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Press Release

Release Date: May 15, 2017

by Brandon Frye

  • At his studio in Norman, Choctaw artist Dylan Cavin displays some of his recent paintings. He plans to bring pieces like these to his booth at the May 27 Artesian Arts Festival in Sulphur. His niece Harleigh, painted here at center, is the main subject of his new series.

  • Dylan Cavin sketches a buffalo in his Norman-based studio. After dinner with his wife, two cats and two dogs, this is how he tends to spend his evenings.

Chickasha-born Choctaw tribal member Dylan Cavin has the heart of an artist tempered by the methodical mind of a blue collar nine-to-fiver. It shows in his art as well as his story.

His multimedia works, on canvas and paper, have shown at places such as New York and Washington, D.C. through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. His work has been featured on the cover of Oklahoma Today and throughout locations across the Choctaw Nation. He has been awarded top spots at the Choctaw Annual Art Show, Red Earth Festival and Southeastern Art Show and Market.

Cavin will be available Memorial Day weekend at the Artesian Arts Festival, May 27, to talk about his creations.

Young Cavin garnered some attention in grade school with his own illustration of the Statue of Liberty--it even was published in the local newspaper. His family and friends fussed over it.

This local notoriety pushed Cavin to pursue the dream of creating art. He was capable, it was within his grasp. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were planted firmly on the ground.

His face was also buried in comic books.

“When people talk about artists, it seemed for me it didn’t seem very tangible. It was like dreaming of being a rock star. It’s not just a regular job,” Cavin said. “So, when I fell into comics, I saw all of these people crouched at a desk drawing cool characters and getting paid. To me, those were the celebrities.”

Artists also needed to bring home the bacon, Cavin realized. This was one of the first practical movements in his life as an artist. He would study art in an effort to make it his life’s work--emphasis on the work.

Walking away from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2000 with a bachelor of fine arts degree, Cavin had made sure a practical career awaited him.


He began work as a graphic designer, a nice hybrid gig which blended art and employment.

“For me, my graphic design job was a little bit of everything. I worked at a gift outfit. We came up with ideas and pitched them to places like Bed Bath and Beyond or Petco.”

His days were spent drawing ideas out, pulling them into the computer, sending them overseas, getting them made, photographing them, working up a catalogue. It was an in-depth design position, Cavin explained.

There were a few downsides. His day job sapped all the creative bits of his brain. When he got home, there was nothing left within him for personal creations.

“At that point I was burned out from sitting at a desk all day. I wanted to do something with my hands. I wanted to build something. I wanted a drastic 180,” Cavin said.

So, he joined the Army. It doesn’t get much more tangible. Nine months later, he broke his leg and was honorably discharged. Cavin was ready to pursue art and design once again.

This time he found a balance; a graphic design job that left him some creative juice when he returned home. He began his time as a lead designer -- a position he still fills -- working mostly in print production.

In the evenings, after having dinner with his wife and tending to the needs of four pets, he now enters an art studio he built to suit his needs. It’s his creative space, with areas dedicated to study, drawing and painting.

His own method echoes the work it takes to turn out a comic book. With both, a concept or idea is transformed multiple times and passed through a few creative windows before the final expression surfaces.

With comics, creators have an idea, write a script, plan the layout, draw with pencil, ink it in, add the coloring and eventually the whole thing goes to print or is published online. It takes a team.

Cavin’s common artistic endeavor has him hatching an artistic plot, going out to photograph, bringing it back for some photo manipulation, sketching the image, inking the image and coloring the image. After all of this, he might take what he has and turn it into paint on a canvas.

There is a definite method in Cavin’s art. And when he feels he is done with a piece, there might be five or six separate creations on different media types all part of one big expression. Ideas, light, lead, pen ink, India ink watercolor, acrylic paint--all of these play a role.


There is also a definite purpose. Cavin uses his art for self-exploration and the pursuit of knowledge.

“I dive into all of the Native American culture, focused on my Choctaw culture. There was always a bit of a disconnect (from) not having had a culturally-rich upbringing,” Cavin explained.

His artwork was, and still is, a personal history and heritage lesson. As he explores the people and culture of his tribe and of Oklahoma, visual expressions naturally flow. In this way, Cavin can teach as well as learn.

“I approach a painting or subject matter by learning about it first, before even drawing it. I search for a deeper understanding of what I’m doing and what it represents,” Cavin said.

Often depicted in Cavin’s work are historical figures or animals important to the Choctaws. Buffalo and birds are common subjects.

His most recent series was inspired from a photography shoot with his niece Harleigh. The initial project involved depicting a girl and an Indian blanket. He wanted a clear subject and a sprawling vista. But, he said her personality took over in a way he didn’t expect, in a way that comes through in the drawings, ledger art and paintings.

Pieces from this project will be at the forefront of what Cavin brings to this year’s Artesian Arts Festival.

“This is my fourth year at the Artesian Arts Festival. I’ve been with it since the first. The Chickasaws are hands on with everything they do. Even if it’s inclement weather there are volunteers there to help. They go out of their way,” Cavin explained.

He said this festival in particular is a pleasure because it’s a large one-day affair close to friends and family. Sulphur is even where his folks held family reunions.

Hosted by the Chickasaw Nation at the Artesian Plaza, more than 100 esteemed artists representing 25 Native American tribes throughout the United States and Canada will be featured during the Artesian Arts Festival, Saturday, May 27. The Artesian Plaza is located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First Street. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and end at 6 p.m.

For more information about the Artesian Arts Festival, contact the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts & Humanities at 580-272-5520, or by email at

The website gives a deep dive into the works and history of Dylan Cavin and his art. He also opens a window into his process, posting steady updates to “The Art of Dylan Cavin” on

Last Updated: 09/16/2016