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Update February 9–22: The Pile Method, Old Cheese and Reflections on 3 Years of Painting

It's been a little under three years since Colter took his first painting class. Wait... is that math right?!? We had to sit down and count out the years on our fingers to be sure. There have been many moments (more like weeks and months) during those three years where the progress has felt soooo sloooow (I'm talking about experiences like being asked, "have you ever asked yourself why you can't draw in proportion?!" clients almost dropping us, and painting in garages, laundry rooms and basements to name just a few. But looking back on it, it feels almost impossible that it has only taken three years to get where we are. We by no means have "made it," but we are more hopeful than ever that progress is possible and that momentum continues to build. We have a better handle on how to communicate with each other about our dreams and the current challenges that are preventing us from getting there, we are surrounded by amazing artists and entrepreneurs who want to see us succeed, and we continue to believe that the arts are a critical piece of building a strong family, community and world.

Shows and Festivals

  • One of our favorite local galleries is the JKR gallery. It is a safe space for young and emerging artists to practice becoming professionals and rub shoulders with other local artists. They run a slick Instagram account and (astonishingly) host monthly shows that are creative, eclectic and not to be missed. We have participated in many in the past, but have missed the submission deadline for a few of the recent shows. This month, though, Colter was accepted to participate in their "All Shapes and Sizes" exhibit. He will be previewing his new clay on canvas style at this show, so if you're interested in seeing a small one in person, come on down! We will likely be at the opening reception, and would love to connect with you there.

Colter May Bison

  • We are still doing loads of prep work for the Best of the West show coming up in mid-March. It will be part of the Western Art Week Festivities hosted in Great Falls, MT. Colter has produced/is in the process of producing a couple of fish, a wolf, a bear and a horse in his clay on canvas style, and there are many more animals to come given the amount of canvases that are dirt-ed, clay-ed, gesso-ed and ready for paint.

  • We are indebted to the Willard Art Center in Idaho Falls for helping Colter to create momentum in his early career as an artist. This is his third year being selected as one of the artist to exhibit at their Annual National Juried Exhibition. In 2020 his piece, Towers, was his first ever piece to receive this honor, and we were overjoyed. The disappointment was as potent as the elation when we were informed that the gallery would be closed to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The show was still hung, but there was no opening reception and no audience.

Colter May The Towers

In 2021 we were thrilled when both of his pieces (Blueberry Monday and Chasing Dusk) were selected to be part of the show. To our astonishment, when we arrived at the opening reception (which we were so happy to be part of despite a still pandemic-sensitive world) we discovered that Blueberry Monday had received the Curator's Choice award. What an honor it was to talk with the curators about the piece with the subject of the piece (our daughter) at our side (or in reality running up and down the stairs and trying to eat as many of the treats as possible!). To add a cherry to the top, both pieces were among the few that sold through the duration of the show.

This year we were yet again pleased to discover that both of Colter's submissions (Our Shared Symbol and Navigating Negative Space Self Portrait) were accepted. We are now in the process of prepping and shipping them to Idaho Falls. We love the people that run the Willard Art Center, and each opportunity to learn from them has been a stepping stone in our journey in the world of art.


  • Corwin Galleries is still our go-to gallery for Colter's art. We are not seeking other gallery representation right now while we get our feet under us with new styles and new opportunities. We continue to be grateful for James and his support of Colter in his gallery.


  • I personally am looking forward to seeing more of the teepee commission as it comes to life. Right now it has a gorgeously vibrant sky in the works, and I'm starting to feel a bit envious of the collector. I love Colter's sunset paintings that have a smooth blend of pinks, purples and oranges, with the colors reflected in a body of water. I think this one is going to hit the mark! We don't always agree on the outcome of commissioned works because it's tricky to know what's in the mind of a collector. We often go into it with different expectations, and given that Colter is the actual artist, there have been many times my expectations have not been met - luckily I'm not the collector, so it's not my expectations that are critical! Over time, Colter has developed a meaningful process for creating an environment of trust and building shared expectations with his clients that has been really helpful in putting the two of us back on the same page.

