• 11/8/2022
  • WORDS BY Nash Mader & Travis Weller
  • PHOTOS BY Rob Schanz

Far Out, Out Far

As a devotee to the arts, whether that be on canvas or trail, Travis Weller has consistently been a student of his dance with nature, emotion and the connection between the two. We continuously find ourselves in awe of his talents, his joy, and most importantly his heart. Through diverse, yet equally influential periods of life, Travis has developed an outlook that we can all learn a thing or two from. With that said, it is with great excitement that we present this interview with him.

For those who aren’t yet familiar with at least some piece of you, will you give us a brief bio?
I’m a classic art school kid. I went to art school as an undergrad, and then went on to graduate school for painting and drawing. I received my masters in what ended up being drawing and printmaking. My goal was to be a professor, based on having a couple super influential professors along the way.  And so I did. I went on to teach for ten years.  Running came about in the middle of all of that. Maggie, my wife, and I hiked the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) on her request back in 2012. That experience really is what changed my perception of distance, as we ended up walking somewhere around 20 miles a day. That new perspective really stuck with me, but running wasn't ever something I thought you could have a career in. I ran a little bit just to stay in shape for surfing during college, and after college it was just a thing to do. After the PCT, I began to think more about distance. 5 miles suddenly felt like a leisurely jog. I started to experiment with what it felt like to run 8 or 10 miles. I eventually grew into more of a point A to point B mindset in an attempt to experience moving in different ways. On New Year's day 2014, Maggie and I went into the headlands and decided to actually run a trail. Something clicked, and it became all I wanted to do. I just wanted to run out in the trails, all the time. I went home and signed up for a 10k trail race out of Stinson Beach. I ended up in 2nd place and I was hooked. I think I ran something like 15 races that first year, escalating all the way to my first 50 miler that summer. The rest is sort of history; I've had this crazy relationship with running. The ups and downs that we all experience. Chunks of time where I didn't run at all. All of it has been a big learning experience about myself, running, and art. It has since come together into one functioning system.

Will you describe those ups and downs you mentioned?

I always kept art and running separate from one another as I felt like they balanced each other out in necessary ways. Art can be incredibly subjective, and that it is often difficult to process.  You'll make something, and it will feel like the best thing you've ever made. But the reaction from the outside world is that it isn't that good, or it feels like no one cares. It was hard to be really committed to this thing that is truly a purely subjective form. Enter running - racing in particular. It was truly objective. There’s a winner and there really is no arguing that. It is what it is. At times I really needed that objective part of life so,I would really hold tight to running. I would then find myself running my body into the ground. Literally. I would fall back and art would all of a sudden come back into my life full steam. It turned into a back and forth, back and forth. In 2018 I ran my first 100 miler, and I really loved the experience. I think it was the only one I finished and felt like I really needed to do it again. I went through a roller coaster of emotions - feeling great, running below course record pace for the first half, and then hitting a wall I'd never hit before. I was grumpy, not having fun, and wanting to quit. Luckily I had a really good crew who would hear none of it, and then boom - mile 75 the lights came back on and I felt as fresh as I did in the first 25 miles. Crazy. I psyched about the experience so hard. I ran a 50 miler that march, finished well, and then had the feeling that I was done running. I was tired, and everything hurt. I placed super well, but I didn't care. I wanted a break. And that break ended up lasting about 4 years. After a project with the North Face, I started to run again. And those two things finally came together. For the first time in my life, I found a balance between art and running. I could do both. I didn't have to be all in on one discipline. I could run 20 miles a week instead of 70. I could spend 4 hours in the studio instead of 10. Balance took time, but I think I accomplished it finally. I've had a few years now of really enjoying both. It's a really good place to be. 

