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4 Generations of Montana Art!

Unique and authentic depictions of the real west. We create images and films reflecting the influential under-told real stories, history and relationships of what is now Montana - with respect -through our family's art and contemporary narrative film.


Honoring Shorty Shope

Circle Arrow Productions owes much inspiration to my grandfather Irvin "Shorty" Shope b. 1900-1977. born in Boulder MT, he worked as a cowboy  until going to art school.

He was an influential WPA muralist, the head graphics person for the Montana Dept. of Transportation for decades 1930's-50's, a stellar community member and co-founder of the Montana Historical Society. As an adopted member of the Blackfeet Tribe, he created accurate and culturally relevant images of his fellow members.

Irvin "Shorty" Shope Prints (under copyright) 12" x 14" archival, limited edition (20) $200 + shipping

By Helen Clarke


Shorty Shope, cowboy artist who hailed from Helena, was born in the Boulder Valley of western Montana. He sat on a horse from the time he was able to walk. He made friends with all the four-legged critters on his father’s Circle Arrow Ranch on Muskrat Creek. When he attained young manhood, he spent many of his days as a hired cowhand in the Tongue River country out of Miles City and the Pahsimeroi Valley of Idaho. 

It is possible that ranching would have claimed Shorty all his life if he had not been stricken with infantile paralysis at an early age (polio). It didn’t cut his stride any, but Montana’s and Idaho’s freezing temperatures raised havoc with circulation in one foot.It was either a choice of quitting Montana for ranges in the Southwest, or staying in his native state at another game. Montanans feel fortunate he selected the other game- art.

From the time he was a small boy, Shorty was depicting the horse with pencil and crayon. But true art was probably fostered by three great men in the field whom Shorty never forgets- Charles Marion Russell, Edgar Paxson and WIll James. 

It was Russell who encouraged Shorty to remain in Montana and paint the elements he knew: “Stay with the West, boy. The men, the horses you like and want to study are here.”

From Paxson came  Shorty’s love of the history of the West, and he spent many hours by Paxson’s easel listening to the Elder man’s interpretation of western scenes he witnessed. The easel Shorty uses today belonged to Paxson. 

From James came Shorty’s introduction to commercial art,  with orders through James for illustrations for western magazines and western products. Later, Shorty was to illustrate many books- Joseph Kinsey Howard’s “Strange Empire” and “Montana High, Wide and Handsome,” H.L. Davis’s “Team Bells Woke Me,” Ely’s “The Lost Dutchman Mine,” William Brando’s “The Men and the Mountains,” Ferris’s “Life in the Rocky Mountains.”

A graduate of Montana State University, Shorty furthered his appreciation and study of art at the Portland School of Art, Federal Art Schools, Minneapolis, and Grand Central School of Art, New York.

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