Even though illustrator Seth Neilson never became a full-time mountain man, he and his family have been transformed by the outdoors.
See his My Outdoor Alphabet project come to life with a little animation help.
When I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be like Jim Bridger.
Full on Mountain Man, buckskin, throwing tomahawks, that is what I wanted to do.
Hey, I’m Seth I’m an illustrator and designer here in Bozeman Montana.
My Outdoor Alphabet really began 7 or 8 years ago.
I was going to outdoor retailer and I needed something I could share that was going to be more than just a business card. Came up with this small postcard called the Alpinists Alphabet. The A-Z of the language and lingo of climbing and putting it together with these really simple illustrations.
People loved it, and it was really fun to watch them look at the letters and watch them try to figure out how “core” of a climber they were.
One poster led to now six others.
Climbing, backpacking, cycling, skiing, paddling, fly fishing, there’s just no end in sight.
Digging through the lexicon of these sports has been kind of fun because there is language, culture, nuggets of history, and gear and personalities; the soul of each of these sports.
If someone identifies as a climber or a skier they see that same kind of love in these posters and prints and want to bring them home.
I started climbing a lot as a teenager but it was always with a mentor, someone that had been there, done that, who’d spent a lot of time in the mountains. I think there are a lot of people who are now discovering the benefit of spending time outdoors. You are seeing the influence of social media. It is bringing more and more people into the outdoors who might not have an understanding of best practices, basic safety, basic skills, if something were to happen.
The opportunity that I see with this is to turn it into an education platform of some kind. Learn these skills without necessarily having a deep history in them. You can come in at any age and find something that you love and grow with it.
People can learn about how to be safe, how to have fun, how to tread lightly in wild spaces.
Children, grownups, students, athletes, there’s a tangible benefit to spending time outdoors that effects every other part of your life if you are able to get out there and experience it.
I don’t want to say there is a wrong way to do things outside, but sometimes there is because this is something we want my grand kids to experience and if we aren’t taking care of it then there is a risk that won’t happen.
Bryan filming Seth in his studio
The mountain man, that was my thing.
At some point I kind of grew out of it, but I don’t think it has ever really left.