Featured Artist: Cy Whitling

Hey Cy, long time no talk! How are you doing? What did you get up to this winter?

Hey! Thanks, I’m doing great! I had a huge winter, I switched to online classes so that I could move to Driggs, Idaho and focus on working, skiing, and shooting, and then finally graduated from college just a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to get to ski on and shoot a few trips for Blister Review, as well as skiing with friends a bunch in the Tetons, and taking several trips to shoot and ski. I spent a lot more time touring this winter, and while this was more challenging from a photography standpoint I really enjoy the freedom to explore, and shoot things that aren’t as accessible.

I also started taking this art thing a little more seriously, trying to draw everyday and produce some more worthwhile images that reflect how I see skiing and the mountains

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Talk to us about your current position at Blister Review? 

I’m the associate editor and photographer at Blister Review. I mess up our reviewers’ nice pieces, push buttons, both on my coworkers and on the website, work with companies to get gear to review, and shoot photos and dabble in graphic design when the need arises.

When did you first get into skiing? Photography? Art?

I really got into skiing my senior year of high school, I got my first season pass and skied five or six days I think. Before that I snowbladed for a couple years which has had a profound impact on my lack of style.

I used my high school graduation money to buy my first DSLR and played with video for a couple years before starting to shoot photos my sophomore year of college. I shot for Newschoolers two winters ago, and that was my first paid photography gig.

I’ve been drawing for a long time, mostly during engineering classes where I wished I was skiing instead of learning about derivatives. Last spring I started to draw some skiing stuff since I wasn’t shooting as much as I wanted to be, and wanted to keep creating images. From there I’ve just been blessed and it’s grown to the point that I’m selling a decent amount of art and staying busy with commissions.

But first, lemme draw a selfie. #thatsnotwhatthegrandlookslike #bemorestoked

A photo posted by cywhitling (@cywhitling) on

Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish throughout your career?

I have a lot of goals! On a basic level there are a lot of lines that I want to climb, ski, and shoot over the next few seasons, as well as a few destinations that I really want to visit. I also really want to start doing some more multi-sport trips, combining skiing with rafting, biking, or climbing. Generally I’d like my work to move toward bigger, expedition style trips with more camping, more travel, and harder to access locations.

Bigger picture though I just want to live stories worth telling, I want to be content without being complacent. I think anyone that is getting out in the mountains at all is incredibly blessed, and I want to communicate that excitement to everyone I can. That’s why I’ve got my goofy “#bemorestoked” thing. I see a lot of jaded, complacent, complaining people in the outdoor world, and I just don’t get it. How can you not get incredibly excited in the mountains? So it’s not a goal in the traditional “I want to stand on top of that big pile of rocks” sense, but instead it’s a continuing goal that I want to keep living toward.

 

Let’s talk about this whole #bemorestoked thing. Why should people care?

Right when I started working in the ski industry I was a wide-eyed child, everything was so exciting, and I couldn’t believe the things I got to do, and the people I got to meet.

But pretty quickly I found out that a lot of these people that I’d been idolizing, that I thought of as “living the dream” weren’t. All the external pieces of the puzzle were there, a great job, living in a great place, going on incredible trips, but so many people are discontent and don’t take full advantage of the crazy opportunities they are given. That’s where #bemorestoked comes in, it’s my way of reminding myself and anyone else who will listen to take advantage of what we’ve been given.

We get to go do ridiculous stuff in the mountains. We get to go skiing, biking, climbing, camping, for a lot of us our day-to-day life is better than any vacation. But we flush so much of that away. Instead we give ourselves to worthless things: self-centered complacency, pride, sidelong glances, drugs, porn, ego, just a bunch of distractions that offer short-term joy but no long-term happiness.

I’ve feel like I’ve been given so much by my parents and my community and the things I get to do in the mountains that I have a hard time not wanting that for other people. So really I want to get people to stop complaining, to stop enslaving themselves to worthless things and ideas, and instead get out there and do something that’s actually worth doing, and maybe hurts a little bit.
Right now I’m trying to do that through my photos, drawing and writing, trying to get that message in front of as many people as possible, and hopefully make a few people reconsider what they are doing, and who they are trying to be.

