A Conversation With Hadley Ferguson, Artist

Hadley Ferguson is a Missoula-based artist who has gained notoriety for her public and private commissions and large-scale murals featuring iconic Montana landscapes and people. Montana & Idaho CDC was thrilled when she agreed to create a custom license plate to help support its small business lending and affordable housing programs in Montana.

When did you start painting and was there a turning point in your life when you decided to become a full-time artist?

I actually became a working artist as I became a painter. I originally went to school for sculpting. I moved from Missoula to Portland in 1999, and I found a painting job that really intrigued me. I put together a portfolio of paintings and was hired! A year and a half later, I moved back to Missoula, and have been painting ever since.

How did you come up with the final image depicted on this license plate?

We originally talked about creating a literal representation of what Montana & Idaho CDC does – economic development and helping communities. I started painting a downtown scene but quickly realized it looked too busy, it wasn’t reading well. We went back to the drawing board and considered iconic Montana scenery. The landscapes and mountains of the Mission Valley are so beautiful and recognizable to so many Montanans. The barn in the foreground suggests development in rural communities, which is an important part of Montana & Idaho CDC’s work. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

How did this project differ from the large murals that you’re known for?

I had never done a license plate before so this was a really fun challenge. When I’m painting a mural I think about something that people will go visit in a specific location. This was the opposite of that, because it will be seen driving all over the state. It also brought its own challenges of working on such a small scale. Having to incorporate space for stickers and letters didn’t leave a lot of room. When I’m painting a mural I have the whole canvas.

Do you have a favorite artist or specific painting that inspires you?

When I was young, I lived in Manhattan with my mom and traveled throughout Europe. We visited many museums and I fell in love with a wide range of artists and styles. But my favorite is probably Edward Hopper, I love his use of light and color.

Aside from painting, what else inspires you?

My family. I have a daughter who’s 11 and I focus on spending time with her. I also love music, that’s something that my husband and I like to do together. I actually double majored in sculpting and music.

What is the best way to follow you and your work?

I am represented by Radius Art Gallery in Missoula. I have a show coming up May 25-June 9th featuring recent work. I will be there June 1 for their First Friday event. Come say hi!

The custom license plate is available through the Montana Department of Justice, Motor Vehicle Division. The upfront cost will be a $45 donation, a portion of which will help Montana & Idaho CDC continue to invest in Montana’s small businesses. If you are interested in purchasing a license plate, and your current registration isn’t up for renewal, the Motor Vehicle Division will allow you to purchase the new plate and provide you with your same registration sticker at no additional cost. The same applies for permanent registration. For more information on how to obtain the license plate, visit the Department of Justice’s website.