…on the 20th year of The Coyote
Hard to believe, but the twentieth year of The Coyote Series is upon us. Twenty years of jaw-dropping, mind-numbing victories, teeth-gnashing, heartbreaking failures, and everything in between. I might be the most alternately exalted, misunderstood, overrated and underestimated person I’ve ever met. Twenty years now, and safe to say, that The Coyotes have come a long way since their start as hopeful little drawings made in a cold, tiny, rundown apartment in Jackson, Michigan, their sole purpose to lift the spirits of their down-on-his-luck author, me. To my great surprise, The Coyote Series has become one of the most widely collected, longest lasting and successful bodies of artwork in history.
I’ve become a terrific study on the merits of chasing a dream…but hold on a moment. I was a dirt-poor billboard painter with an incurable disease when I began The Coyote Series and, if not for unbelievable luck coming my way, I may have remained that. But even then, when I had nothing, I was optimistic, because at last I was chasing my dream. In that experience you’ll find the essence of The Coyote Series: chase a dream, live life like you mean it, love deeply, be a fool for your passions, and come what may, good or bad, book or bust, your life will have few regrets.
As you may have noticed, the tenor of my work has changed as the years have passed. This is partly due to being happily married, partly due to my experiences, both glorious and tragic, and partly due to a better understanding of time. I want to make something lasting and impactful; something impossible to simply toss aside or throw away. Given that fact, I strive mightily to make work that has lingering resonance, not just for the persons who acquire it, but for their heirs. I have cast my gaze two hundred years down the road, to dreamers I’ll never know who may, like me, hear sensible voices lovingly telling them to stay safe and not take foolish chances. I want The Coyotes to whisper in their ear wild, irresponsible notions about self-determination and destiny. I want them to grab people by the scruffs of their necks, to inspire them, to change their lives. I have seen Coyote Series paintings and sculptures do that countless times already, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. I’d like to think my work’s desirability is timeless and permanent, but know this – I don’t paint them for you. Never have, never will. I paint them for myself, because there’s always a chance no one will like a given painting or sculpture, but that’s okay ‘cause if I like it, I can just keep it. It’s an assumption I’ve made twenty years running and it serves me well.
Having said that, let me now add this: it’s strange, but I don’t believe The Coyotes belong to me anymore. It’s like what I imagine a mother would feel if her child grew up to be a rock star or the president or something. Like her, I can get great seats to amazing events, but it’s not really about me. It’s about the thing I created and helped raise. I understand him better than anyone, but he belongs to the world now. The Coyotes live absolutely huge lives now, going to incredible places and doing amazing things. Me, I’m just an artist in a studio. A beautiful studio. My creation, my rock star son, bought it for me. He’s sweet, but I worry whether he’s eating the right things and getting eight hours of sleep.
I have had two grand plans in my pocket for The Coyote Series. The first was a major museum exhibition. Mission accomplished. It won’t be the last one either, if I can help it. The other is of making the movie that Hollywood has asked me to do so many times before. It has taken me sixteen years to write the story and, at last, it’s finished. It literally took me that long to figure out what to say. I feel it is, far and away, the best thing I’ve ever done. Hollywood is a perilous place, many dreams suffer horrible fates there, but I’ve been down that road a few times already and I know what to expect. That said, as this is my dream, I intend to chase it, to passionately embrace it, to make it everything the Coyotes have come to represent about the tapestry of life. I will be a fool for it, come what may. How “Coyote” of me.
To my collectors, many of whom have become Sher’s and my closest and dearest friends, you own our hearts. Try as I might, I could never properly express my gratitude for your many leaps of faith regarding my work. You have made my life a blessed existence of beautiful and profound truths. You humble me.
You know, I wasn't always an artist. In fact, I was a journeyman bookkeeper when I almost kicked the bucket back about twelve years ago. Thankfully I didn't, and when I woke up in the hospital I told everyone I knew that the bookkeeper was dead after all - but in his place was a man who was going to become a successful artist. They thought I was nuts. I wasn't. Two years later, in June 1986, I started the Coyote Series. I was living in Jackson Michigan, a town perennially voted the worst place to live in America. My inspiration was a Joni Mitchell song "Coyote". A friend of mine put it on a tape and I listened. At the time I was 26, a dirt poor billboard painter living in a tiny one room apartment. I was so poor, in fact, that I couldn't even afford a shower curtain to serve as a wedding present for two good friends who were getting married in the Southwest. I figured they might like one of my Coyote drawings so I did a romantic one and took it there - the people at the wedding went nuts! Well, you know how these things go - somebody knew somebody who knew somebody in the art business, and within a year my art was being sold in over a hundred art galleries across the country.
That was 10 years ago. Since then I have had 32 one man exhibitions all across the country. I have completed 327 originals, of which 319 have sold. I have created 33 different sculpture editions, and 24 print editions. The price of my First original was $100.00. One recently sold for $30,000. Crazy.
The Coyotes have been collected by dozens of famous celebrities, Captains of Industry, and Heads of State. From Oliver Stone to Ozzie Osborne, from N.B.C. president Littlefield to Kevin Costner, from the C.E.O. of Exxon to John Cleese, from billionaire Sam Zeil to Sylvester Stallone, from Tommie Lee to the American Ambassador to Argentina, the coyotes do get around. They have been featured on numerous movies and television shows, and have been the subject of several newspaper and magazine articles. They hang on the walls of mansions and great villas around the world.
In the upcoming year I will be working with the American Cancer Society and The Organization for Tobacco Free Kids on an anti-camel/anti-smoking campaign in which "Miles the Coyote" will take on RJ Reynolds "Joe Camel" in the Fight against the promotion of adolescent smoking. My grandfather, a lifelong smoker, died of emphysema. My father started smoking at twelve but stopped about ten years ago after being told it was a matter of life and death. It was the hardest thing he ever did. Needless to say, kicking that camels keester would be a dream come true.
Many years ago someone asked me my favorite thing about the coyotes, and I said "They celebrate life. Sometimes life kicks them around, but they embrace it just the same. Heartaches, bad breaks, job problems, job triumphs, true love, rotten luck, vast fortune. Good or bad, they celebrate", I like that.
As for my great fortune and success as a painter, no one is more amazed than me. A simple twist of fate transformed my life, and I can only thank God for the good luck and tremendous blessings I have received.
June, 1996 was the ten year anniversary of the start of the Coyote Series. A hard, fun, nutty decade of dogs in suits. For any budding artists out there seeking my advise I would simply say this: never give up, out-work every one else, and don't be afraid to take risks. My art has improved each year because I test my abilities every day. I hang on to the elements I believe in and toss the rest, continually developing and growing. In this way I feel I follow the -paths of the greats, even if I am painting Coyotes in suits. Your vehicle may be the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, it doesn't mean your destination can't be a great one.
Warmest Regards, Markus Pierson