Any words of advice for creatives trying to make it in the industry?

Ha! You’re asking the sketchy 22 year old kid with the snowblades and Jammy Pack!

I’m not even sure I want to classify myself as a “creative making it in the industry” but there are a couple things that stand out.

I see a lot of people that want to be things. They want to be a professional skier, or a photographer, or a graphic designer. They don’t just want to shoot photos, or go skiing, or design things. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. That’s the same kind of attitude that produces a million terrible “So and So Photography” pages on Facebook with a crappy watermark and a couple oversaturated photos of flowers.

There are a few thousand other kids out there who want to be creatives, and chances are their dads have more money to buy them fancy cameras and send them on trips, so why even play that game?

Figure out what you are supposed to be doing in your life and do it. You don’t need to quit your job and run a Kickstarter to buy a new camera. You don’t need to start selling crappy branded T-shirts and watermarking everything you put on Instagram. If photography is your calling, if it’s something you’re wired to need to do, then go do it. Wake up earlier, spend less money on food, but don’t complain about the things that hold you back from being whatever it is that you want to be.

Same goes for being a “creative.” Everybody wants to be unique and artsy with their hipster beard and glasses and Carhartts and Birkenstocks (and yes I fit all those stereotypes) but that’s not the point. The point is actually creating things. You are a creative based on what you make. So if you have stories inside of you that just need to come out, images that if you don’t express them you’ll throw up, photos you want to take so badly you can’t sleep at night, then write them, make them, take them.
Do the things you are supposed to be doing. If you stick with them for a while you might stop sucking enough that someone will pay you to do them. Just don’t complain about whatever stupid excuse is keeping you from being the super talented individual you think you are.

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“The great thing about living in the Tetons is that my backyard is full of options. From after-work hitchhiking laps on Teton Pass, to big days in Grand Teton National Park to mini golf cliffs and pillows on Togwotee pass, there’s a little bit of everything. Here @meaghann_gaffney finds a line in Togwotee Pass.”

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“I got back from a trip where we drove six hours, only to have to turn back before we even hit snow and drew this. We got back in the car without any any real worthwhile experiences or photos, and hit the road, stopping only at a sketchy thrift store, and to jump in a freezing river. However, when we got home the trip didn’t feel like a total loss because we’d still grown through that experience.

If all you’ve got on your mind is high peaks and big lines you’re going to have a hard time being happy. It’s important not to get complacent, to keep pushing yourself, and to to have intense focus. But if that’s all you’ve got you’re never going to be content. So often we idolize this overbearing and sometimes selfish drive to get out into the mountains, but to be truly successful in that you need balance.”

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“I grew up in Idaho, and I’ve always been proud of the Potato State. So, when I first saw the Spud Drive-In Theatre I knew I wanted to do something there. Luckily @gmack307 and @wyopowpirate had the same idea and we were able to make it happen. Here @wyopowpirate gets the grab on the overcast evening that was supposed to be our sunset shoot.”

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“Most of my drawings are self portraits in some sense, they’re either pictures of things I wish I was doing, or they are pictures I wish I had taken. This is one of the later. I’m desperately scared of missing the shot, but I get easily distracted when I’m in the mountains. So this is a self portrait, but I’m not in it. My camera’s sitting down there on a tripod, but I’m off rooting around in my pack for gummy worms while the skier nails the trick.”

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“It’s easy to wax poetic about the freedom a pair of skis represent, but I didn’t fully understand that until I got my first touring setup. This season has been a mindblowing whirlwind of skin tracks, kick turns, and backcountry feasts that have opened up a crazy new world of mountains to snap. Here @skiogh @justinmarcinko @peterbroback @meaghann_gaffney and @brock.holmes skin out after 3 days in the Jumbo Pass hut.”

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“We all know Big Foot rips, and he doesn’t need tech bindings or tele skis because those huge feet are perfect snowshoes. So next time you’re out in the backcountry and see a mysteriously massive set of tracks up the bootpack and some crazy turns on a distant peak, make sure to set out an extra beer, and throw a few more strips of bacon on the griddle. You never know who might show up to your campfire after a long day in the mountains.”