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Three years ago Courtney Blazon was still a relative unknown in the Missoula art community. Her distinctive illustrations could be found in the booth belonging to local independent press Slumgullion, and one of her collages helped promote an underground theater troupe's performance. During the day, Blazon worked part-time in a doctor's office.

A lot of local artist stories end there—comfortably making a mark on the fringe, struggling to cover the bills, fading to Etsy or a full-time office gig. Not Blazon. Her unparalleled ascent in the local arts community impressively crisscrosses mainstream profitability and DIY street cred, and, at 31, she's suddenly among the most recognizable artists in Missoula.

"I started working full time on my artwork in December," says Blazon. "It's not easy and I'm just making ends meet, but it's so sweet. I just feel so fulfilled."

Just within the last year, Blazon's been invited to show her work at Helena's Holter Museum, sold work at the Missoula Art Museum, been featured in New American Paintings magazine and Juxtapoz.com, and made her first solo out-of-state showing at a gallery in Seattle. Every Saturday she hosts her own booth at the People's Market and her illustrations continue to help promote some of the best theater in town (including the anticipated Rigoletto performance by the Montana Lyric Opera). And, in what's surely to be her biggest achievement yet, Blazon's original illustration won the Indy's Best of Missoula art competition this year.

"When I see [contests] like that, it's a good excuse to do work that I wouldn't normally do," says Blazon. "Like I don't normally do anything with a connection to Missoula. But this gave me a chance to try it."

That winning piece, above, is currently for sale at her People's Market booth at a cost of $100. If her recent history is any indication, a smart collector will step up pretty quickly and make a sound investment in one of the area's most promising artists.

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