How an artist named Mark Rohrig changed my life

When the Nightbird Calls - Mark Rohrig

How a guy who was just working at a grocery store in his late teens and early twenties got started on this amazing sports journey. It all began with a fateful meeting at a local diner.

In 1998, I was what you could call a typical 20 year-old with limited college experience. I was working part time at City Market in Grand Junction, Colorado (where I lived from 1994 to 2001) and was by and large aimless. I had fleeting thoughts of becoming a famous musician and conquering the world with my awesomeness. Alas ...

I would work the swing shift as a checker at City Market and meander to Denny's after my shift and drink coffee. I had a ton of friends, but winding down from dealing with customers at a grocery store proved problematic for me ... so I would go to the diner, read a book and mutter under my breath about people complaining about store prices. Getting increasingly angst-y and testy while I drank late night caffeine. Probably a poor choice, but oh well.

There was a guy who was always at the diner when I was out late (in fact sometimes I'd stay until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.) and he was intriguing to me. He seemed to know everybody and had a good relationship with pretty much everyone who came in. He would sit back in his booth and laugh, carry on, and just generally lift everyone's mood. This, I thought, may be the ticket. My friend Scott was a mutual friend of his and he introduced the two of us. That year changed my life forever.

Through this meeting I found out he was an artist by the name of Mark Rohrig. In fact, not only was he an artist he was a very famous artist (in his genre). This came as a total shock to me considering he was hanging out at Denny's with a whole bunch of 20 something kids who read books and were sobering up from the bar. Yet, there he was. He and I became friends that night. Four years later I began working for him as his agent and have been doing so since 2002.

I learned "on the job", as it were, in the incredibly rough and dog-eat-dog world of fine art. You think pro sports are rough? You have no idea how cutthroat and manipulative the art world can be - and in most cases is. We stuck with it, and my business relationship allowed me to be introduced to other agents and I got to know many people who worked in the basketball world. There is, by and large, very little crossover in art and sports, but I do find that those who like both are some of the most passionate of fans.

Mark paints Native American portraits. If you were to ask me what my favorite form of art is (and it is a passion of mine and I come from a family of artists) it would not include Native American portraiture. However there was something different about what Rohrig paints. Something extremely emotional that appealed to me, and as I found out in my years working with him, appealed to others. That ability to recognize the emotional impact that Mark's paintings had on people helped me out exponentially as we progressed through shows (some were amazing, some not so amazing) and as I traveled around the country, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to the glitz and glamour of Aspen. From Santa Fe, New Mexico to Scottsdale, Arizona, we went everywhere.

About 5 years ago I regularly began commenting on Fire George and Pickaxe and My down time allowed me the ability to exploit my insider basketball knowledge while remaining anonymous. In about 2010 after the sites combined to make Denver Stiffs my assumed name of jpage78 suddenly became the very real Jeffrey Morton ... and the rest is history. What I do now is an extension of what led up to that point (and continues). However, I can safely say that if I wasn't involved with Mark I never would have got to this place - and here is why.

From 1998 to 2001 I was in limbo. I was a very unhappy, miserable person who felt like he was going to lead a very unfulfilled existence in a town he came to loath. As I discussed in other places, I had other things going on in my head that made things even worse. If I didn't know Mark, and have such a great friendship with him, I might still be in that state or worse. In no uncertain terms Mark Rohrig changed the course of my life and I will forever be grateful to him for that. We were able to form a friendship based on an appreciation of art and music ... also a love of coffee. This turned into a business partnership that has lasted over a decade.

I managed to take everything I learned from Rohrig and apply it to Denver Stiffs and the people I meet. I gained life experiences I would otherwise never have enjoyed. I went from a shy introvert who wanted to play guitar; to a guy who talks a lot (and pedantically) about many things. Basketball, specifically the Nuggets have remained a big love in my life since childhood and I'm blessed to be able to write about them now.

I met amazing people along this journey the past 11 years. Who knows if I would have found my way to those blogs or be writing for Denver Stiffs anyway. I tend to doubt it. I gained a lot in general experience and continue to be amazed in my career outside of blogging. Mark remains the most amazing artist I have ever met and will continue to be so. I owe him a lot and he has to know that if it wasn't for him I would be somewhere much more unambitious.

Thank you Mark.

Check out this article written on Mark Rohrig in Southwest Art Magazine from 2010.

You can also see his work at

Mountain Trails Gallery Jackson Hole
Mountain Trails Gallery Park City
Wind River Gallery Aspen
Heritage Gallery Scottsdale


Twitter: @jmorton78

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