious disposition like myself, and we both agreed she should stay at home so she wouldn’t accidentally buy my painting.  My father-in-law dutifully recorded the sale prices of all the paintings and estimated their value-to-sale ratios, I stood in the back with the other artists, nervously eating meatballs, and my wife annoyed everyone in between by walking back and forth checking on the two of us until my piece came up, #24.  It was so cool to see my piece on the stage, and its image projected high on the big screen.  I wish that everyone could experience the rush of having a piece of their work auctioned at an event like this.  It is invigorating and nerve-wracking, and you feel so vulnerable and exposed.  But there were plenty of bids to keep my ego from not being crushed, yet not so many as to keep me from staying humble.  😉  The winning bidder was a couple we had briefly met at the preview party the night before, and they just happen to be about the nicest couple I’ve ever met.  I was able to talk with them a bit that evening, more the next day, and they later sent me a picture of where they put it in their home.  I loved it, and I was so happy that such an important painting in my development as an artist went to them.


After El Mustango was sold I could relax and enjoy myself a little bit at the auction.  I was able to spend some time with my second parents, the Nordlunds, who drove down from Lewistown and surprised me at the auction, which was so great and meant a lot to me.  I was also able to meet some of my art heroes and spend some time with my art friends.  Basically, I was in my happy place that night.

Thanks again to all those who came to support me, those who help and inspire me, and to those who buy my paintings and keep me going on this journey.  Here’s one of my latest paintings, in case this post got long and you just want to see what I’m producing already:


Vigilance, 24″ x 36″ Oil on linen panel

My Next 6 Months

I am incredibly busy.  I have so much to do get done, so many paintings to finish, so many people to follow up with- so of course this is a perfect time to worry about updating my blog!  (Time management is hard.)

I am mostly busy because I have back-to-back shows running pretty much March through September of this year.   The first the Western Heritage Show at the Holiday Inn during Western Art week.  Which is in one week!!  Yikes!  I’m very excited, but mostly I’m nervous for next Friday night because my painting, El Mustango, was accepted into the C.M. Russell Auction!!  I still can’t believe it.  I feel so fortunate.  This is a fulfillment of a life-time dream.  The auction itself is on March 16, 2017, but my piece will be part of a temporary exhibit in the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana, which started February 17th.  The website even says so:   Check it out!  I will be in the same museum where hangs Charlie Russell paintings! (Temporarily.)  I am so happy.  Anyway, as I mentioned the rest of my work will be in the Holiday Inn for the rest of the time, in Room 218.  I’m so excited to be part of Western Art Week in Great Falls this year.  I grew up in awe of this event and the artists participating in it, so it is such an honor.

In April I have my first one man show, and this is the one that I really need to produce for, because as the name implies, it will be just me!  Lewis-Clark Valley Arts Center in Clarkston, WA, will be exhibiting my work for me, and I’m looking forward to it.

The next two events I have nailed down are in May.  One is an auction at the Spokane Valley Arts Center, in Spokane, WA, and the other is the National Fine Art Show and Auction in Ellensburg, WA.  They should be great events as well and I will have more details on my Facebook and Instagram pages as they approach.

And for all you Moscow locals, in June and July I will have another one man show at Moscow City Hall.  They’ll have a reception on the night of the Art Walk, or June 16, so drop by and say hi.  I think there will be a lecture in conjunction with that show, but I won’t have the date until a little later.
In August I will be doing Heart of the West in Bozeman again, which will be my first repeat show ever.   I look forward to building on some of the relationships I made last year as well as making new ones.

Well, thanks for bearing with me through my itinerary.  I’m having so much fun figuring out the western art world and I hope to exist in it for the rest of my life as an artist.  Happy March!

Quick review: Heart of the West CDA

I just wanted to do a quick post about my second Heart of the West show in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, while I have a minute.  I posted all the information about my auction pieces on Facebook so I thought I would include a little explanation about those as well.

I did another quick finish in CDA, and I’m getting a little more comfortable painting in front of people.  I’m at anxiety level 6, instead of 9.5.  So that’s something.

