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Making magic with moments, Missoula artist paints the town

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 11:52:22-04

MISSOULA — Even when the sun sets on Missoula, a colorful glow keeps the city alive.

Standing behind his easel, a signature headlamp illuminating his canvas, Roger Mason explains why nighttime is the perfect time for his craft.

“What you get are these moments with the light and things that will never ever happen again,” said Mason.

Light and art, according to Mason, go together like paint and palette.

He’s new to Missoula, and what better way to get to know the Garden City than to see it through the lens of an artist?

“It’s just so dang quiet, folks are friendly,” he said.

Missoula Club, Dairy Queen, Red’s Bar, and more – He captures Missoula fossils because even as a newcomer, he understands the changing landscape of this place.

“You know, things that are kind of disappearing and being bulldozed and being replaced with condos,” said Mason. “They're gorgeous and light spills out of them.”

The art of painting in public is sharing these moments with anyone passing by. Taking a step back from his colorful painting of Red’s Bar, he handed some postcards to a group walking past.

“Anyone that says nice things gets a postcard and people that don't say nice things get a postcard too,” he joked.

From Red’s to the Roxy, he paints the town all as the light changes from yellows to pinks, purples to blues.

“Things are getting interesting,” he said, pointing to the multicolored neon sign of The Roxy.

Mason told MTN News that he hopes to have a pop-up show at some point, but for now, he’s relishing in the enlightening conversations had in the dark.

“So what inspires you for the colors on the backdrop as opposed to sticking to the boring white,” asked someone studying Mason’s work from the sidewalk.

“It’s just hard to do,” said Mason. “It’s like sitting in your house, painting a dog from a photograph…that’s cake, but this is nuts, see the stripes coming out of the sign?”

You’ll spot his easel around town a few nights every week.

Every chat with a local makes him more of a local treasure.

As foot traffic slows down, Mason and his headlamp light the way for those walking home.

“I'm trying to make little moments that freeze time and stop time,” said Mason. “I mean, this picture has stopped forever and it's in this moment, right, and there's inherent magic in that that’s hard to deny, it's also hard to cook up, but if you put a light bulb on your head and work every night, it will happen.”

Illuminating a Missoula moment in time, Mason said, “I can't live without doing art. It's not gonna work.”