Featured Artist

Des Moines Detour
by Will Armstrong

About the Art
Will draws with an oil based pen on a collage of antique maps, book pages and antique advertising. A series of acrylic washes on the surface of the artwork give the drawings a more painterly quality.

This year’s commemorative poster was a process of commissioning Will to create a piece that was uniquely Des Moines. Through Will’s process, a series of electronic sketches were drafted and passed between executive director, Stephen King and Will until the final sketch was determined. Using a collage of maps and book pages as his background, Will transferred the idea to his canvas, ultimately adding depth and color like the gold in the State House dome and the car in the forefront. The original measures 3' x 5' and will be on display throughout the three-day festival.

About the Artist 
For over a decade, Will Armstrong has spent more than twenty weekends a year on the road — racking up 300,000 plus miles on his vertebrae and on a rotating cast of trusted (though admittedly abused) vehicles, most recently with an airstream trailer in tow. The road holds countless stories; and in his work, you will find them. You will find stories of out of the way barbeque shops, cheap motels and barrels of gas paid on questionable credit. You will find tales of roadside dives and the musicians that have crawled in and out of them.

Will Armstrong borrows the name for this series of artwork, the Tin Can Tourist, from the nickname given to the first RV travelers in the 40’s and 50’s. Shiny silver travel trailers attached to the bumpers of cars revolutionized the American tourism industry.

The Tin Can Tourist is the soundtrack of the road; songs and artists are embedded on the towns they made famous. Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and Muddy Waters are as much an influence as Frank Miller, R. Crumb and Banksy. The lines of the road have become indistinguishable from the lines of the pen; just as the subject is from the location.

Will was educated as an illustrator from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated with a BFA in Communications Arts and Design in 1995. He has spent time as a bartender, an art director and a picture-framer. He has hung numerous installations on all kinds of surfaces.

Will Armstrong has over 10 years of experience as a nationally recognized craft artist. From 2002 to 2011 he and his wife Kim Eubank created a line of enameled copper artwork called the Metal Quilt (www.metalquilt.com). The Tin Can Tourist is the culmination of those years of experience and hard work and the stories he has collected from the road.

Will will be exhibiting on Grand Ave. in Booth GN24C. You can find his work online at www.tincanartist.com.



Signed, Numbered, LE prints framed and unframed are available by contacting Maggie Pforts at mpforts@desmoinesartsfestival.org or 515.286.4949.


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