Polly Burge



Where you work:

Flood Marketing part time and as a self-employed visual artist

What you do: Create digital marketing content and 2-D contemporary (mostly Western) art

Where did you grow up?

Lynchburg, Virginia

If you attended college, where and what did you study?

North Carolina State University, I completed a B.A. in foreign languages with a concentration in Spanish languages and literatures in December 2014.

How did you end up working as an artist?

I have always had a sketchbook, since childhood. I have always especially enjoyed drawing horses and dogs. During a high school studio painting class, I learned to use oils and it spurred a completely different enthusiasm for art. I had to choose a “concentration” to focus on for the year, so I chose dogs. I worked at a small animal vet clinic and also raised six or more litters of lab puppies for my neighbor throughout high school, and my family always had at least two dogs in the house. My general love for animals inspired volumes of work. Studying dogs made it easy to take on commission work — mostly portraits of family dogs from my parent’s friends. My dad built a studio for me to work out of in our basement furnace room… I got paid and I had a space where I could make a mess.

I doubt I painted a single painting that didn’t include a dog for years, and you’d be hard-pressed to find work of mine that doesn’t include an animal to this day. I did put my paintbrushes down during most of college, completing just one painting a year. Not on purpose, other things just got in the way.

But I began calling myself an artist in the fall of 2016, after I sold a few drawings right out of my sketchbook and after my artwork kept my bills paid through the following winter. I decided I would manifest the title.

So, artist, I am!

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

I was invited to participate in the Mammoth Quickdraw last fall at the Washakie Museum & Cultural Center in Worland. I had to prepare a drawing to be finished within an hour, with some 400 or so people milling around my easel. I was nervous, not expecting the event to be so polished and so well-attended, but the time pressure forced me to focus through the chaos and distractions.

After the Quickdraw, I popped it into the frame setup I brought, and I opted to walk my own work during the auction, instead of having one of the museum staff carry it. I was really proud of that piece, specifically. It was an experimental composition, I had incorporated materials and a technique that I had never applied before, and it worked itself out in a lovely way.

In the moment, it was thrilling to experience people bidding on a piece of my work, right out of my own hands — a piece that I had really fallen in love with and was proud of. I still look at photos and drafts of that piece for encouragement.

What does success look like to you?

Success is so much more about attitude and “the big picture,” than just about a career.

For me, succeeding is attentively managing the aspects of my life that I have the ability to control and absolving myself of the rest. Days will be dim, deadlines will be missed, people won’t always appreciate my work, but if I maintain an ambitious attitude about opportunities ahead, I am succeeding.

Success thus far has been the ability to spend every day in places where I can have my dog by my side, if not my horse too. It’s been the ability to travel throughout the Northern Rockies and the deserts in the southwest, studying both art and the landscape. I’ve felt success by bringing out creativity in other people, in many contexts — by sharing and teaching my craft, by writing, by speaking about it.

What is a cause you are passionate about? Why? How do you try to make a difference in that area on a day-to-day basis?

Especially since moving to Wyoming, conservation and public contact with the landscape has become really important to me. I’ve been privileged throughout my whole life with access to both private and public land, and I realize how cherished that access is and should be. Talking about land appropriation in Wyoming is understandably touchy. Large private land owners are blessed by direct contact with nature and solitude, they are aware of that and are protective of it. The ability to access public land is important because the more time people spend with it, the more they attach emotionally to the preservation of it in the same way.

The difference I try to make is by holding on tight to diplomacy and making an effort to positively represent the people who frequently enjoy public land. All Wyomingites are proud to give up some modern conveniences to fend off development of our landscape, but progress is inevitable and necessary to stay relevant. We have to encourage one another to think about the big picture, long term, for the sake of the land.

When I was 16, I read “Gone With The Wind.” It’s remembered as the love story between Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara, but I’ve thought of it more as a love story about human connection to the landscape. I return to words by Mitchell’s character, Gerald O’Hara, “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” We can all appreciate that opinion.