Capturing the coyote man
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Neal Crosbie, a Santa Barbara local since 1973, has been making a living by selling his unique artwork at the Santa Barbara Art Walk every Sunday. His work is combination of jarring and edgy textures with powerful and confusing language attached to it.
When asked to explain his work, Crosbie said “If I could put what I do into words, I would not do it.”
From a young age, Crosbie knew that he wanted to make a living creating and selling art. When asked about his style of painting, Crosbie said “I studied art in San Francisco and received three scholarships, believe it or not, but I had to unlearn everything that I had learned to come up with this primitive childlike approach, because I liked it so much.”
In every piece he creates, Crosbie incorporates his rendition of the coyote man from ancient Native American mythology. He started drawing the coyote man when was nine years old and continued drawing him all through his life. In Native American mythology, the coyote is the trickster, the goofball and the one who gets everything wrong. It is the symbol of failure.
Crosbie explained that as a young child, he could relate to this because “I came from a family that was extremely dangerous and I had to get out of it when I was really young, so I became homeless. I was always told I was a failure, so the coyote is something I could connect with.”
The coyote’s nature of always making mistakes and being called a fool inspired Crosbie, as he has come to learn from his past and use his mistakes to inspire others.
“If you never make a mistake, you are always going to be on the same path, but if you do make mistakes, you break into new territories and new discoveries,” said Crosbie.
Along with the unique drawings of the coyote man and other original sketches, intriguing phrases are also beautifully scattered across Crosbie’s canvases. According to Crosbie, “My phrases are not gags or ‘ha-ha’s’ but clever, thought-provoking sayings.”
Some of the phrases are poems, some witty and uplifting commentary on life, some are just nonsense; but the point of all of them is to provoke thought and to inspire. He pointed out that each of his little phrases are like “a little celebration of life in a short way. They are positive but they don’t make sense. That’s what I like about it.” In fact, Crosbie said he puts more time into coming up with the phrases than actually creating the rest of his artwork.
As Crosbie said, “My art is so weird that about one in 100 people don’t hate it.” However, his work inspires more than he knows. His captivating work provokes thoughts, questions and self-reflection.
When people stop by to admire his paintings, he greets them with, “Hi! Let me know if you have any questions, or any answers.” His art is so fascinating that even the artist himself does not fully understand it. Crosbie agreed, saying, “I like not knowing, it keeps it from being formulaic. It keeps it from being a craft. My work is very repetitive, but yet I don’t know where I’m going to go today.”