Innovators of the American West Book List

Innovators of the American West Book List

Over the past year and a half, I’ve interviewed dozens of innovators who are shaping the future of the American West—writers and ranchers, athletes and artists, conservationists and entrepreneurs, to name a few. While their vocations and backgrounds vary widely, they’re all connected by a shared love of books. All of my guests read widely and deeply, and they credit books with shaping their outlooks, work, and lives.

On each episode’s webpage, the exhaustive “episode notes” link to all books, authors, and other pertinent information discussed in the interview. So in an effort to consolidate all of this valuable information in one easy-to-access location, I compiled every book mentioned by each of my guests into this single comprehensive super-mega-list—the Innovators of the American West Book List. I’ve tried my best to organize them into logical categories, taking into account that many of the books span several genres.

As you’ll see, the books are as diverse as the guests, with topics ranging from the obvious western history and biographies, to more esoteric subjects such as military history, religion, and philosophy. Each book has played an important role in at least one of my guests’ fascinating lives, so it’s safe to say these books have been vetted and come highly recommended. For curious readers who love the American West, this list is a treasure trove.

I will continue to update this list after each new episode (last update: 9-20-17), adding newly mentioned books or authors to their respective categories. I hope this list directs you to some books that you would not have otherwise discovered and that you will continue to check back as the list grows. Enjoy!

Western History

Biographies & Memoirs

Western Issues


Native American History

Land Management & Agriculture

General History & Natural History


Personal Development


Philosophy & Essays

Specifically Mentioned Authors

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Dan Flores

Dan Flores is a writer, historian, and former professor whose work explores the connections between people and the natural world in the American West. His most recent books—Coyote America and American Serengeti—are two of the most enlightening and informative books on the West’s natural history that I have ever read. The former is a biography of the coyote, a surprisingly fascinating animal with a rich and severely misunderstood history. The latter explores the last big mammals of the great plains—pronghorn, coyotes, horses, grizzlies, bison, and wolves—and also gives a great overview of North American big history.

It’s clear that Dan was a wonderful professor, because as you’ll hear in this episode, he has a real knack for explaining complicated subjects in a way that’s understandable, engaging, and exciting. This conversation gave me a glimpse into what it must have been like to be a student in Dan’s class at the University of Montana—I walked away from it full of new knowledge, and it whet my appetite to dig deeper into the many subjects we covered.

I could’ve asked Dan questions for hours and hours, but in our relatively short time together we managed to cover a lot. We start by discussing the coyote—how and why the animal has been so misunderstood, its similarities to humans, how it has managed to thrive despite efforts to totally eradicate the species, and the varying pronunciations of the word coyote. Then we discuss horses—the misconception that they are a non-native species in North America, their evolutionary history around the world, and some modern-day challenges facing the West’s few remaining wild horses. We also talk about Dan’s childhood in Louisiana, his current home in New Mexico, his favorite books on the American West, and much, much more.

This is an excellent episode and I’m excited for you to listen. If you haven’t already, buy Coyote America and American Serengeti—I can promise you’ll love them both.

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:00 – How Dan describes his work
4:10 – History of the pronunciation of “coyote”
7:30 – Coyote’s historical reputation
11:00 – Coyote’s status in Native American lore
12:30 – Mark Twain’s influence on the coyotes’ image
14:05 – Coyotes as humans’ avatars
16:15 – Fission and fusion in coyotes
18:00 – Coyotes’ ability to control their reproduction
22:20 – Dan’s thoughts on the current attempted Federal Land grab
28:45 – Misconception that horses are non-native
34:30 – Current issues with horses in the United States
37:55 – Dan’s thoughts on the BLM Wild Mustang Program
40:15 – Dan’s early years in Louisiana
43:00 – First trip to Carlsbad Caverns
45:20 – Dan’s passionate love of desert
48:55 – Living in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley
51:00 – Changes in Montana during Dan’s time there
55:00 – “In Defense of the Ranchette” article
1:01:45 – Favorite books about the American West
1:08:00 – Most powerful experience outdoors
1:09:20 – Favorite place in the West
1:11:30 – Dan’s request of the listeners
1:15:45 – Connect with Dan

Information Referenced

Noel Durant

Noel Durant is the new Executive Director of the Crested Butte Land Trust, a conservation organization that protects and stewards the ranches, trails, open space, and wildlife habit of Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. Noel took the helm of the land trust in early 2017, and he brings a wide variety of conservation experience with him into this new role. He’s worked as a member of the Interagency Hotshot Crew, fighting fires across the American West. He has also worked for regional and national conservation organizations, doing everything from managing large swaths of rural land to developing urban trail systems.

