Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Cavin displays his artwork, “Overalls and Bright Skies” and ”Gold Skies,” at the Choctaw Cultural event in Norman on May 23. “Gold Skies” was a cover of Oklahoma Today Magazine, and “Overalls and Bright Skies” took Best in Show at the 2012 Choctaw Nation Labor Day Art Show.

The Art of Dylan Cavin

J. Dylan Cavin, a comic book kid from Chickasha, has accomplished a goal many only contemplate. He has turned what he loves into his career, producing impressive results along the way.

Cavin is a multi-talented artist, able not only to put paint to canvas, but pixel to screen, shape to mold, and even ink to skin. His work has been featured on everything from personal effects to commercial placement. His designs can be seen advertising Oklahoma City’s 2013 Red Earth Festival on billboards, benches, bus stops and T-shirts.

Cavin and his talents will also be showcased at this year’s Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., June 21 and 22.

No stranger to event exhibits, Cavin has also been featured at Choctaw events such as Choctaw Day in Oklahoma City in 2012. His artwork also hangs among other notable pieces inside the tribal headquarters in Durant.

Immersion in the universe of art came early for Cavin, winning his first contest in middle school and having his picture in the paper for this drawing of the Statue of Liberty. He was drawn further into the realm of art when he was introduced to comics at the age of 10. “I became completely swallowed up by them,” Cavin declared.

Cavin reminisces of times when he and his buddy would make high contrast photocopies of comics and color them in with markers. These actions inevitably led to completely redrawing images and eventually art classes to hone his newly discovered skills.

As he made his way through Noble School, Cavin was fortunate to have the support of his instructors. “I had a couple of really great art teachers in high school that saw something in me,” Cavin mentioned. “I certainly never felt like I was the most talented in the class but I was always attentive and a good student willing to learn,” he continued.

When graduation neared, a decision was made to continue his exploration of art in college. He earned an Art Talent scholarship with his artistic abilities, which led him to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000. This would allow him to find a career in the field of graphic design.

“I feel like I got a very well-rounded education,” stated Cavin as he spoke of his opportunity to experiment with many forms of art before deciding on graphic design as his major. “I had a really great core group of professors that helped along the way,” he continued.

Cavin mentioned that his professors were focused on hands-on education, an aspect that Cavin believes is necessary for a student of art to flourish. Professor Kent Lamar, who taught figure drawing and sculpture, stands out as one of the most influential of his collegiate career. “His figure drawing classes really helped me develop a style that I felt was my own. His encouragement was what really got me through a lot of those higher level college courses, when I think a lot of students start to second guess their majors,” he declared.

Upon graduating, Cavin began working for a company where he did full services design for products. He would draw the concept art, digitize and color it for the printer, and then do that packaging and catalog artwork for the final physical copy. Though he felt this was a rewarding job, he would have anywhere from five to ten of these projects occurring simultaneously, which became stressful.

Becoming burnt out with his current occupation, Cavin decided to join the Army. He was honorably discharged shortly after enlistment due to fracturing his femur. After his discharge, he had some time to explore creative aspects past graphic design. “It was the first time in awhile where my time was really my own,” he mentioned.

He began to take pictures, invested time in watercolor and even learned the art of tattooing. “I really love the looseness of watercolor and the expression you can achieve with just the right single brushstroke,” he noted. As he produced paintings, he began to receive recognition for his skill.

Friends who own galleries took notice and invited him to display his work. The positive reception he received boosted his confidence and led him further into the mediums of watercolor and portraits. “I had never thought doing that would get me anywhere. I’m still amazed and honored when people purchase a work from me,” said Cavin.

Currently, Cavin shows at a gallery in Norman called Tribes Gallery, where he feels fortunate to display his work along with artists with which he is proud to associate himself.

Among his abundance of artistic creations, there is one he holds in high esteem. It is a portrait of C.A. Burris (aka Ahshawlatab). “I love it because, in my eyes, I nailed the style of my favorite comic book artist,” exclaimed Cavin.

Along with this item, his portfolio also boasts an array of award-winning pieces. His accolades include the Heritage Award in 2010, Best in Show at the 2012 Annual Choctaw Art Show and First Place in the Graphics Category at the 2012 Red Earth Festival. His works have also been on the cover of the Oklahoma Today Magazine.

To accredit his artistic talents further, additional honors consist of First Place in the Graphics Category at the 2012 SEASAM (Southeastern Art Show And Market), featured in the 2013 Native American Art Calendar, and participation in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian 2012 Art Market in New York.

Cavin now spends much time in the studio, creating, learning and expanding his artistic prowess. When he is not in the studio, he is with his wife, Lindsay, or reading comic books, the medium that sparked his interest in art many years ago. He is an avid collector of comic books and comic art to this day. “I haven’t found a way yet, but if I could trade my art for comic books and comic art I would,” he jested.

With plans to grow his capabilities, Cavin is grateful for the success he has seen thus far. His art reflects heavily on his native heritage, and he plans to dive deeper into that characteristic of art. “I always feel like I need to push myself harder, learn more not only about other techniques in art, but my culture in general to be a better steward for the [Choctaw] Nation,” Cavin explained.

Cavin is one of many of the talented Choctaw members on the Choctaw Nation Artist Registry. “I am just a kid from Chickasha who worked hard at what he loved and got pretty lucky along the way,” Cavin concluded and he thought back over his journey though the world of art.

You can view many of Cavin’s creations and keep up with his progress in the studio at .

C. A. Burris (aka Ahshawlatab) Choctaw/Chickasaw” is a portrait that Cavin holds in high regard, mentioning, “I love it because, in my eyes, I nailed the style of my favorite comic book artist.”

“Legacy” has been heavily used to advertise Oklahoma City’s 2013 Annual Red Earth Festival.