You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.
TJ Raygun started out as a business major at Metropolitan State University of Denver, but soon switched gears, ultimately graduating with a BFA in fine arts with an emphasis on printmaking. “I always was drawing as a kid, but I didn’t know I could do it as a career," he says. "I’m still not sure if I can.” Even so, he's taken it to the next step, recently opening Neet, his workshop/gallery, at 4903 Lowell Boulevard.
Raygun started showing his work in Denver in 2010, a few months before he wrapped up college; his paintings have appeared in specialty coffee shops such as Huckleberry Roasters, Pablo’s Coffee and Two Rivers Craft Coffee Company, as well as Meadowlark Bar. He’s even moved into a few galleries, including MSU’s Center for Visual Arts, Boxcar Gallery and Lowbrow. And then, of course, there's Neet.
If you’re familiar with Raygun’s new work – simple yet well-executed humorous drawings – you might not recognize his earliest stuff, which consisted of detailed digital collages layered with screen printing and lithography. “I was working exclusively with animals, but I was being more vague,” Rygun says. “I wasn’t using language in any of my work at that time.”
But Raygun “got a little bored” with his first series, he says, and in 2012 he tried his hand at three-dimensional installations at a solo show at Boxcar. Nature of the Beast featured found taxidermy and wood and branches that Raygun painted and carved; he dedicated it to MSU professor E.C. Cunningham, who passed away during Raygun’s undergraduate years. “This show was in October, at the two-year anniversary of his death," remembers Raygun. "It was more serious, all black and white, and was influenced by [Cunningham’s] work."
His mood has always guided his art, Raygun admits: “I’m kind of all over the place. I get bored with one style or medium, and I take my art in a different direction.”
Raygun’s latest direction is “sarcastic and humor-based, and a little more simple,” he says. “In the past, I’ve always spent hours and hours trying to create pieces. They’ve always been colorful and full of imagery. I’ve been trying to let go of that perfectionist attitude.”
Although Raygun’s current series still deals with serious subject matters, the execution is less serious and fastidious, and some of the content is downright sarcastic. “I wanted to break things down, and to make it more light-hearted,” Raygun explains. Using mostly pen and paper, he gives “humanistic concepts to animals,” he says, adding that he’s strongly influenced by the fables he read growing up. Working with animals, Raygun notes, “You can put meaning behind stuff, and it might not be as intense as if you were putting a human behind it.”
Take “fly with poop,” for example. “Why,” Raygun asks, “do we fall in love with people who may or may not be awful for us?” By turning relationship blunders into a joke, Raygun’s able to take on a a rather weighty subject.
Raygun makes and sells his pieces at Neet, the workspace/gallery he opened in the Berkeley neighborhood. He also sells T-shirts at his gallery. For more information on Raygun and his work, visit his website or find him on Facebook.
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