Preview – Travis Louie “Monsters On Their Day Off” @ Roq La Rue [Seattle]

louie flyer

We’ve posted the artwork of Red Hook, NY‘s Travis Louie in the past, but it has mostly been in the form of single pieces that were part of much larger group exhibits.  The last time that we wrote anything really substantial about the painter was in regards to the dual show that he participated in alongside Kansas-based hyper-intricate post-industrial mixed-media sculpture artist Kris Kuksi.  That show was held at Seattle‘s premier pop-surrealist/underground contemporary art gallery, Roq La Rue, with the opening reception taking place exactly 2 years ago today.  Tomorrow, Travis returns to the gallery with a brand new collection of immaculate photo-realistic paintings crafted using his unmistakable, awe-inspiring trademark aesthetic.  This time, it’s not only a solo show, but it will also be the last event hosted by Roq La Rue at their current location.

With all of the growing talent within the scene, Travis Louie has remained a standout in the field, consistently producing pieces that are both extremely strong and instantly recognizable.  The commissioned illustrator-turned-fine-art painter creates the type of work that you only need to witness once to have it stick in your head forever.  The first time that I ever came across any of Louie‘s art it was being used as the cover for Les Claypool‘s Of Fungi and Foe album and live concert DVD, Fancy.  As a longtime fan of Claypool‘s, the imagery’s use of oddities mixed with 19th century Dandy portraiture made perfect sense and instantly resonated with me, but it was also clear that the artwork was being created by someone with a very distinct voice of their own.  Drawing from such inspirations as Edwardian society, 19th Century photography, film noir, and German expressionistic movies, a-la Fritz Lang‘s METROPOLIS, Travis has managed to find a way to condense the timeless, nostalgic, emotional, and sometimes eerie qualities of those influences and delivery them through his own unique lens and approach.

The following description is a quote from myself, taken from the last piece that I posted about Louie 2 years ago:

Primarily restricting himself to a black/grey/white color palette, Travis uses really small brushes to apply thin layers of acrylic paint in glazes over super tight graphite drawings.  Through his perfection of this method, the artist has managed to emulate old Victorian-era portraiture so well that his work is regularly mistaken as authentic photographs that have simply been retouched.

I grew up in a house full of antiques and random relics from the lives of other people that I’d never meet — people whose spiritual residue all but tangibly still clung to their former possessions.  Among those various objects were a handful of sepia-toned and gray-scale photographic portraits that were strikingly similar to the type of work that Travis Louie is creating.  One genuinely beautiful touch that helps to increase the overall aesthetic value of the Louie‘s pieces is the manner in which he has chosen to present them.  The high quality frames –the ones with the convex glass, in particular– truly contribute to that feeling of the viewer encountering a remnant from the distant past.

And if you’re able to make it out the opening reception, we strongly encourage you to do so.  Seeing such meticulous work in person adds a whole new dimension to the paintings; making it completely understandable how someone might mistake them for nothing but expertly doctored photographs.  Another unique touch is the fact that Travis provides each one of his pieces/characters with their own backstory, which adds another dimension to the art show format itself, providing attendees with a more interactive experience as they read along to the narrative while moving from one painting to the next.

Plus, don’t forget that this is the last chance for you to see an opening at the current Roq La Rue location in the Belltown district of Seattle, before they move South to the Pioneer Square.  To help celebrate the occasion there will be a “couple of brief live sets” by cabaret-noir musical ensemble Vin Voleur.  And, if that’s still not enough, Travis Louie will actually be in attendance!  [Word on the street is that there may even be limited edition print or two available, as well.]

