Tyler Voorhees - LAMPLIGHTER Cover 4

The Lamplighter is one of five images in the ‘Jobs of Yesteryear’ series.

As the dust settles on the award ceremonies for the Inventor Art Contest held on Friday, October 14 at DaVinci Institute, ImpactLab took a moment to talk with Best of Show recipient Tyler Voorhees about his work, his future and his studio, Doc’s Lollipops…

The theme of the Inventor Art Competition was inventors and their great inventions. Inventors could be contemporary or from any time in the past. They just had to show the mark of being a great inventor. Voorhees chose to represent inventions and innovations that changed industries forever and was successful at capturing top honors.

A series of finalists were be chosen from the all-digital submissions and assessed by a panel of judges. By winning the Best of Show prize Tyler walked away with over $1,500 in cash and prizes while ‘The Lamplighter’ has become the official image of the 2011 DaVinci Inventor Showcase.

From his humble beginnings in rural South Dakota, Voorhees attended a high school that didn’t even offer an art class and was left to learn and practice art by himself and on his own time.  The desire to create stayed strong and his chance to learn from a master came two years out of high school when he switched majors to Art and came under the skilled tutelage of Dick Dubois.  Dubois taught him not only techniques, but also important self-critiquing skills and ways to stay motivated.

After school, he continued his quest for knowledge to Germany where he lived with his soon-to-be wife for two years.  While there, he had the chance to study the Old Masters and to broaden his perspective on the world.  He also taught English which sparked his desire to teach for a living.

This spark led him to seek out a program where he could fully explore the teaching realm and he is currently in such a program.  He is teaching 2nd Grade alongside a mentor teacher and earning a Master’s Degree in the process.

Tyler Voorhees Face Shot

Artistic visionary and bicycle fanatic Tyler Voorhees  notes , “Inventions have shaped all of our lives more than the average Joe realizes.  One singular idea can transform countless lives and forever change the intellectual or natural landscape.”


The Inventor Art Competition represented a unique intersection of art, science, and engineering. Did ‘The Lamplighter’ require more artistic, scientific or engineering perspective to make it all work.

TV: Creating ‘The Lamplighter’ was mainly an artistic endeavor, but engineering perspective played a part in it’s construction. In particular, the crafting of the bike and the figure (which were made with a collage-like process) took some forethought and experimentation. I like to think that I’m an artistic scientist, but I’m not sure if I achieve that title in practice.

As an artist, you see the world from a different perspective than most people. Who have been some of the artists from the past you most admire?

TV: As an undergrad, I first developed my surrealist-ish style by studying and modeling Salvador Dali. I was intrigued by his compositions and was particularly drawn to his figures with stretched-out limbs towering over the landscapes. I’ve also grown to appreciate Picasso who was once quoted as saying, “Once I drew like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn how to draw like children.” His childlike playfulness and sense of composition are particularly inspiring. Lastly, Arthur Ganson is an amazing sculptor who makes machines. I admire him greatly and draw inspiration from the way his art functions.

As most people know, the life of an artist is typically not one of fame and fortune. Why do feel this is your calling and where do you find inspiration?

TV: Like a lot of artists, I grew up sketching animals from my coloring books and my parents always encouraged me to keep going. Over time, I’ve realized that when I make art, time just melts away and I am completely engrossed in what I’m creating. It’s a way to be in my own little world and to truly live in the moment. That’s the goal of art to me: pure, unadulterated expression. I find inspiration from the incredibly intrinsic patterns that exist in nature and all of the awe-inspiring artists that exist today. I also enjoy looking at old photos and the charm that they possess.

The style you’ve chosen for “The Lamplighter” has a magical quality to it. Where did you come up with the idea for this particular piece? Will this lead to more in the series?

TV: When I started ‘The Lamplighter’, I was searching for a series to begin that would allow me to create characters. Stemming from my fascination of American History, I sought inspiration for a theme in photos from the past. While looking, I became enamored by photos depicting the jobs that people once held. ‘The Lamplighter’ was an easy one to get motivated to make, since I’m a bicycle fanatic. I decided to make one painting a month and that lasted for five months. The series is titled ‘The Jobs of Yesteryear’ and there are four others: ‘The Ice Cutter’, ‘The Log Driver’, ‘The Lector’, and ‘The Pinsetter’. I like how they preserve the memories of these jobs from the past.

We live in a busy world. What attracted you to the Inventor Art Competition?

TV: I randomly found out about the Inventor Art Competition on Craigslist. I rarely check it, so it was quite coincidental that I found it at all.

Tell me a little about the name of your studio, Docs Lollipops.

TV: Doc’s Lollipops is an homage to my Grandpa Stoner, whose nickname is “Doc”. He’s an uncomplicated Midwestern man who knows his tools and is a genius with a welder. I’m inspired by his fondness for tinkering and we both share a love of classic country music. He was once helping me frame an abstract painting I had made using old barn-wood from the Stoner family farm. He’s not much of an art aficionado and he really didn’t know what to think of my abstract shapes. Finally, after a long silence, he remarked, “It looks like a bunch of damn lollipops.” This made me chuckle so I named the painting and my studio ‘Doc’s Lollipops’. I’m a pretty sentimental guy, so it fits.

What’s next for Tyler Voorhees?

Well, I’m in the middle of an elementary teacher preparation program in which I co-teach 2nd Grade all year while also attending Master’s classes. So, my paintbrushes have been dry for a while but, I am building up ideas for my next series. A few things I’ve got bouncing around in my brain are: water-towers, monsters, and paintings that the viewer can “move”. I like the idea of allowing the viewer to do more that look; I want them to be able to play. Stay tuned.

To learn more about Tyler Voorhees, Bonkerz, The Birth of Stanley or his visionary artwork and his bicycle fanaticism, visit his online studio, Doc’s Lollipops or give him a lick at docslollipops@gmail.com. You’ll be glad you did.