Noel’s resume speaks for itself, but what is even more impressive is his intense curiosity and deep knowledge around all things conservation. Whether discussing the history of the Gunnison Valley or the ideas of Wendell Berry, it’s clear that Noel has a true passion for his work and a vision for the future of conservation in Colorado and beyond. His practical experience combined with abundant enthusiasm is what will allow him to continue and expand the work of Crested Butte Land Trust into the future.

As listeners of the podcast know, Crested Butte in one of my favorite places in the American West. Its ranching heritage, world-class recreation, and genuine community make it a unique and rare place in today’s American West. In our conversation, Noel explains what makes Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley so special, and how the Land Trust must balance the goals of such a wide range of various stakeholders. He talks about the history of conservation in the Valley and where he sees conservation going in the future. We also discuss his time fighting fires throughout the West, how his early life and parents shaped his love of the outdoors, and lessons learned from his various roles in conservation.

This is an excellent episode with lots of interesting information, so be sure the check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss. I’m sure you’ll agree that Crested Butte Land Trust is in great hands under the leadership of Noel. Enjoy!

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:35 – How Noel describes his work
2:55 – Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust
5:00 – Crested Butte compared to other mountain towns
7:00 – History of conservation in Crested Butte
11:00 – Variety of stakeholders and methods of conservation
16:30 – Overlap between ranchers and recreational users
19:00 – The community of the Gunnison Valley
20:15 – Early years in Tennessee
22:00 – Semester in western NC
23:50 – College at Clemson
27:00 – Time with the Interagency Hotshot Crew
29:00 – Details of a hotshot crew
33:00 – Community and purpose of the fighting fires
35:00 – Tragedies and challenges from the fire fighting world
39:45 – Moving on from fires to land conservation
43:00 – Time at Trust for Public Land
45:20 – Importance of open space in urban area
47:00 – Lessons learned from jobs in conservation
51:45 – Future of land conservation locally and nationally
56:45 – Favorite books
58:50 – Favorite documentaries
59:20 – Favorite location in the West
1:01:34 – Favorite hike in Crested Butte
1:03:00 – Best piece of advice he’s ever received
1:04:45 – Request of the listeners
1:05:45 – Connect with Noel and Crested Butte Land Trust

Information Referenced

JeffAnnJeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado’s most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.

The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.

For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause… I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.

If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Land Library

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Jeff describes his work
3:45 – Back story on the Land Library
4:40 – Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 – Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 – The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 – The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 – Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 – South Park, Colorado described
19:30 – Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 – Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 – Current state of the Land Library
28:10 – Cook’s House restoration – Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 – History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 – How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 – Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 – How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 – Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 – Recommended biographies
51:00 – The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 – Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!!
53:20 – Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 – Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 – Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 – Connect with the Land Library online

* Please buy these books at your local bookseller!!!



Connor Coleman

Connor Coleman is the founder of Resiliency Lands, a progressive, conservation-minded land management and advisory group committed to promoting ecological and resource resiliency. Prior to starting Resiliency Lands, he held a variety of positions closely connected to the land, jobs that would be on the wish-list of anyone who loves adventure and the American West—wildland firefighter, cowboy, bison manager, and conservationist, just to name a few.  Connor is currently based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and he resides on a spectacular ranch just outside of Carbondale.

You may be surprised to learn that Connor was not born and raised in the West or on ranches.  On the contrary, he grew up in Ohio, went to college in North Carolina, and after paying his dues in east coast conservation and earning two master’s degrees from Duke University, he headed West to focus his energy on western landscapes. Thanks to an insatiable curiosity, a rock-solid work ethic, a service mindset, and a willingness to insert himself into new and uncomfortable situations, Connor has carved out a professional niche for himself in Colorado doing rewarding, exciting, and important work.