The following information comes via the official press release for the event:

Travis Louie’s hypnotic “portraiture” is compelling for its blend of the hyper realistic with the blatantly unreal. Fantastical creatures gaze out from paintings so technically refined (using transparent layers of acrylic paint over a tight graphite drawing on a smooth flat surface) that they look uncannily like old photographs. Adding to the discomfiting presence these animal/monster like chimeras have are the human expressions- even if the creature in the paintings looks a bit bizarre, it also looks spookily familiar as well. Often in his work Louie seeks to create mythological ancestors…long-lost “relatives” captured in Victorian cabinet card/ tint type images. His own interest in Noir imagery, German Expressionism, personal dream imagery, (not to mention B movie monsters!) as well as his recent discovery of old photographs of “human oddities” that were not from sideshow photographs, but rather photographs that documented that person’s “normal life” (i.e. the famous photo of John Merrick (The Elephant Man) dressed in formal evening wear for a night at the theater) all combined in this latest series of works to create an incredible series of portraits that you may just recognize elements of your own family members in!This particular series focuses on what monsters do when they are not “monstering”, what they do on their days off and what their endearing hobbies might be. Each painting comes with a story about each character written by Travis.

Check out preview images for the exhibit below the following event details…


Roq La Rue Presents – “Monsters On Their Day Off
New Work by Travis Louie


Friday, April 12th



Roq La Rue Gallery
2312 2nd Ave
Seattle, Wa 98121



Opening is ALL AGES w/NO COVER
Travis Louie will be in attendance
Live music by Vin Voleur
Exhibit will be on view until May 4th.
The gallery is open from 1 – 6pm from Wednesday – Saturday.
Facebook Event Page:

[click images to enlarge]

b Miss Eunice and the Gremlin 150dpi

“The Gremlin”

acrylic on board/comes in black decorative frame
18″ x 24 ”
$ 7500.

Gremlins have been known to put curses on people and machines dealing with different modes of transportation. In modern times, they are thought of as saboteurs of air travel. During the 19th century, they were employed by rival shipping companies to disable wagons, trains, and ships. On their days off, they simply liked to spy on people and collect secrets to use as “leverage”. When it was very fashionable for wealthy ladies to wear hats festooned with taxidermy, they often posed as birds or “hat monkeys.”

c Rollo Squared

“Rollo “Slappy” Spivey”

acrylic on board/comes in cathedral frame with convex glass
10″ x 16 ”
$ 5000

Rollo was employed as a leverage agent and debt collector.
With his formidable size and large “slapping hands” people usually paid up as soon as they caught a glimpse of him.
He rarely had to smack anyone, . . .but when he did, it could be heard across town.
Known as a “smacker” with good intentions who loved to fix big clocks, he climbed the clock tower every few months to perform maintenance on the gears of the clock. Keeping time was very important to him. He was always very deliberate and conscious of how much time each activity he planned for his days took.
On his days off, he liked to lead his marching band through the tower square, . . . and of course, keeping time with his enormous clapping hands.

Caldwell Loved Moths and Butterflies 8x10 150dpi

“The Gremlin”

acrylic on board/comes in black decorative frame
18″ x 24 ”
$ 7500.

Gremlins have been known to put curses on people and machines dealing with different modes of transportation. In modern times, they are thought of as saboteurs of air travel. During the 19th century, they were employed by rival shipping companies to disable wagons, trains, and ships. On their days off, they simply liked to spy on people and collect secrets to use as “leverage”. When it was very fashionable for wealthy ladies to wear hats festooned with taxidermy, they often posed as birds or “hat monkeys.”



acrylic on board/comes in black frame
20″ x 24 ”
$ 7000.

Saul was a giant grouper who destroyed whaling ships in the North Atlantic. He was so enormous, he was often mistaken for a whale even though he was actually larger than most whales. Despite his size, he had a strange phobia about cod. On his days “off” he would seek them out to try and overcome his fear.

