ArtsEye Gallery’s current exhibit is “Highways: An Artist’s Journey Across Arizona,” a 24-piece show that includes art from Gall’s covers for the magazine.
The Tucsonan has been the sole illustrator for Arizona Highways’ Explore Arizona series, which focuses on a different area of the state each month. Photos, essays and feature stories about the area are all tied together with Gall’s illustrations, which have taken readers to such places as the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly and the Saguaro National Park.
Gall, a children’s author, artist and creator of the book-turned-Netflix-series “Dinotrux,” said the Explore Arizona series has been “a dream project.”
He had to weave this dream project into his schedule, already packed with both writing and illustrating his 15th children’s book.
Each cover took him about a week to create. Gall used photos to first get the idea of the subject’s shape before he set to work on a computer in his home studio to create the art.
“In the end that’s the illustrator’s job, is to take real life and to turn it into something even more magical, so I never work directly from just one photo,” Gall said.
Gall liked working on an assignment so close to his home in Tucson, where he has lived since 1980. He’s incorporated Western themes into other artwork, such as the three oil paintings that will be on display at the ArtsEye Gallery.
“Before this time I had really only done a few Western-themed illustrations because my work didn’t call for it, the jobs didn’t call for it,” he said.
“But once I started into it, I really realized how much I really liked it. I’m a very big outdoors person, so to weave all that together was the funnest part.”
Robert Stieve, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, said while the 93-year-old magazine has had illustrated covers in the past, they have been rare. This is the first time a full year of illustrations have been done. Gall, who had done interior illustrations for the magazine, seemed like the logical illustrator for the task.
“We have a wonderful reputation of featuring so many great photographers from all over, but I knew that an illustrated cover would really stand out as something different,” Stieve said. Gall’s “work was perfect for that.”
Readers noticed the difference. Some sent letters to the magazine about the illustrated covers, and while there were “a handful of people that preferred photography,” Stieve said there were more people who appreciated the covers.
A poster featuring all 12 Gall covers are available for purchase online — a request readers had made.
“We consider ourselves very lucky that he’s able to carve time out of his busy schedule to squeeze us in between his much bigger projects,” Stieve said.
This is Gall’s third show with ArtsEye Gallery, said gallery manager Rachel Castillo-Larriva. She added that Gall’s last two shows nearly drew a full house, and she expects this show to have a similar turnout.
“His artwork is fun, it’s nostalgic, it always has a little bit of hidden humor in there,” she said. “He’s an excellent storyteller.”
Stieve said he is “thrilled” the gallery is showcasing Gall’s Arizona Highways work, and it’s exciting for the magazine, too.
“We tend to do these magazines and they go off to the printer and we’re on to the next one, and so the chance to sort of slow down a little bit and look at all the great things Chris did for us, it will be exciting to be down there and check the show out.”