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With pencil in hand

David Bjurstrom (pronounced b-yoor-strum) has earned many awards for his graphite pencil drawings in some of the West&

s most prestigious art shows, including the C. M. Russell Auction of Original Western art, and he is recognized as one of the best and most innovative Western art graphite pencil artists in the nation.

&

It feels odd,&

he says. &

I still feel like the new guy. Maybe it&

s because I enjoy what I do so much that I don&

t think much about what others are thinking about it.&

Like many artists in the Western Art genre, Bjurstrom draws lots of horses, but unlike many of his peers, he says he avoids the &

heavy action&

rodeo scenes. &

I love animals, and I don&

t enjoy rodeos or see them as useful. I enjoy seeing horses running free.&

Like his currently favorite subject, horses, Bjurstrom says what he loves most about his work is the &

freedom to feel unrestrained.&

For Bjurstrom, this means the freedom to work when and how he chooses and to use his own creativity.

Becoming an artist was an easy decision for Bjurstrom, one he made at age 12 after a field trip to Klamath Falls&

Favell Museum of Western art. He says from the time he made his decision his family encouraged him.

&

I could have gone to a university and majored in something like business, but they supported the decisions I made,&

says Bjurstrom, who currently serves as vice president of the Ashland Gallery Association and event manager for this year&

s Taste of Ashland.

After completing his studies at the Oregon College of Art in Ashland, he worked a day job as a customer service representative at Bear Creek and later as the senior photographer in a Medford corporation where he laments his &

creativity was directed by everyone else.&

Then three years ago he opened his studio in downtown Ashland, not realizing it would evolve into a gallery.

&

I&

m very shy ... On the public television show (Oregon Art Beat, February, 2005) I was very nervous. The art work is very personal and then on top of that you&

re putting yourself out there, too, next to it. I&

ve had to develop a toughness in knowing that not everyone is going to like my art or me...&

But many of course do like his Western art, although it doesn&

t always fit what some people expect from the niche.

&

I don&

t like being classified as a Western artist because it isn&

t just about &

145;cowboys and Indians,&

as some think it is ... I love drawing aspens. Most of my drawings are slices of life from the contemporary West,&

he says.

Whether that slice of life be a close-up of three steers, a herd of wild horses on the prairie, or a cowboy, he says that viewers often find his drawings &

very peaceful and inviting. The drawings make you feel like you want to be part of that,&

Bjurstrom explains. &

The subject isn&

t looking directly at you and this allows for a certain curiosity ... and the black and white also engages the viewer, creating involvement and calming the feelings.&

&

Black and white is very powerful,&

he emphasizes. &

Black and white engages the viewer more because it allows a little bit more imagination.&

The range of values, the strong contrast and meticulous attention to detail combine to make his drawings appear to many as photographs. While his graphite drawings are based on his photographs, the pencil allows for innovation, such as moving the three cowboys from a highway to a range.

Creating a black and white rendition of a sunset was a &

bold step,&

he says. &

It&

s all about how the light falls.&

And as a photographer (his clients include Jackson Perkins rose catalog) Bjurstrom knows a lot about where the light falls.

&

When people ask me what kind of camera I used, I point to my graphite pencils and say, &

145;That&

s my camera.&

I take it as a complement. I think I improve on the photograph &

even with digital where so much can be done. There is a warmth, a life and feeling in the drawings.&

David Bjurstrom Studio Gallery is located at 64 N. Pioneer St. Winter hours are generally 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. View his art online at www.bjurstromstudio.com.