Connor during his firefighter days.

Connor’s education and unconventional career path can serve as a great blueprint for anyone who loves the American West and wants a life centered around land, conservation, and natural resources. When I was in my early twenties, I would’ve loved to meet a guy like Connor who could point me in the right direction. So in this episode, we talk in depth about his career and his ability to “put himself out there” to create exciting professional opportunities.  We dig deep into his thoughts on conservation in the West, as well as issues related to forest fires throughout the country.  Connor loves to read and learn, so he also has tons of great book and film recommendations.


Connor enjoying evening fly fishing

We cover a ridiculous amount of information, so be sure to check out the episode notes below for the full list of topics we discuss. Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Connor Coleman

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:32 – How Connor describes his work
3:55 – Importance of conserving working ranches
7:55 – Grazing as an vital part of conservation
13:40 – Examples of some of Resiliency Land’s projects
16:35 – Where did Connor grow up?
18:50 – Connor’s decision to make conservation a career
22:45 – Brief history of NC barbecue
25:00 – Early career in conservation
29:10 – Grad school at Duke
30:30 – Difference between conservation in NC versus CO
32:20 – How easterners misunderstand public lands in the west
33:30 – Time as a wildland firefighter
36:30 – Fire policy in the east versus west
40:00 – Longleaf pine book recommendations
41:15 – Adventures at Camp Lejeune
42:20 – Moving out west to work on ranches
45:40 – Challenges of adjusting to the demands of ranch work
48:30 – Working with bison on the Zapata Ranch
49:50 – Bison and bison book recommendations
55:20 – Transition to the Aspen Valley Land Trust
59:20 – Lesson learned working in conservation in different parts of country
1:01:20 – Thoughts on service and giving back to the community
1:06:15 – Favorite books about the American West
1:10:15 – Favorite films
1:12:50 – Surprising activities
1:14:35 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
1:18:45 – Favorite place in the West
1:20:20 – Biggest challenge facing the West
1:23:00 – Connor’s request of the listeners
1:25:15 – Connect with Connor online
1:25:55 – Bonus book recommendations!

Information Referenced

Connors Book Recommendations

Connor’s Film Recommendations


Taylor Keen, just before an Omaha tribal war dance

Taylor Keen is a teacher, community builder, and Native American thought leader based out of Omaha, Nebraska.  His back story is as diverse as it is impressive—he’s a member of both the Omaha Tribe and the Cherokee Nation, attended Dartmouth College (BA) and Harvard University (Masters of Public Policy, MBA), and enjoyed a successful stint in corporate America before returning to Nebraska to teach entrepreneurship and management at Creighton University.  His most recent undertaking is Sacred Seed, a project with the goal of preserving Native American heritage and history through collecting, growing, and spreading the seeds of corn and other traditional Native American foods.

Just before planting…

The writer Wallace Stegner theorized that people generally fit into one of two categories—“Boomers” or “Stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run” and want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are just the opposite—they are “motivated by affection, by such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”1  Taylor is the walking embodiment of a Sticker.  Given his drive, intelligence, and education, he could’ve followed the path of the Boomer and pursued any number of careers.  But a deep love of his Native American heritage and his community called him back home to teach, lead, and live a life devoted to service of others.  It’s an inspiring story.

…and full bloom.

I could’ve talked to Taylor for hours and I only asked about a third of the questions I had prepared, but we still managed to dig into a wide variety of fascinating topics.  We discussed the history and mission of Sacred Seed and where he sees the project going in the future.  We talked about his path from the West to the Ivy League, the decisions that led him to transition from corporate America to higher education, and some very interesting Native American history.  One of my favorite parts of our conversation was Taylor’s recounting the advice he received from his grandfather soon after graduating from Harvard Business School.