Throughout your deep portfolio of work, whether that be cut paper, oil, or running, there is notably a common theme: nature as the environment that surrounds you. Can you describe your relationship with the outdoors and the spaces that inspire you? 
Nature is one of the few places I’m comfortable with myself. There are no distractions when I'm out running. I have really clear thoughts and feelings - much clearer than in the studio or at home. It's a really therapeutic part of my life.I can't tell you how many times I've been descending a trail, spotted a raptor flying above, closed my eyes and put my arms out. I feel the sun, and feel the wind. And it's this beautiful experience to remove everything else and just be present. That's where running is a place for me to break down barriers that I've put around myself over the years. I can think. I can feel. I can process things. All the while, still doing something that I love. In terms of my work, nature is where I spend my time. I'm really inspired by what I see, but at the same time, it is very comparable to what I feel. I’ll have these months of elation, but at the same time, I might be feeling deeply about myself or others, or an experience. I find that the fog - the way it creeps over the mountains - is kind of like the fog that exists in my mind and body. Even though I'm having this great experience, the things I'm dealing with (or not) come up while I'm running. The fog tries to move in, but I do what I can to keep it away. Just like the sun keeping the fog from moving into the next canyon. There is an incredibly interesting correlation between emotion and nature. And that's what my work is about. It's about tying those two things together. It certainly has a lot of elements of nature and what I'm seeing out there, but at the same time, it's equally about emotion and the feeling of the fog coming in. Really, it is about both nature and emotion simultaneously and how the two things go hand in hand. 

Do you preemptively decide what the subjects of your pieces will be? What is your creative process?
When I’m working in cut paper, I cut the first shape and it grows from there. I don't really ever have any predetermined composition. I have sort of developed a language with the mediums I use - a series of shapes and colors that represent different parts of nature and different feelings or emotions. I'm very adamant about buying my supplies from local art stores, so I'm often limited to, or drawn to, specific colors and you'll see those through my body of work over the years. My work is really about the exploration of myself and of my environment. While I'm still exploring myself and how I fit into this world, I'll have plenty of work to do. 

On the running note, describe your relationship with pain.
I've always felt that I have an extremely high pain tolerance. Pain doesn't really bother me. Or at least that's how I think about it. The thing that’s holding me back is the mental part of running. That's a very different kind of pain. When things start to get difficult, and then again, this could be because of pain, I eventually break down mentally and ask why I'm out there; why I'm running. Even though I have a high pain threshold, I tend to focus so greatly on the things that aren't going right, that I get tricked into thinking that [the pain] is worse than it really is. Once the mental block is overcome, all of that pain goes away. It's a crazy thing. Pain is received in the world of long distance running in a weird way. It’s just as mental as it is physical. I feel like I can deal with the physical pain really well, but the mental pain that comes with it is a hurdle that I'm still really trying to figure out. 

What does Far Out, Out Far mean to you?
What I love about the 100 mile distance, or just running long distances in general, is that you have to get far out, out far. There are so many times when I'm by myself, and there's nobody around for miles and miles. You feel so far out there and that’s a feeling that not everybody gets to experience. So it’s far out in the literal sense.  The experience of running that far is also like "fuck man, that's far out". It's really a radical thing. That's where that phrase comes from. It's a combination of words that just really makes sense to me. 

What was the inspiration for your line with Run Amok?
The goal was to create a body of work that not only felt true to me, but also to Roark Run Amok and what y'all have created. I am a really colorful person and it is a major part of my life. How I see things, interact with things and feel things all comes back to color for me.  The collection turned into my interpretation of camouflage. Camo can be a lot of different things and we see that a lot in nature. All animals have some manner of camo as a protection agency. And for me, running is a camouflage of how I'm feeling.  I’ll be having this really stressful day, or feeling intensely, and I can go out for a run. That run will camouflage and transform those feelings and emotions into something more palatable and sensible. I think that's the most important part of this collection. Running is a vehicle to explore our feelings. That's something I want people to talk about more. What's your camo? What are you hiding from? What are you running towards? If we're more open about those things, I think a lot of us would find shared experiences. So, let's talk about it. 

Music is another big piece of your life. What are your top 5 albums?
Workingman's Dead - Grateful Dead
30 Greatest Hits: Portrait of a Legend - Sam Cooke
Catch a Fire  -Bob Marley and the Wailers
Crimson and Clover - Tommy James & The Shondells
Delta Momma Blues - Townes Van Zandt
Surfer’s Choice - Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

How would you describe your playlist? When/where is best for listening to it?
It's an audio exploration of what it feels like to run 100 miles. 
I would say that listening depends, based on the person. Personally, I can't listen to music when I run. I have to hear the breath, my steps, the birds and the wind. But that's my experience. For others, it would be perfect for running. People always ask what it feels like to run that distance, but it's not a one dimensional answer.For me, it's three parts. Part audio, part visual, and part emotional. For this project, the emotion comes out in writing, but that can't stand alone. The audio and visual are equally as crucial. In short, the playlist can be listened to at anytime. That's the beauty of running. You can run at any time and have a completely different experience; you don't know what it will be until you get out there. Same with this list. Put it on during the best moments and the worst and see what clicks.