Personal Projects

  • The significant personal project of the past two weeks has been a studio renovation, complete with plants, lighting and a taboret (not to mention floor space where we can walk and desk space where we can work!). This revitalization was initiated by a funny conversation one night as we got into bed where Colter deliberated on the effectiveness of the pile method that he as ascribed to since his adolescence. I'll be the first to admit it has it's benefits - specifically that I know exactly where I can put any of Colter's things that are not contributing to the aesthetic of the specific room. (Our individual closet spaces behind closed doors have been a much appreciated boon for our marriage!) Over the course of the next week the studio transformed into a place of organization, light and even cleaner air. (We're hoping the paint fumes don't kill off the two plants that have made their home in the studio!) There are no promises (or expectations) that it will always be this way, but for now, it's (mostly) pile-free.

Colter May Studio


  • We've been thrilled to get to know Trijsten Leach and his family as Colter has worked at Sentient Academy. We have kids around the same age and both families are immersed in the world of art, so as you can imagine, we enjoy chatting, dreaming and scheming together. (Watch out Europe, here we come!) We have worked to surround ourselves with artists who have our dreams as their reality – family, adventure, full-time art, discipleship – and are grateful for what we are learning from them about the pursuit of goodness. That's not to say we always think alike, in fact it's definitely not that way. But we care about each other's lives, opinions and experiences in a way that makes the relationships enriching and meaningful. We are so grateful to have them as friends!

  • Another local artist we admire is Esther Hi'ilani Candari. We wanted to be first in line for the opening of her show "Chosen Vessels" at Writ and Vision, but it turns out she is loved by more than just us, and the gallery was already packed by the time we got there. What I was looking forward to as a look at some great art turned into a sacred experience. We removed our shoes and walked into a space of devotion to the beloved women of the Bible. Esther's dedication to not only depict these women beautifully but also culturally appropriately was indisputable, and her poetic descriptions of the scenes placed their relevance squarely in the recent affections of my heart. I am hoping to take my girls, my mom and my sisters before the show comes down this weekend. In my opinion it is a must-see.


  • It's cliche, but so true – sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. It was my turn this year to plan our 3rd annual winter family retreat. I thought I was doing it right, leaving plenty of down-time and space for relaxation with sporadic outings. Things started getting unpredictable when my mom broke her arm and my brother sprained his ankle days before the trip. "Ok, no problem, we'll just replace the hike, pickle ball and ice skating with less leg-necessary activities because we want them to be part of the festivities." Then came the 4 month old string cheese. It was a really bad idea, and I obviously wasn't thinking when I let the girls eat it. (Sometimes I forget the long-term consequences in light of avoiding a very imminent tantrum.) This led to our first night in Hyrum being full of intermittent puking, which prevented the kids from sleeping together in the same room, which meant two of the four rooms were occupied by the kids, leaving 9 adults to figure out sleep arrangements in the remaining two rooms. Yeah, the math was tricky. Despite all of this grandeur, we managed to play some fun games, meet new friends at a new church, pet some horses, learn about our family history, watch old family videos and have some meaningful family conversations. We all left with slightly queasy stomachs but an increase of love for each other. I think it's likely that next year I won't be re-selected as the primary planner for the annual retreat. And you know what, I'm totally ok with that!

  • The week before our getaway to Hyrum, we visited the Utah Ice Castles with the girls. This trip was a well-thought-out Christmas gift from family members who know the appeal of the Kingdom of Arendelle on little hearts. After dressing warmly in Elsa dresses and layers of winter clothes (with one daughter insisting that the Elsa dress must go under the snow pants... you do you!) we were there–immersed in the vibrant colors and sounds of the ice castles. Some of the favorites were the ice fountain, the ice slides and eating the ice (which Mom and Dad repeatedly attempted to prevent). It will likely become an annual tradition–the girls are already asking when we will go again. What a wonderful gift!

The overall takeaway from the past two weeks–we are happy to be where we are, and excited to still be moving forward in all facets of life. It's normal life to be in the midst of the piles, old cheese and sprained ankles. Now, as we look around us at the people who believe in us, and look back at where we've been, we can find purpose in the piles and progress in the puke. (I will never ever justify the long-term consequence over the imminent set-back, at least when it comes to old cheese.) We just hope these lessons can become inherent to the people we are and who we are continuing to become.

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