This was a very enlightening conversation for me, and I greatly appreciate Taylor taking the time to chat.  I encourage you to visit the Sacred Seed website and watch the video—you can find links to everything we discuss in the episode notes on the webpage.  Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Taylor Keen

1 Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection (2012)

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:55 – How Taylor describes his work
4:00 – Sacred Seed Project
5:35 – Early beginnings of Sacred Seed
9:00 – Discovering the importance of seed banking
10:00 – Threats to native seeds from large corporations
11:45 – Difference between Omahas and Cherokees
13:50 – How Taylor found his first ancient seeds
15:55 – How the plants compliment each other, Four Sisters
20:45 – How Sacred Seed has changed Taylor
22:40 – The link between elders and the ancient ways of planting
25:30 – Fall festival
26:45 – Future plans for Sacred Seed
29:20 – Taylor’s changing approach to the project—MBA to Holistic thinking
33:45 – Similarities between Sacred Seed and the reintroduction of bison
36:45 – The fight for sustainable agriculture
37:10 – Meaning of Omaha
38:10 – Where Taylor grew up
39:00 – Taylor’s journey to the Ivy League
41:15 – Biggest surprise when moving east
43:55 – Harvard graduate school and corporate America
45:35 – Taylor’s grandfather’s wise advice
49:25 – Discussing Sebastian Junger’s Tribe
51:00 – Taylor’s thoughts on the importance of tribes
53:50 – Best books for learning about Native American culture
56:45 – Taylor’s advice to his younger self
58:00 – Other favorite books
1:02:50 – Taylor’s request of the audience
1:06:00 – Connect with Taylor online

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

As you may know, I send out a brief bimonthly email in which I recommend some of the best books I’ve recently read. This year, I recommended 37 books, which is an admittedly ridiculous amount of reading. In an effort to distill it down to a more user-friendly level, here are my top ten favorite books that I read in 2016. The subject matters vary widely, but I wholeheartedly recommend them all.

I kept the descriptions as brief as possible, so click on the monthly list link to view the original email with my full review. To sign up for the future book recommendation emails, follow this link or just send me an email.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan – One of my favorite books of all time, and you don’t need to be a surfer to fully appreciate it. A true work of art. (Sep/Oct list)

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger – I think about this book on almost a daily basis, and I believe Junger’s ideas on community and purpose explain many of the societal challenges facing the U.S. today. (Jul/Aug list)

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport – This book reshaped the way I approach my professional and personal projects, and it made me even more skeptical of social media than I had been. (Mar/Apr list)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight – The best business memoir I’ve ever read. (Nov/Dec list)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – Extremely interesting theories on the evolution of humans, and it actually pairs well with Tribe mentioned above. (Jan/Feb list)

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko – Part history of the American West and part western water policy primer, all layered on top of a wild, exciting adventure narrative. (May/Jun list)

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde – I’ve read an absurd number of TR books, so my standards are high—this one not only explores a little known (but super-interesting) part of TR’s life, but it also details the rise of America’s natural history movement. (Jul/Aug list)

Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas – Richard Nixon was a strange, strange, strange man. (Jan/Feb list)

Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O’Brien – Conservation, bison, ranching, regenerative agriculture, emotional memoir, and a natural history lesson all rolled into one book. (Nov/Dec list)

End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K Bourne Jr. – A cautionary examination of what lies ahead if the we can’t figure out a solution to the coming global food crisis, followed hopeful examples of innovators who are attacking the challenge head on. (Sep/Oct list)


Architect Larry Yaw

Larry Yaw is a renowned architect based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley whose work connects people with nature using contemporary, sustainable, conservation-focused designs. Growing up in rural Montana gave Larry a deep appreciation for the utilitarian character of ranch homes and their thoughtful integration into the landscape, aspects that form the foundation of much of his work today.  Through his design, Larry has demonstrated a unique ability to pay homage to the past while boldly pushing beyond preconceived notions of architecture in the American West.

