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Ronan artists Julie Moore, Tim Piedalue and Craig Dulmes, from right, are once again joining forces for the second annual Starving Artists’ Sale at Willard’s Bar in Ronan on Saturday. Provocative postcards promoting reading will also be on sale for $5, with all proceeds from those sales going to the Ronan Library. Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

RONAN – Like a lot of things, this began as a conversation in a bar.

Several of them, actually. They spanned two decades.

Tim Piedalue, a logo, tattoo and T-shirt designer; Craig Dulmes, a photographer; and Julie Moore, a painter who owns Willard’s Bar with her husband, would get to chatting about their latest projects.

It didn’t take long for the three to decide it would be easier to show each other what they were working on, instead of explaining it.

So they would bring samples of their work in and meet at Willard’s.

“We just wanted to show all our stuff to each other,” Moore says, “but you know how it is in a bar. Pretty soon other people are looking over our shoulders wanting to see what we’ve got.”

There was always something to catch someone’s eye.

Piedalue, whose birthday is Sept. 11, is best known for a drawing he did of his daughter Shelbie around the first anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The cute little girl, then 10 years old, is shown in Native American garb, her face painted in the stars and stripes of an American flag.

Moore paints pictures that end up in frames too, but her signature artwork is often found on old milk cans that she sandblasts clean and covers in beautiful scenes often custom-ordered.

Dulmes’ photography can perhaps best be summed up by the name he chose for his business: Indecent Exposure Studio.

While he does more traditional photography as well, Dulmes specializes in somewhat risqué, though very tasteful, photographs meant for a significant other. The bulk of his clients, he says, are middle-aged couples.

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It was funny. Their informal, unpublicized get-togethers at Willard’s to talk about their latest projects always seemed to drum up business for some or all of them from bar patrons who looked over their shoulders.

And so, last year – after about 20 years of this – they decided to slap a name on it, have some fun with it, and let people know about it in advance.

The biggest thing, they say, was to make the Starving Artists’ Sale about more than just them.

Dulmes’ touch with the sensual photography seemed perfect for their idea, and so he used local models and made up postcards they could sell for $5 apiece.

They chose the Ronan Food Bank as the beneficiary of the proceeds, and the black-and-white postcards tackled hunger.

On Saturday, the second annual Starving Artists’ Sale takes place at Willard’s from noon to midnight.

“We’re trying to play the part,” Moore says with a laugh. “We’ll have wine and cheese from 5 to 7 (p.m.), but we’ll have everything on display all day long. People are busy with ballgames and brandings this time of year, so it gives everyone a chance to drop by.”

This year, they’ve selected the Ronan Library as their beneficiary, and Dulmes has gone all out on the new batch of postcards.

They’re in color this time, and highlight literacy in, shall we say, a Victoria’s Secret sort of way.

“Bring out your inner librarian,” says one, next to a picture of a woman in sexy lingerie.

“My second favorite thing to end up with in bed is a book,” coos another, showing a naked woman on a bed covered, to at least some degree, in sheets.

“We have a ball with it,” Dulmes says, and they all agree the best-seller this year is likely to again be the one postcard he does with a male model.

“We have abs, too,” Dulmes says, showing the card picturing a man with his shirt unbuttoned. “I dig chicks who read,” it says.

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The models’ faces aren’t shown, but a lot of the fun is that they all show up to autograph the cards their bodies are featured on.

This year Amaliya Lillethun, Tabitha Normandeau, Cristie Hegwood, Jesse and Ryan Nelson, and Dulmes’ wife Naomi posed for the cards.

Moore will have a chair she painted that will be auctioned off, with others, later this summer in another Ronan Library fundraiser, and there will also be one of eight giant wooden “bookworms” on display that – for $25 to benefit the library – locals can have placed anywhere in town.

Wherever they land, it’ll take another $25 to have it removed to another location.

“It turns out Ronan is just a great community when it comes to a fundraiser,” Dulmes says. “People really enjoy this.”

“We’re just three friends doing this,” Moore adds, “but we’ve had a lot of people say they’d like to be in the show too. I can see it taking off. It could turn into an art-in-the-park sort of thing down the road.”

But for now, the three friends will just gather in Willard’s Saturday to look at what they’re all working on. The only difference from so many similar get-togethers over the years is, now you know when they’re meeting, and you’re invited.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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