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 Ken Carlson  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: Texas/Montana/Minnesota      Known for: Wildlife and mountain landscape painting, bird illustration

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Ad Code: 2
Ken Carlson
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ken Carlson, like many of his contemporaries, began his career in art as a commercial artist. He says, "I can't remember a time when I didn't dream of being an artist. That's all I ever wanted to be. Birds and animals were all I ever wanted to paint." He entered a "Draw Me" contest at the age of fifteen, won and took advantage of the prize, a two-year scholarship to the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis.

Carlson says his interest in natural subjects began early in his Minnesota childhood and has continued with total dedication to learning and painting nature. While Carlson lived in Minnesota and then in California, he spent more than three decades as a free-lance illustrator. During that time, every free moment was spent painting, studying, sketching and photographing wildlife subjects. He was able to build a reputation through participation in fund raising for conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited.

Desire to paint representational art pushed him toward a full-time career as a wildlife artist. Carlson cites 1969 as a turning point in his career. He presented six large game paintings at a major conservation foundation conference and not one sold. He observed that tight renderings of bird illustrations did sell and from that idea, he compiled a portfolio of fifty portraits, later published by MacMillan in a book titled Birds of Western North America.

However this painting venture did not represent the painting style that challenged him nor did it represent Carlson's true aspirations. A realistic style of painting had always been Carlson's chosen form of expression. By 1972, with firm determination, he had totally dedicated his career to evolving a painting style that would come from within. A move to the Rocky Mountains in Montana, and then to the Texas Hill Country, is where he finds the landscapes and inspirations for many of his paintings.

His work is included in the collections of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming; Genesee County Museum, Rochester, New York; and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Carlson is noted for his classic animal-in-its-habitat pieces, purity of light, an emphasis on form and character, mood and a sense of place. There is a strong narrative element to Carlson's work and his paintings tell an emotional story.

Source: Thomas Nygard Gallery

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born and raised in Morton, along the banks of the Minnesota River in southwestern Minnesota, Ken Carlson developed an early affinity for the wildlife that he so skillfully paints as a mature artist.

He took his early art training with Walter Wilderding, head of the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis, and after high school graduation, moved to Minneapolis where he attended the Minneapolis School of Art and also did illustration work for a local TV station and a newspaper. He spent evenings at the zoo studying the animals, and the director gave him a key so he could roam at will.  However, he was attacked by a bull elk, which sent him to the hospital, and later in Alaska, he was charged by a bull moose.

In 1972, he illustrated a coffee-table book on North American birds, and two years later had his first one-man show of bird paintings in New York.  But he found he was more successful with the large animals such as moose, bears, bull elk, caribou, and bison.

He and his wife, Mary Lea, lived for a period in California, then in Montana, and then settled in Kerrville, Texas whose charms he discovered on a turkey hunt. He spends his days studying and painting big game animals and also does woodworking.

Dedicated to saving wildlife in their habitats, he was named the "Living Legend for Wildlife Art" in 1998 by the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.  His work with that organization began in the 1980s when he created posters for their fund raising, which is used for research centers and game departments.

"Wildlife Art"

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
Ken Carlson
Born August 12, 1937
In Morton, Minnesota
Resides in Kerrville, Texas

Ken Carlson says his passion for the outdoor world began while growing up in small Minnesota river town. As a young boy, his nature experiences were limited to small creatures found in the nearby overgrown granite quarry, the surrounding fields, and along the river-banks. His exposure to the world of art was through textbooks and magazines.

The earnings from his first after-school jobs were used to buy art supplies. Teachers encouraged him in his artistic abilities and by the age of 15, he was taking private art instruction. At the first opportunity, Carlson traveled to the Black Hills in South Dakota and to several national parks in Wyoming and Colorado to see and photograph big game animals. His interest in animals and art meshed and grew into a consuming lifelong vocation involving the study of animals in their environment.

A critical element of Carlson’s work is first-hand observation. Every fall, he travels to Alaska, the Western prairies, or the Canadian Rockies to find his animal subjects when they are in full coat and prime physical condition.

In 1996, Collector’s Covey of Dallas, Texas, published the book, "From the Tundra To Texas: The Art of Ken Carlson. Included are more than 100 paintings and sketches, with text provided by author Tom Davis, who described Carlson’s work as “an eloquent testimony to the fact he has transcended the boundaries of genre painting.” In a 1999 publication by Collector’s Covey titled "Texas Brushstrokes", Carlson’s work is profiled with 12 of his major pieces.

In 2001, he was the recipient of the inaugural Major General and Mrs. Don Pittman Wildlife Award for exceptional artistic merit for a wildlife painting. Carlson was also the 1999 winner of the prestigious Frederic Remington Award for artistic merit.

Carlson has been profiled in Wildlife Art, Southwest Art, Art of the West, Sporting Classics, Field & Stream and Sports Afield.

ReSources include: 2003 Prix de West Invitational Exhibition

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