If I had to use one word to describe Larry it would probably be “adventurous”—a quest for adventure seems to guide all aspects of his professional and personal lives.  As you’ll hear in our conversation, Larry has traveled the world many times over, sometimes with his full family in tow, seeking out enriching experiences everywhere from the South Pacific to the Swiss Alps. He is also intellectually adventurous, as evidenced by his deep knowledge of history, conservation, Native Americans, and many other subjects related to the West and beyond.  Physical adventures are a daily occurrence for Larry, whether it’s pedaling single track, stalking trout with his fly rod, hiking in the high mountains around Aspen, or shooting birds on the Montana prairies. All of these experiences provide the fuel that keeps Larry’s professional creative engine firing at turbo speed, decade after decade.

This was a super-fun conversation, and I came away from it inspired and enlightened.  We discussed a broad range of topics including Larry’s architecture, his creative process, and how he has managed to stay consistently creative for so long. We chatted about his early years in Montana, some of his adventures around the world, and his thoughts on conservation in the American West.  Larry is a true student of the West, so he had plenty of book recommendations. There is a lot of great information in this interview, so don’t forget to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss.

Photo courtesy of Larry Yaw

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Larry describes his work
3:40 – Larry describes his architecture
5:00 – Montana’s influence on Larry’s work
7:20 – Early years in Montana and Florida
9:00 – College years and path to graduate school
13:25 – Post-grad school early career
15:15 – Decision to move back West
16:30 – Origins of Larry’s adventurous outlook
22:00 – International travel’s influence on his work
23:55 – Around the world family trip
25:05 – Adventures on Aconcagua
26:22 – Cultural influences of travel
27:10 – Rugged individualism versus community
29:00 – Design for an active, mountain-inspired lifestyle
30:20 – Process versus goals
32:45 – His creative process
34:40 – Evolution of Larry’s work
36:30 – Thoughts on conservation
38:30 – Interactions with Native Americans
41:00 – Sustainability and design
42:30 – Interactions with the Blackfeet Tribe
46:30 – “Once Proud” painting series
48:30 – Recommended books on Native Americans
51:15 – Larry’s favorite books
55:20 – Favorite documentaries
56:50 – Favorite outdoor and artistic activities
1:01:25 – Craziest outdoor experience
1:04:00 – Favorite location in the West
1:06:45 – Biggest challenge/opportunity facing the West
1:08:55 – Advice to his younger self
1:12:10 – Larry’s request to the listeners
1:13:50 – Connect with Larry online


Pat O’Toole is a rancher who, along with his family, owns and operates the Ladder Ranch, a large-scale cattle and sheep operation that straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border. Pat’s wife Sharon’s family established the ranch in the Little Snake River Valley back in 1881, and now, six generations later, the family’s hard work, thoughtful vision, and a deep respect for the land have made the Ladder Ranch a shining example of the combined effect of productive agriculture and land conservation.


Pat O’Toole and his family

Pat’s background is far outside of the norm for many multi-generational ranchers—he grew up in south Florida, majored in philosophy in college, and just before he and his wife enrolled in law school, they decided to return to her family’s land to continue in the family business of ranching. Since then, the O’Tooles have not only run a financially successful operation, but they have simultaneously improved wildlife, bird, and fish habitat throughout the ranch. By thinking outside the box and partnering with both non-profit and governmental organizations, the Ladder Ranch has set a new standard for conservation, creative problem solving, and sustainable land stewardship.

We had a fun, in-depth conversation that covered a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to anyone who loves the West, whether you’re involved in ranching or not. We discuss Pat’s thoughts on cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists, and how the relationship between the two groups is getting stronger and more positive every year. We chat about water in the West, and why it is important to keep water on ranches rather than being sold off to municipalities. We also dig into Pat’s unconventional background, his thoughts on the future of land conservation, and of course, favorite books, history, and his favorite location in the West.

