MISSOULA, Mont. -

His name isn't widely known.

But it's possible you've seen his work, especially if you live in Missoula.

The Regional Forest Service in Missoula has an art collection of 30-plus years signed by one man.

A Bryan Mechling Owen piece is an artistic record of Montana's grandeur.

Owen always had the knack.  He could draw anything.  As a youngster he was always drawing wildlife or dogs or cats.

He was born in Fort Benton, and raised in Missoula, Bryan knew his place.

"Once a Montanan, always a Montanan," said the artist from his home in Missoula.

He has a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Montana.

In the 1960s, the young artist went to work as an illustrator for the Regional Forest Service in Missoula.

"I did everything from drafting to all kinds of scientific work," said Owen.

He did displays for symposiums.

In 1967, two firefighters died in one of the worst wildland fires in Idaho history.

Seventy-mile-an-hour winds uprooted trees 4 feet in diameter. Huge boulders cracked.

The fire melted the Pack River Bridge in northern Idaho.

Owen retrieves a copy of the painting he did of that bridge, and points to it.

"Two guys and a cat were out digging fire lines," recalled Owen, "and they saved themselves by crawling underneath the cat."

There were few photographs of that terrible, strange fire.

Owen's painting now hangs in the School of Forestry at the University of Idaho in Moscow.

He painted portraits of Forest Service leaders for the Missoula Fire Lab.

But his work extends beyond Montana, to more exotic locations he's never been, or faces he's never met.

He collects other artists' elephants. Elephants, favorite subjects of his own art work.

"I always had a knack for elephants," said Owen.

Bryan didn't leave his work at the office. His art extended to and through his family.

There's artwork of his late wife Fran's nursing shoes.  It's called "The End of the Shift."

He painted a weathered old man with tremendous texture and character in his face and eyes.