Featured Artists

Work of Homer Neuen and CM Okerwall take center stage during First Friday



Teresa McQuerrey/Roundup

Homer Neuen scrimshaw


Teresa McQuerrey/Roundup

Homer Neuen


Teresa McQuerrey/Roundup

Conrad Okerwall

Historic Main Street’s First Friday event was originally dubbed an Arts & Antiques Walk. The antique dealers have thinned out some, but artists remain a keystone to the monthly festivities.

Artists of the Rim Gallery showcases different members each month, debuting them at the First Friday celebration. For March, the featured artist is Homer Neuen.

Down the Street Gallery offers a variety of art events. This month, the First Friday highlight is demonstrations by several different artists, which is detailed on the calendar page of this edition of The Review.

Bootleg Alley Antiques & Art has a resident artist of sorts, CM Okerwall, who has a small gallery space at the shop and since January, has offered 50 percent of his net profit from any First Friday sales to the charity of the buyer’s choice. This offer concludes at First Friday, March 6.

Homer Neuen

Neuen is a scrimshaw artist and the exhibit of his work at Artists of the Rim Gallery is his first show.

“Scrimshaw is scratches and dots on ivory, bone or horn and then you ink the scratches and dots,” Neuen explains.

During his working life, Neuen had pursued as hobbies woodworking, woodcarving and drawing.

“Soon after retirement I discovered the carving technique using rotary tools. Because of the versatility of the rotary tools, I began line etching in synthetic ivory and enhancing the work with inks and paints.”

Neuen said he starts a project on paper, sketching his design, sometimes using photographs as guides for the more intricate designs of animals. He dots the images and then secures the paper pattern to the “canvas” of ivory, bone or horn using a spray adhesive.

With the pattern in place he dots the “canvas” through the dots on the paper, removes the paper and then starts filling in the image freehand.

Neuen has been working in scrimshaw for just three years and has produced between 40 and 50 pieces. He will have about two dozen of those at Artists of the Rim Gallery this month, retailing from $35 to $250.

The largest pieces he has done include the grip of a knife and a decorative piece he made for his wife, Becky, which measures 7 inches high and varies in width from about 2 inches to 2-1/2 inches.

The scrimshaw pieces are generally the sizes that work well as belt buckles and bolo ties. He also does pistol grips, pendants, money clips, letter openers and more. Much of his work is inlaid onto manzanita wood. His friend, Wayne Donnay, does most of his inlay work, but he has also had some of his scrimshaw inlaid by silversmith Dick Wolfe.

“I’m having a great time developing my skills and art,” Neuen said.

Meet Homer Neuen at the Artists of the Rim Gallery, 408 W. Main between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday, March 6.

CM Okerwall

Conrad Okerwall was part of the Rim Country and Western lifestyle long before coming to the area in 1988. He was a collector of Zane Grey books — for the art on the dust jackets — and stood out at his advertising agency in Chicago in his cowboy garb.

The transition was easy when he and his wife made the move.

A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Okerwall paints and draws in the mood of the Rim Country. He is known as a Western artist, but he does not limit himself. One of his favorite works is a scene of birdwatchers intently peering through binoculars out in the field, while their prey observes them from tree branch behind them.

“I like to put some humor into my work,” he said.

Another humorous piece is called “horse power” and features three downtrodden cowboys pushing a old, blue pickup up the street.

Both scenes — the birdwatchers and cowboys — were actually witnessed by Okerwall, committed to memory and brought back to life in his studio, The Sleeping Artist Indian Hill Studio.

Okerwall said his favorite medium is acrylics, but he is also known for his work in watercolors, pencils and pastels.

He has been associated with Bootleg Alley Antiques & Art for about three years. He also has gallery space at Granny’s Attic’s new Artists’ Alley.

His Western art features people and scenery, but he also has a large number of Zane Grey portraits in his portfolio and does commission work as well. He was commissioned by a fellow member of the Zane Grey Society to design a book cover and has also done a couple of commissioned portraits.

“I enjoy all of it,” he said.

And he is still growing and expanding as an artist. He wants to start doing more pen and ink drawings, he said.

While Okerwall does not teach, he is willing to give some advice to aspiring artists:

“Study other artists’ work. Subscribe to art magazines. Take a class in drawing, which is very important. You have to know how to draw.”

Meet Okerwall at Bootleg Antiques & Art, 520 W. Main from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, March 6 during First Friday.


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