His studio space is just as much cowboy as it is contemporary art, which makes sense, considering that unique theme shines through his artwork and is essentially to thank for his success as an artist.
He begins with a bandana because as he says, “you can get paint off your skin, but not your hair.”
But where the story of Walter Piehl really begins is on the ranch in Marion, North Dakota.
“Without electricity, without running water,” he recalled. “And so, I drew a lot as a kid.”
He drew a lot but had no formal art training until he went to college.
What he did have training in was keeping livestock and a lot of time spent at the rodeo even taking a try at it himself.
“I got on some head enough to find out that it really wasn’t what I was about,” he said.
Art was his true calling.
His website says, “I like art, rodeo, and putting on paint. But not necessarily in that order.”
It was only fitting that he establish himself as the first to create a cross between contemporary and western Americana art.
“It just seemed like that was a good subject matter for me to deal with as an artist.”
He knew a unique approach was what would help him make a living as an artist.
However, he also taught at Minot State University for almost 50 years.
During that time he basically worked two full-time jobs… and then some.
“I did odd jobs and worked at the livestock yard here in Minot and moved the cattle in the summertime and odd jobs like that… but in the ladder years … the art practice, if you keep at it long enough and you’re lucky and connect with galleries and you develop a following, you might be able to sell enough work to support yourself that way.”
He says he’s grateful that’s been the case for him.
Today, he has permanent collections at the Northwest Center for the Arts at Minot State, in Grand Forks at the North Dakota Museum of Art and all over the country.
Piehl is an artist, a teacher, a dad, a husband – of which comes from a sweet story – he met his wife in the second grade “at the pencil sharpener,” as he remembers.
He’s also been a bar owner.
He recently sold the Blue Rider bar in Minot, but had owned and operated it since the very beginning.