1937 (Morton, Minnesota)
Often Known For
Wildlife and mountain landscape painting, bird illustration
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|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.|
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.
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.
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
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
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. |
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
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.
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.
|Biography from Trailside Galleries:|
|While many young boys dreamed of becoming baseball heroes like Joe DiMaggio when they grew up, Ken Carlson had aspirations of becoming an artist like Bob Kuhn. Carlson won a scholarship in an art contest to the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis, where his teachers included the renowned animal illustrator, Walter Wilwerding (1891-1966). |
After high school, he attended the Minneapolis School of Art for a year, then joined a commercial art firm. Although commercial art was not his main professional focus, Carlson accepted a commission to illustrate for the publication Birds of Western North America (McMillan, 1972). After two years on the project, he returned to painting animals in oils on large-scale canvases.
Today, Ken Carlson is widely recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of North American wildlife. 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. His interest in animals and art combined and developed into a consuming lifelong vocation involving the study of animals in their environment.
Art Instruction School, Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis School of Art, Minneapolis, MN
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale, Oklahoma City, OK, 1988-2014
National Museum of Wildlife Art, Western Visions, Jackson, WY , 1987-2014
Autry National Center, Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale, Los Angeles, CA, 2002-2013
Steamboat Art Museum, Solo Show, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, 2010
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI, 1996
Genesee County Museum, Mumford, NY
“Ken Carlson: Roaming the Range.” Western Art Collector, Jan 2010, pp. 126-129
Geraghty, John. “Ken Carlson: A Fire Within.” Western Art Collector, Sept 2009,pp. 43-51
Klepper, Dan E. “The Art of Birds – Texas Bird Artists.” Texas Parks & Wildlife, May 2008, pp. 45-49
Dailey, Tim. “Ken Carlson: Featured Artist.” Bugle-Journal of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sept/Oct 2007, pp. 143
Doria, Craig. “Ken Carlson Painting African Wildlife.” Hunting In Sight Africa – Issue 9, April/May/June 2007, pp. 66 – 68
Abbett, Bob. “Ken Carlson/Abbett on Art.” Sporting Classics, Nov/Dec 2006, pp. 52-57
Gilbert, Sara. “Ken Carlson: Looking for the Light.” Art of the West, May/June 2005, pp. 70-75
Nelson, Mary. “Ken Carlson: Artistic Evolution.” Wildlife Art News, March/April 2004, pp. 42-47
Davis, Tom. "Classic Carlson." Sporting Classics, January/February 1995, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 32-39
Wieland, Terry. Interviews - "Ken Carlson." Wildlife Art News, November/December 1994, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 52-57
Zanetell, Myrna. "Ken Carlson: Patience and Observation." Southwest Art, November 1994, Vol. 24, No. 6, pp. 69
Wechsler, Chuck (Editor). "This 'N That." Sporting Classics, September/October 1994, Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 6
Zanetell, Myrna. "From Dick and Jane to Wildlife Artist: Meet Ken Carlson." Informart, September/October 1992, pp. 68-71
Game Conservation International. "Portfolio - Ken Carlson." Game Coin, Fall 1992, pp. 16-22
Behrens, Shirley. "Ken Carlson Mood Equals Impact." Art of the West, May/June 1990, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 40-45
Davis, Tom. "Ken Carlson: Crossing the Line." Wildlife Art News, January/February 1989, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 28-37
Davis, Tom. "Ken Carlson: Crossing the Line." The Illustrator, Summer/Fall 1989, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 4-17, 28-29
Wexler, Mark. "Art From the Heart of Nature." National Wildlife, August/September 1987, Vol. 25, No. 5. pp. 34-39
Taylor, Zack. "Ken Carlson." Sports Afield, May 1986, Vol. 195, No. 5, pp. 87-91, 134
Preston, Sandy. "Ken Carlson In the Mood." Midwest Art, November/December 1986, Vol. 5, No. 6, pp. 28-32
Sasser, Ray. "Ken Carlson Strokes of Intensity." Sporting Classics, May/June 1985, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 29-37
Johnson, Tom. "The Fine Art of Ken Carlson." Wildlife Art News, March/April 1984, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 16-20
Barber, Margery. "Ken Carlson." Southwest Art, November 1980, Vol. 10, No. 6, pp. 72-77
Collector’s Covey, “Texas Brushstrokes”, 1999
Hagerty, Donald J. 1997. Leading the West. Northland publishing. Flagstaff, Arizona. 214 pp. VF/DJ
Collector’s Covey of Dallas, Texas, “From the Tundra To Texas: The Art of Ken Carlson”, Tom Davis, 1996
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. 1996.
Wildlife: The Artist's View. Wausau, Wisconsin. 92 pp. (Wraps). VF
Davis, Tom. 1994. From the Tundra to Texas: The Art of Ken Carlson. Collectors Covey. Dallas, Texas. 179 pp. VF/DJ
Davis, Tom. 1994. From the Tundra to Texas: The Art of Ken Carlson. #32/100 AP. Collectors Covey. Dallas, Texas. 179 pp. VF/Slipcase
Anderson, Robert M. 1994. Great Rams and Great Ram Hunters. Collectors Covey. Dallas, Texas. 255 pp. VF/DJ
James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History. 1994. Wildlife Art in America. Bell Museum. Minneapolis, Minnesota. 104 pp. (Wraps). VF
National Wildlife Art Museum. 1992. National Wildlife Art Museum. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 120 pp. VF
Rayfield, Susan. 1985. Wildlife Painting Techniques of Modern Masters. Watson-Guptill Publications. New York. 144 pp. VF/DJ
Samuels, Peggy & Harold. 1985. Contemporary Western Artists. Bonanza Books. New York. 607 pp. VF/DJ
Van Gelder, Patricia. 1982. Wildlife Artist at Work. Watson-Guptill Publications. New York. 175 pp. VF/DJ.
Birds of Western North America. MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc. New York. 223 pp. VF/DJ
• McMillan, “Birds of Western North America”, Illustrator, 1972
Briscoe Western Art Museum, Briscoe Legacy Award, San Antonio, Texas, 2011
Steamboat Art Museum, Carlson Exhibition
“Influences and Inspirations”, Steamboat Springs, CO, 2010
Autry National Center, Bob Kuhn Wildlife Award, Los Angeles, CA, 2008
Sporting Classics Magazine, Sporting Art Award of Excellence, 2006
National Museum of Wildlife Art, Major General and Mrs. Don Pittman Wildlife Award, Jackson Hole, WY, 2001, 2004
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Artist of the Year, Missoula, MT, 2000
Prix de West, Frederic Remington Award, Oklahoma City, OK, 1999
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Distinguished Master Artist, Wasau, WI, 1996
Frederic Remington Award, 1999
Sports Afield Magazine, Eminent Wildlife Artists Award, 1987
|Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:|
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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