Former MSU basketball player finds his niche off the court and on the canvas

PHOTO: Colt Idol poses in his studio in Whitefish, Mont., in this Aug. 14, 2011 photo provided by Idol. The 2009 Whitefish High School graduate signed with Montana State University-Bozeman to play basketball and later transferred to Carroll College. But after undergoing his third knee surgery, he decided it was time to take a semester off from school. So he spent the beginning of 2011 studying painting alongside his father, Dick Idol, a well-known sculptor. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Colt Idol)

Colt Idol poses in his studio in Whitefish, Mont., in this Aug. 14, 2011 photo provided by Idol. The 2009 Whitefish High School graduate signed with Montana State University-Bozeman to play basketball and later transferred to Carroll College. But after undergoing his third knee surgery, he decided it was time to take a semester off from school. So he spent the beginning of 2011 studying painting alongside his father, Dick Idol, a well-known sculptor. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Colt Idol)

WHITEFISH, Mont. — Colt Idol’s ascension into the professional art world has come at a rather rapid pace.

Idol grew up drawing, but his focus was on Basketball. The 2009 Whitefish High graduate holds the school’s scoring record. He signed with Montana State University-Bozeman to play Basketball and later transferred to Carroll College.

But after undergoing his third knee surgery, he decided it was time to take a semester off from school. So he spent the beginning of 2011 studying Painting alongside his father, Dick Idol, a well-known sculptor.

It was the first time Idol, 20, had really painted. He spent six days a week in his father’s studio. After 5 p.m. he would go home and continue to paint.

During the summer he presented his work to Stephen Isley. The gallery hosted a night featuring his work and his Paintings began to sell.

Idol returned to school this fall, this time as an art major at MSU. Then three weeks into the semester he quit.

“I started to sell more than I could paint,” he said. “I decided to postpone school again. Thus far it’s going really well.”

At first Idol continued to paint while attending classes, but it quickly became apparent his work was in demand. He was Painting as quickly as possible, while his next six Paintings were already on commission. At the same time he wanted to create enough work for a collection in another gallery, but couldn’t find the time.

Idol knew he needed to be in the studio rather than the classroom, but still his own success surprised him.

“I was ecstatic to sell a Painting,” he said. “A lot of Paintings can sit there for years, but I had a couple sell in two days.”

Idol describes his work as the “new face of the old west.” Native American faces and teepees set on the plains are depicted in his oil Paintings.

“I’ve always loved the Western feel,” he said. “My family has collected Hudson’s Bay items and Native American artifacts. Teepees and buffalo just naturally appeal to me.”

Despite a devotion to Basketball, leaving the sport was a relatively easy decision for Idol after his third surgery.

“It was not worth it to me to continue Basketball,” he said. “I wanted to be physically active later.”

His new love for art is obvious as he explains taking a blank canvas and filling it with his latest inspiration.

“I flat out love doing it,” he said. “I’ve never done anything else that I wanted as a career as much as this.”

Idol can take a blank 30- by 40-inch canvas and transform it into a completed Painting in about a week. He’s always working on several Paintings at a time to stay inspired. He paints one and while it dries moves onto the next.

“Painting is a complex set of problems that never has a right or wrong answers,” he said. “Painting will always be a challenge no matter how long I live.”

Idol hasn’t ruled out a return to school one day, for now he hopes to make art into a comfortable career. He would, however, likely choose a different major.

“I’m a firm believer in school, but an art degree wouldn’t do much for me.”

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