By Jon Holtzman, Big Brothers Big Sisters

GREAT FALLS and BIG SKY – R. Tom Gilleon, a Montana-based Western artist, is best known as a painter of iconic, archetypal teepees. His large paintings, which are in many museum and private collections, sell for upwards of $40,000.

Longtime patrons of Moonlight Lodge have seen several of Gilleon’s major works hanging in the lodge’s public areas. His work is also exhibited at Big Sky’s Creighton Block Gallery.

Gilleon donated an original 20” by 20” oil entitled “Twilight’s Last Glow” to Big Brothers Big Sisters for auction at the organization’s celebrity golf tournament in Big Sky, July 15 – 16. But he didn’t stop there.

The artist also gave the group a 24” by 20” giclee of a painting titled “Blue Norther,” and his publishing house added a 24” by 20” newly released giclee of another entitled “16th Hole, the Reserve at Moonlight Basin.”

A giclee is a fine art quality reproduction, on canvas, which uses archival, fade-resistant inks from multiple color cartridges of pigment-based materials.

Gilleon will also appear as a celebrity golfer at the 11th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrity Tournament at the Big Sky Resort course July 16. The reception for celebrities and the charity auction will be at the Summit Hotel, on Sunday, July 15 at 7 p.m.

The original oil, as well as two tickets to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, will be auctioned live, said Barb Rooney, Big Sky Resort vice president and 11-year member of the tournament planning committee. Rooney welcomed anyone interested to the reception.

Gilleon, a native Floridian, comes by his interest in Western art and Native American lore from a family background. His grandparents raised him, and his grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee.

Most of the celebrities at the tournament are current or former professional athletes, and the artist will be comfortable in their company. He went to the University of Florida on a baseball pitching scholarship.

Gilleon arrives in Big Sky fresh from a show at Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyo. His one-man exhibition, “The Iconic West of R. Tom Gilleon,” was presented by the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia from January through May this year.

He began his career as a commercial and technical illustrator, but had several experiences that informed his life as an artist.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Gilleon marched in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade, served on a ship in the Cuban missile blockade and is a Vietnam veteran.

He worked as a technical illustrator for Pan American World Airways and as an illustrator for the NASA Apollo missions. He joined Walt Disney Imagineering Studios and led the design team for Epcot Center. Later Gilleon did conceptual artwork for the development of Disneyworld Paris and Tokyo.

More recently he worked with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Company to create conceptual visions of the first commercial spaceport in the world—or rather off the world!

Gilleon also created matte (scenic background) paintings for the movie “Dick Tracy” and has illustrated a children’s book.

In the 1980s, he and his wife Laurie, also an illustrator for Disney, moved to Montana to focus on fine art painting. Today, they live on a 2,000-acre ranch north of Great Falls that they restored, and Gilleon’s work hangs in permanent museum and private collections, including the C. M. Russell Museum.

Writer Jon Holtzman is chair of the 2012 Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrity Golf tournament.