Ed Jenne said he's not too concerned about anyone copying his style.
The longtime Missoula illustrator's work is eye candy so detail-oriented few would even try.
Not too long ago, he completed an illustration of downtown Missoula, viewed from the Southwest. The Garlington, Lohn and Robinson building wasn't quite complete, but he included it based on renderings. The ruler-straight black pen lines, rendered by hand and measured in fractions of a millimeter, boggle the eye.
A specialist in historical illustrations, he laments the fact that construction of newer buildings has already altered the skyline. But you couldn't find a better evocation of Missoula circa 2016 than Jenne's version.
If you've lived in Missoula long enough and kept your eyes peeled, you've probably seen Jenne's drawings. He's behind the label for Bayern Brewing's St. Wilbur Weizen, which featured a Saint Bernard busting through a wooden barrel.
He designed the locomotive-themed logo for Iron Horse Bar and Grill. The Missoula restaurant, situated near the old depot, is named in honor of rail history. He produces illustrations for Montana Outdoors magazine, and drew the bugs for the Missoula Insectarium's displays.
One of his most well-known drawings is a map of Missoula produced in 2003. The history buff is quick to point out how large sections of Reserve Street are still fields in his rendering.
"One of the things I've liked is when people come back and say, 'We were from out of town and that map really helped us get around,'" he said.
He's drawn some puzzles, too, including one of an imaginary town nestled on a mountainside. He said it's a point of pride when the drawings can draw a kid in.
The same is true of adults. It means more "when people aren't just walking by, nodding their heads and saying it's nice," he said. If they look into it, then it really means something.
Jenne grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, in a military family. He and his brothers used to draw planes landing on a runway. He continued drawing and got technical illustration work right after graduating from high school in 1972.
He served in the Army and transferred to the University of Montana and earned a Bachelor of Arts, not in art, but in biology. He was still picking up jobs as an undergrad. He was filling out job applications that might use his degree, but he kept getting work in illustration.
"After a while, I forgot about biology. I think sometimes we don't plan our lives — our lives plan us," he said.
He's worked as a freelance illustrator full time since 1985. He honed his research and technical skills to the point where he was commissioned by the Bureau of Land Management to create a 2006 illustrated poster of Garnet Ghost Town, as it was a century ago.
"They were rather particular that I had it all right," he said. He collaborated with BLM historians and Forest Service workers.
Recently, he completed an independent project: Yellowstone National Park, circa 1916. The center contains a map of the park, surrounded by vignettes of people, places and animals.
Next, he'd like to draw a map of Glacier National Park, blending its people, its historic lodges and wildlife and fauna.
Jenne said it took him time to develop his skills to work on projects that may have overwhelmed him when he was younger.
The Discovery Map company was impressed enough with his work that they commissioned him for maps of Long Beach, California; Park City, Utah; Charlotte, North Carolina; the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Chicago.
To give an idea of the depth of his research, he traveled to the Windy City for five days in 2006. He walked every block and took pictures of every building. The trick is to methodically take one side of the street in the morning to catch the morning light, then take the opposite side later in the day for the evening light. It's easier to take too many pictures than it is to go back and shoot more.
He said those trips still give him flashbacks. "It's like you have too much information on your hard drive after awhile," he said.
There's a small and friendly community of illustrators in Missoula, he said, most of whom chose the city for the lifestyle more than the career opportunities.
He's happy to see younger artists like David Miles Lusk and Josh Quick keeping the craft alive.
Quick, now well-known around town for his comics, concert posters and commercial work, got a job with Paradigm Architects when he was a teenager. He thought he wanted to be an architect, since it would allow him to draw for a living. It turned out that Jenne worked for the same office, and Quick would talk with him and get mentoring advice.
"He was the most kind, open man," Quick said. Jenne would give the younger artist pointers that went beyond technique.
"'Are you charging them what you're worth?'" Quick said. "That was his biggest thing. Understand your value even though you're a teenager."
Quick notes that he wasn't the tidiest artist back then. "Ed showed me how to be clean in my illustrations," he said.
"He's world famous in my mind. When people locally don't know him, I think they're kind of missing out," he said.