Marcus Cline Talks Art and Routesetting

Marcus Cline Talks Art and Routesetting

  • Posted by Kaleigh
  • On December 3, 2019
  • Comments

Marcus Cline began climbing at The Front when it was in Sandy on 9000 S, under its previous name – The Wasatch Front. After climbing for 12 years, Marcus began setting routes in 2005.

While climbing and setting, Marcus was always drawing, painting or pursuing any other outlet for his creativity. He’s not just a crusher climber and routesetter, but a crusher creative, too. His work is intertwined within Salt Lake’s community and can be seen on Front apparel as well as on the walls of local businesses.

Unfortunately, we’re saying goodbye to Marcus as he’s officially put down his drill and plastic in pursuit of the next phase of his life. But we sat down with Marcus on his way out the door to talk setting, art and climbing.

The Front Climbing Club: Where were you born and raised?
Marcus Cline: I was raised in Sandy and grew up here, though I’ve lived in other places. I didn’t intend to return to Salt Lake, but I’m connected with the community here.

What came first – the art or the outdoors?
They both came simultaneously. My whole family was into the outdoors. I did my first rafting trip as a two-year-old and I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember.

When did you get into climbing?
I first started at The Wasatch Front at its old location in Sandy. The owner at the time didn’t have internet, so in exchange for him going to my dad’s business I got a gym membership.

I would skip school and go climb in the building right next to where my parents were working, and they had no idea. It was pretty funny.

What other adventure sports are you into?
White water kayaking is my main passion. And I ski because the snow is there.

I started rafting when I was young. Then my brother bought a kayak and stuck me in it when I was 16 or 17. I rolled on my first try and bought my own boat the next week.

I ended up disappearing a lot in the summers to guide in places like Oregon, Colorado, Costa Rica and Idaho.

When did you begin routesetting?
I started setting in 2005 in the “O.G.” at the Front’s current location.

Dustin hired me as a front desk staff two weeks after he bought the gym. At first it was me and a girl named Tina who did everything that he didn’t do, like kids’ camps, front desk and the works.

The current Head Setter at Momentum, Shannon Cornelius, was at The Front for a long time. I saw what he was doing and started making stuff up on the wall and taping the routes, which developed into me being a setter.

I mostly tried to mimic the things Shannon did, but would do it in my own way. Then I set under Steven Jeffreys for a while. The best info I ever got about setting, which came from Steven, was that if you want people to like it, keep it simple. I learned a lot from trying to mimic other people’s styles rather than mimicking outdoor moves.

What form of climbing are you most drawn to?

It really depended on who was around. I started sport climbing but then all my friends would go on Mormon missions, so I had less people to climb with. Then I started going up into Little Cottonwood to boulder by myself.

Routesetting has been described as an art form. Do you agree?
Absolutely. In the same way dance is an art – it’s a medium through movement.

What’s your favorite type of rock?
I don’t have one, but I love slopers and pinches.

You started climbing and setting at The Front before it evolved into its current space. What has that transition been like for you?
It’s been interesting. The culture and industry are much different now, but not in a bad way, just a way that I couldn’t have foreseen. I think a lot of it has to do with social media. Even though climbing is touted as a fringe activity, it’s less of that now because it gets a lot more exposure.

The Front in general used to be a place where people came to get strong, now it’s more of a community space. The strength and training have become slightly secondary.

What will you miss most about working at The Front?
I’m going to miss it a lot – it’s so much fun. Whether people realize it or not, we get paid to mess with them and we get free reign to do whatever we want.

The routesetting crew is always fun and it’s rare that anyone is having a bad day. Routesetting keeps you in shape and is a great mental exercise.

Though, I’ve been setting for 17 years. Usually people set for less than five then move on. My body is just starting to break down.

How did you get into the artistic world? Who introduced you?

I just started drawing one day; I was always doodling. In high school, I’d often get in trouble for turning in assignments that were covered in drawings.

Or I’d come home with an entire sleeve on my arm that I inked, and my mom would get pissed.

You cover a broad range of artistic medians. Which is your favorite?
I illustrate and draw because it’s easiest and convenient, but my favorite is air brushing. It’s just really time intensive. I’ve air brushed on walls, cars, motorcycles and more.

Describe your setting and artistic style. Do you view them as one in the same?
They’re different, but my nature translates: I tend to be more focused on specific movements. I dig my heels in until I get what I like to work, which is a blessing and a curse. I try to do things that are typically not the norm.

When I think about setting a problem, I’ll usually come up with a specific move that I want to build the problem around. I like to envision the body in a weird shape or position and then fit the holds to that idea.

For my art, I try not to look at other people’s work and I try not to mimic someone else’s style. For personal work, the process usually takes a while for the idea to ferment in my brain. I finished a piece a few months ago that took well over a year to finish.

How would you describe your own style?
The thing I notice most about my style is that, when I’m showing it, people will walk by, then step closer and closer until they’re squinting to look. It draws people in. I’m attracted to extremely detailed line work. I think I’m just really particular. It’s like setting a route: It might “go” or be “good enough” but it’s not what is intended, which is a big difference.

Where has your work been published or on display?

I did a mural for Acoustic Music, a small guitar shop on 4th S and 9th E and I’ve done murals for Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade. I’ve also designed apparel for a few brands and did the poster for the Idaho Mountain Festival. My biggest project was the 50th Anniversary PFD for Kokatat.

You’ll be selling work at this year’s Holiday Makers Market at The Front’s Ogden location. What can people expect?
This is my second year at the Market. I’ll be giving away a t-shirt and a few stickers this year, and I’ll have prints, stickers, shirts and hats for sale.

Thank you so much, Marcus, for your years of hard work and dedication to making The Front Climbing Club have the best indoor routes and problems in Salt Lake! We’re looking forward to seeing you in the gym, community and Holiday Makers Market in Ogden. Your artful routes will be greatly missed!

This interview has been edited for brevity and grammar. To see more artwork from Marcus, visit this year’s Makers Market or visit his website.

If you or someone you know in the community has an interesting story you think we should tell, please email tim.behuniak@thefrontclimbingclub.com.