Art has always motivated Tice VanderHeiden.
After all, his passion for creating visual art has led the Mitchell native on a wild journey living out of his 1994 Chevy van along the West Coast for the past six months.
"I have always been motivated by people telling me I can't make a living solely off my art," VanderHeiden said. "It's really hard to be a financially stable artist in today's world, but I never want to give up."
Traveling the West Coast looking for inspiration to create art pieces, he hopes his unique contemporary and psychedelic art will attract enough attention from potential customers to welcome a more stable income. The 28-year-old makes his living through contract art jobs, consulting with customers to create a custom painting.
Although VanderHeiden said living out a van has been the biggest challenge of his life, he feels he's right where he needs to be.
"I'm in the perfect spot to succeed out here," he said. "Some days are really hard, and I had to get used to finding legal places to park and squat my van."
Before pursuing his art adventures, VanderHeiden spent countless hours at Mitchell High School developing his artistic abilities in art teacher Marica Shannon's classroom.
"I always loved art, but during my sophomore year in high school is when I started getting serious about it," he said, noting it was Shannon who suggested he go to college for graphic design.
Taking his art teacher's advice after graduating in 2009, VanderHeiden took the first step in furthering his love for painting and collaging and moved to Mankato, Minnesota. He graduated with a graphic communications degree from South Central Community College in 2014.
After holding down a few graphic design jobs in the Mankato area, something was missing in the young artist's life.
"I liked graphic design because I was good at collaging and mixed media, but I wasn't able to have as much time for doing paintings and other mixed-media art pieces," VanderHeiden said.
Feeling restricted by the computer graphics world, VanderHeiden moved to Minneapolis and began exposing the metro area to his whimsical style of art at festivals and coffee shops.
While in Minneapolis, he made a name for himself with his unique landscape paintings and mixed-media collages, which caught the eyes of the Twin Cities art community. In the two years he lived in Minneapolis, VanderHeiden's art landed itself on a wall of Johnson Street Yoga, where a large 13-by-26-foot mural still stands today, along with an old piano that he painted in St. Paul for a youth music program called Keys 4/4 Kids.
Struggling to make ends meet in the Twin Cities, VanderHeiden was growing weary of trying to keep up with affording monthly rent while staying true to his art.
"I felt like I was making artwork that wasn't coming from the heart," he said. "I loved Minneapolis, but I needed to find more inspiration for my art.
Having fixed up the van, installed a bed and organized the interior to accommodate his art supplies and canvases, the aspiring artist headed west with a dream and a few paint brushes in September of 2018.
From the minute he hit the road, VanderHeiden said he felt alive.
"Once I got on the road, it was more of a discovery of myself," he said. "When I saw the Oregon coastline in my van for the first time, it was so euphoric."
The profits from the sale of his art at a solo exhibition before leaving Minneapolis opened the door to purchasing a high-quality camera that is currently used to document VanderHeiden's travels.
VanderHeiden's second YouTube channel is dedicated solely to his traveling adventures, giving viewers a look inside the day-to-day van life. Acknowledging the many challenges ahead, VanderHeiden feels he's on the right path.
Currently residing in San Diego, California, VanderHeiden is working on a few contract art pieces he's landed in the past month. Looking ahead to the future, the determined artist is continuing to embrace the inspiration from his natural surroundings, hoping to build his art name in the process.
"It's been such an amazing journey, and I have no idea where I will travel next, but I'll let my art decide that," he said.