Pat is an interesting guy who has thought very deeply on issues related to the American West, including conservation, water, and agriculture. There’s a lot of great information in this interview, so I hope you enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Pat O’Toole

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:59 – How Pat describes his work
3:41 – History of the Ladder Ranch
4:45 – Discussion of the Homestead Act’s effect on settlement
9:07 – Cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists
9:55 – Benefits of grazing cattle and sheep
11:00 – Rotational grazing on the Ladder Ranch
11:55 – Importance of not breaking up ranches
13:00 – “Hopefuls” and “Hatefuls”
14:28 – The “Era of Limits”
19:00 – Pat’s personal background
21:55 – TR’s creation of Forest Service
23:28 – Amazing feats of past generations
26:00 – Ingraining the conservation ethic in children
28:10 – Pat’s role models
30:36 – The Ladder Ranch’s community of conservationists
33:00 – Importance of keeping water on ranches
37:00 – Flood irrigation explained
41:25 – Importance of keeping water our current water law in tact
42:30 – Leopold Conservation Award
44:00 – Endangered Species Act
46:50 – Favorite books
49:42 – Ferry Carpenter’s ranch library
50:15 – Favorite movies
53:40 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
54:50 – Favorite location in the West
55:22 – History of Battle Creek
57:40 – Pat’s request of the listeners
58:50 – Connect with the Ladder Ranch online
Information Referenced

Nicholas Coleman – Painting the Heritage and History of the American West

Nicholas Coleman – Painting the Heritage and History of the American West

“An Old Meeting Place” by Nicholas Coleman

Nicholas Coleman is an ultra-talented, hard-working artist based out of Provo, Utah, and he paints some of the most interesting and beautiful works I’ve ever seen. His primary subject matter is the American West, with a focus on landscapes, natural history, wildlife, Native American culture, and exploration. I came across Nick’s work on Instagram of all places—in the midst of the app’s thousands of images, noise, and distractions, one of Nick’s images boldly stood out from all the rest. It stood out so much that I wanted more, so I went to his website and was blown away by his work.  The more I learned about Nick, the more impressed I became—he is a multifaceted individual with a fascinating back story.

Nick is not your stereotypical artist. He is a devoted hunter, fisherman, and trapper, and he’s also a voracious reader who probably knows more about western history than many college professors. He has a focused and disciplined approach to his art, working six days a week and never sitting around waiting to “get in the mood” to paint. With his deep love of art and the West, combined with his rock solid work ethic, it’s no surprise that he has been able to build a stellar reputation in the super-competitive and challenging world of professional art.

Nicholas in his studio

I could’ve talked to Nick for hours, because so many of his interests overlap with mine. We did manage to dig into the details of his art and artistic process.  We chatted about his international travels to South America, Africa, and New Zealand, as well as his thoughts on how those adventures have influenced his life and work. We discussed his education as an artist, as well as his advice for those aspiring to make art a full-time career.  We also talked a lot about Teddy Roosevelt, which is always fun. See below for the full list of topics covered.

Thanks to Nicholas Coleman for joining me on the podcast. I hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Nicholas Coleman

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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

3:11 – How Nicholas describes his work
4:40 – His family’s history in the West
5:55 – Hunting, fishing, trapping, and their influence on his work
8:50 – Childhood experiences that led to a career in art
10:35 – Theodore Roosevelt and Carl Akeley
13:00 – Thoughts on hunters as conservationists
17:03 – How international travel influenced his art and outlook
19:55 – Thoughts on being self taught versus academically trained in art
23:00 – Nicholas’s artistic process
27:30 – A typical day
29:10 – The backstory on Nicholas’s studio
30:30 – The role that history plays in his work
32:10 – Where he gets his ideas for painting
34:15 – How he ensure that his paintings are historically accurate
36:40 – Recommended books about Native Americans
38:25 – The evolution of his art over the last 10 years
40:10 – How it feels to create art
42:00 – Thoughts on embracing technology
45:40 – What “conservation” means to Nicholas
48:55 – Favorite Theodore Roosevelt books
50:10 – Lessons he’s teaching his children about conservation
51:00 – Advice for aspiring artists
53:45 – Favorite books
55:50 – Favorite documentaries
56:00 – Other hobbies, including motorcycles
59:40 – Nicholas’s insane Alaskan hunting adventure
1:05:40 – Favorite location in the American West
1:07:30 – Biggest challenge facing the American West
1:11:00 – Nicholas’s request of the listeners
1:11:40 – Connect with Nicholas online

Information Referenced