Sometimes I love pieces from start to finish, sometimes I hate them all the way through, and sometimes they grow on me.  I had a complicated relationship with my quick finish painting, but I think we ended up liking each other.  I guess I can’t speak for the painting, so I’ll just say I ended up liking him.  Here’s how he looked when we said goodbye:


He was sold to a great buyer that I hope to work with in the future.

I also experimented with having a small silent auction piece.  I put a little 5″ x 7″ in my booth so people could bid on it in person or on my Facebook page.  I got a lot of bids on it, but finally a nice couple vacationing at the resort won the painting.  It was fun to see that more than one person was interested in my piece, and nice to have a smaller piece that would be affordable to more people.  Here it is, called Breakfast Club:


My wife wanted me to put red hair on one of them, but I declined.  I guess it would have been less ridiculous than putting a leather jacket on the big one.  🙂

Lastly, my main auction piece*:


As I said on my Facebook post, this was my favorite of my bison series, so I wanted to see it go to a good home.  Well, it went to the best home imaginable!  While there were a few people bidding on it, my mentor and art hero, Joe Kronenberg, won the bid!  I was so honored that he wanted a piece of mine, my heart about busted.


The rest of the show was great.  I met some more amazing artists, got a commission, and was invited to do a show in Nebraska with Brandon Bailey in November.  I will post here or on Facebook/Instagram as I get more details about that.

Thanks for reading!  I’m having the time of my life and I’m so happy to share it with anyone who wants to follow me.


*Apparently there was some discrepancy with one of the online bidding platforms, and some of the online bids at the show were not taken.  If this affected somebody that was wanting to buy my piece, please contact me!  We can talk about some options.  I’m very sorry for the confusion.

Heart of the West: Bozeman

I did it!  My first big art show, Heart of the West.  My first big art show was filled with other firsts: first show with big-name artists, first quick finish, first auction, and first show with no soap or caramel apple sellers.  I loved it.

My first first was being at the show with other western artists that I admire and follow.  And now they are my friends!  At least, I will call them my friends.  They may call me something else, but at the very least they gave me some great ideas on how to market myself and encouraged me to keep painting.  It was very inspiring.  Here’s a picture of my booth:


Second first: the quick finish.  The quick finish was a group of 14 artists, each of us finishing up a painting in a courtyard while spectators could watch and converse with us as we painted.  We had about two hours, which included time for framing.  I thought this would stress me out a lot more than it did since I usually don’t like painting in front of people, but I found myself really enjoying it.




Afterward, the finished paintings were sold at auction.  That sentence really frustrates me because it does not even come close to capturing the drama of the event.  Let me try again: In front of several well-established artists and potential art collectors, I stood on a raised stage, all alone, and held my little painting I had just finished up to the crowd, like a little kid showing his still-wet finger-painting to his teacher.  Then the auctioneer started calling out quantities of money, and I waited for people to decide whether or not it was worth the price of the canvas I painted it on.  I might as well have been naked.  Before my pit-stains got too noticeable, though, I DID get a few bids on it and it sold!  And I didn’t have a heart attack or anything!  This was my quick finish piece:


I called him Pretty Boy Blues.

And here is me in all my glorious vulnerability:


Then there was a normal auction where I didn’t have to hold my own painting up.  I could just sit in the crowd and pretend I was a normal person, and nobody had to know how nervous I was except my wife and daughter.  I had a few bids on that as well, and it sold for a decent price.  I was able to meet the buyer afterward too, which was really nice.


My auction piece, The Lookouts.

In other firsts, this was the first show that my mother-in-law was able to see.  She has been really excited to come and booth-sit for me.  No, really!  My mom also drove down from Missoula, and I had my daughter there, too.  She was VERY excited to have an “Exhibitor Assistant” badge.  I think it made her feel important but mostly she was happy it got her into the snack area where she could eat grapes to her heart’s content.  She also made friends with an artist with a booth near mine.  She was thrilled to be friends with a “real artist,” which is infinitely more exciting than being the daughter of a (fake?) artist.  It was a blast to have her there.

Stay tuned for my next show, another Heart of the West show, this time in Coeur d’Alene.  Or better yet, drop by!  It runs September 1-4, 2016.  It’s a really nice event and free, to boot!