d Uncle Hershel Enjoys An Egg Cream 150dpi


acrylic on board/comes in cathedral frame with convex glass
16″ x 20 ”
$ 7000

Hershel first appeared in Williamsburgh in 1854.
It was said that he was somehow a distant relation to Cthulhu, one of the great water beings.
He was a commercial fisherman and had a crew of 15 men. He worked long hours and required little sleep. All the people who worked for him had unusual names that he couldn’t remember, so he called everyone “Joe”. Somehow they all knew who he was referring too when he yelled out “Joe!”. He seemed to have at least 15 different ways of saying it. When Hershel wasn’t at sea, he was easily distracted by the sight of day to day people in his neighborhood. On his day off, he would spend hours just to walk the two blocks from his from his apartment to his favorite coffee shop. Where he sat and enjoyed his favorite drink; a chocolate egg cream . He would sit outside and spend his entire afternoon just watching people and sipping his drink.
He continued to enjoy his Sunday afternoons for most of his adult life in Brooklyn until 1957, when his beloved Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

Miss Audrey and her gnarled locks  150dpi

“Miss Audrey And Her Gnarled Locks”

acrylic on board/comes in black decorative frame
16″ x 20 ”
$ 7000..

Miss Audrey suffered from “Bad Hair” after being bitten by an angry Emily Smithson.
She spent the next few years biting and infecting others while holding her bad hair in place
with a powerful pomade that attracted buzzers and gentlemen callers. There were always
men following her around because of her job singing and dancing at a the local saloon. On her days off, she would meet up with other ladies that acquired the same hair malady and they would gather without their pomade and bindings. They would let their hair take over and wager on whose hair was the most “gnarled”.

Opera Fan 1500dpi

“The Opera Fan”

acrylic on board/comes in oval frame with convex glass
8″ x 10 ”
$ 2800.

On a cold day in 1883, the loud booming voice of Clarence “Rat catcher” Williams’ was heard for miles as he sang most of the parts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Clarence worked in the sewers solving the rat problems of the city of Paris in the 1880’s. On his days off he would dress up like characters from different operas and attend as many performances as he could. He was the first “superfan”, . . . much like those sports enthusiasts who dress up so colorfully to root for their favorite sports franchise in modern times.

The duelist and the coelacanth150dpi

“The Duelist and the Coelacanth”

acrylic on board/comes in oval frame with convex glass
16 ” x 20 ”
$ 7500.

Victoria developed the ability to “shape-change” at an early age. At first, she could only transform herself for short periods of time and could only change her appearance to mimic people that were the same size as she was. As she reached adolescence, she could become anyone she wanted and played mischievous pranks on people. She managed to keep her secret ability from everyone, including her father. Her father was a nobleman who saw that she was unlike other little girls, in that she was interested in science and fencing. He eventually taught her how to use a sword and often told to her, “You are faster than I am, if you had only longer arms, you could beat anyone”.
She ended up working as a duelist for hire. When her patrons were fearful of their opposition, she was paid to fight in their place. It was a well paying occupation for a 14 year old. Luckily, none of her clients ever saw what she really looked like. On her days off, she daydreamed about the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish whose fossil had been recently found. Almost a century later, a live specimen would be caught off the coast of South Africa.

a The Amazing Mort 810

“The Amazing Mort”

acrylic on board/comes in black decorative frame
16 ” x 20 ”
$ 7500.

Mort was mostly ogre and part troll. He worked as a “bridge troll”.
His job was to prevent the sheep and sheepherders from crossing the river and getting to the grasslands on the other side. The sheep ate the grass too low, which was a problem for the cattle who grazed there regularly.
It wasn’t an unusual occurrence for Mort to eat both sheep and sheepherder when he was hungry enough.
On his days, off he practiced his magic act in full costume with a fake mustache. His act included slight of hand, sawing people in half, and conjuring the spirits of the dead. In his finale, he conjured up the spirit of his favorite pet bison, whose head levitated from out of his top hat.



acrylic on board/comes in oval frame with convex glass
8″ x 10 ”
$ 2800.

Baxter worked as a butler for an eccentric oil baron in 1898.
His father was a Krampus who emigrated from Bavaria in the 1860’s and married a school teacher from Piscataway, New Jersey.
Baxter grew up to be erudite and purposeful. he had a fascination with the wonders of the world particularly insects.
During the warmer months on his days off he would wander through the town marveling at nature.

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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