Asa Gilmore is a local photographer, a Clamper, and a fixture in the arts scene in Reno. He’s also a past winner of best visual artist in our annual Biggest Little Best Of Northern Nevada readers’ poll. We picked him as the artist to illustrate the characters from Mark Twain’s Roughing It for our “Best Of” issue this year because of his distinctive style that’s kind of a combination of the Old West and new urban West. For more about Gilmore, check out his websites, asagilmore.com or ruckusarts.com.
So Asa, where did you grow up?
I was born in Carson City, Nevada, grew up in the Woodbridge, Markleeville area just south of Tahoe.
And where did you get your artistic training?
Actually, my parents. My father teaches photography and digital media at College of the Siskiyous, and my mom was a professional artist for years, so I kind of grew up with it.
Did you have any formal training?
Well, let’s see. I talked my parents into buying me a Mac computer when I was like 15, and I got up early to read the Photoshop manual every day [laughs]. That was the start of it. Not really any formal training, as far as college, per se, but I worked for a number of professional photographers over the years, so formal training was “in the field,” so to speak.
When you’re not being an artist, how do you make your money?
Well, my businesses are kind of divided now between graphic design and photography. I do logos, websites, marketing, all that sort of stuff on the design side. Photography, I do a lot of architectural work, product photography—commercial photography in general. My architectural work is probably my biggest area of concentration right now.
And what’s the name of your business?
Ruckus Visual Arts. R-U-C-K-U-S, as in make a noise, make a commotion kind of thing.
Did this particular assignment, the “Best Of,” present any particular difficulties?
Oh yeah. [Laughs.] It was a really challenging assignment, but once I got into it, I was thoroughly enjoying it, but I have to admit, there were a couple of minutes of “How am I going to pull this together at all?” Difficulties were finding the props. That was a huge thing, and if it hadn’t been for my father-in-law having pretty much everything I needed handy in his antique store, I never would have been able to pull it off. And then, of course, finding the models, and finding the props to fit the models, finding the backgrounds and all that. It was a bit of a challenge, but a lot of fun the whole way. It was really interesting.
Had you read any Mark Twain, particularly Roughing It, before?
I hadn’t read Roughing It, I hadn’t read Twain, actually, since I was a kid. I used to love Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and my dad loved the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, so I’d read that one when I was younger. But it had been a good, solid 10 years since I last picked up a Mark Twain book.
How old are you?
So, were you the kind of child who colored within the lines?
To tell you the truth, I don’t know that I remember my parents ever handing me a coloring book with lines.
Is there anything else that you should mention about being the artist for the Biggest Little Best of 2010?
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole project, and I hope everyone likes the pictures.