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“I love the climbing community,” says Tom De Vis, a 28-year-old climber and full-time artist in Ghent, Belgium. “So I started drawing people on their projects.” Ghent, a climber of three years, got his start in a local climbing gym, and from there began heading to the boulders of Fontainebleau, France, a mere four hours away. On climbing days, Ghent will spend his mornings and evenings photographing boulder problems and routes. Then, when he returns home, he digitally draws on top of the photos. “I get so much joy out of climbing that I want to give something back,” says De Vis. “So I try to bring a smile to people’s faces when they see my work.”
Follow Tom De Vis at tomdevis.com
A woman and her elephant friend wander across the pages of Cartoon Connie Daily, getting stuck in holes, untangling ropes, and tackling overhangs in the gym. For the past six years, Connie Sun, a New York City resident, has been drawing a comic strip every morning. Three years ago, she began climbing at Brooklyn Boulders in NYC, and has begun exploring New England crags. As she’s progressed in the sport, her comics reflect how she’s dealt with dating as a climber, fears in the gym, and the tangled ropes of a climber’s life. “The more I climb outdoors, the more I’m inspired to cartoon about it.” she says. “Both are great for processing, coping, and tracking progress in life.”
“I started climbing at age seven, and as my climbing evolved, so did my art,” says Bay Area resident Alyse Dietel, who utilizes watercolor and ink on paper and wood to create landscapes that reflect her 17 years of climbing across California and the Southwest.
Dietel plunged herself into her art after breaking her spine and pelvis in a 60-foot fall near The Pit climbing area in Flagstaff, Arizona, in September 2012. “As I began to recover, my art helped me cope and focus on something other than the physical and mental pain,” she says. She battled through the recovery process and began climbing again two years later. Returning to rock, she wanted to capture the landscapes that surrounded her: “My accident taught me to hold on to the beauty of the world, and my art is helping me capture it.”
“Climbing gives me a deeper connection with nature and the outdoors, which acts as an endless source of inspiration,” says the Los Angeles visual development artist and character designer Yuhki Demers. A climber since 2007, Demers often boulders at Stoney Point and Malibu Creek, or indoors at Boulderdash in Westlake Village and Cliffs of Id in Culver City. When he’s not out bouldering, he’s working on an animated Spiderman feature film at Sony Pictures Animation. His work in animation and mid-century cartoon design plays into his images of dramatically lit mountains and climbers in action. “The sense of awe and wonder I get when staring at rocks larger than skyscrapers motivates me to try to create awesome work,” he says.
“Lately, I’ve been drawn to wood carving and oil painting, but I try not to limit myself to any medium,” says Audrey Halim, a 25-year-old visual arts major at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada. A native of Coquitlam, British Columbia, and climber of four years, Halim boulders at the Hive gyms and topropes at Climb Base5 in Vancouver. The sport has crept into her art: “Climbing has influenced my art as an outdoor theme, and as a way to keep the stoke high,” she says. When Halim got sick with an autoimmune disease, she made two climbing-themed paintings, one featuring a sloth, the other a gorilla. “My friends and family encouraged me to make more, and it became a way to explore the climbing and mountain themes, and different mediums, styles, and techniques,” she says.
“When I’m on the rock, I go into that zone where your conscious mind takes the backseat to instinct and flow,” says the Utah climber and cartoonist Jordan Peterson, 33, of Salt Lake City. “A lot of times, I’ll come off the problem I’m working on and a better or funnier version of the cartoon I’m stuck on will flood into my brain.” Peterson began climbing at age 9 around SLC and out in Idaho’s City of Rocks, returning to the sport at age 21 after a detour into board sports. With new shoes and a towel as a “crashpad,” he began bouldering in Little Cottonwood Canyon, now just a mile from his house. Peterson’s cartoons reflect the sport by “teasing out all the weird ways our thoughts and quirks contradict the laidback, easygoing persona of a ‘climber.’”
“Creating art has always been my passion, and it was just a matter of time before climbing made its way into my work,” says the 33-year-old Russia native and now Bay Area resident Eric Digilov, who started climbing six years ago when his then girlfriend (now wife) took him to a Los Angeles rock gym. He soon climbed outdoors at Stoney Point, Horse Flats, and Red Rock, falling in love with the culture. An IT worker by trade, Digilov uses climbing photos to inspire his artwork. “I try to capture that moment when you’re climbing and you’re at peace with the world,” said Digilov. “Still looking for the best way to represent my love for climbing culture in my art, but I think I’m on the right track.”
“We get really excited about all the imperfections on boulders and cliffs because these are what we’re climbing on—they’re what make each route so great and also so singularly unique,” says Robin Puro, 44, a climber, ceramic artist, and CFO of House of Who, Inc, a Bay Area branding agency. Using kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by placing gold lacquer in the cracks, Puro emphasizes the imperfections in her work. A climber of 22 years, Puro started bouldering in Hueco Tanks in 1997, and has climbed extensively in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Colorado alpine, on the cracks of Yosemite, on the boulders of Font, and now near her home in her native New Mexico. “I’m getting to see my home state through a whole new set of eyes via bouldering, sport, and trad. Single-pitch, multi-pitch, whatever-pitch, I’m loving climbing it all,” she says.
From potters, to cartoonists, to illustrators that work on big-screen animation, these eight climber artists are applying their skills to make art inspired by our sport.