Part 3: A Slight Bump in the Road

One of my favorite pages and stories in the book

An Update from the Printer

I got news on Friday that the book shipment’s been delayed. It’s been delayed three or four times already, with no clear answers from the printer as to what the problem is. Until now, the reasons have been vague and shifting. Machinery breakdowns, loading problems, and trucking problems have all been mentioned. Now there’s apparently a book binding problem.

Do I believe that excuse? I have no way of knowing, but I’m deeply skeptical. The co-editor of my book, Chuck Weschler, and the rest of the folks at Sporting Classics (the publisher) are pretty upset and are asking that a few cartons of books be shipped directly to me ahead of the trucking company’s schedule.

What It Means for the Book Signing Event

We’re still planning to have the first book signing on October 8 here at Chisholm Valley Wildlife Art. And if I have to drive to Manitoba, where the printer’s located, to get the books ahead of time, I will. The signing event is still on track; this is just a heads-up on what’s going on. I’m posting a favorite page from the book so you can see what it’s like, but hopefully you’ll all have a copy in hand soon!

Conclusion

On a lighter note, yesterday was the first day of bow hunting here in Minnesota. I used my last package of venison last week. The freezer is empty now, and I intend to do something about that. Fingers crossed—stay tuned!

Part 2: The Contributors of My Book

Photo showing contributors to Michael Sieve: An Artist’s Life

Background

If I would’ve done this book 15 years ago, or even 5 years ago, it would have looked very different than it does now. Perhaps the biggest difference would be in the writing. In the past, I would’ve had one professional author write the whole book—the way it’s usually done.

Contributors

Instead, together with Chuck Wechsler from Sporting Classics, we agreed to have 6 contributing authors. Each one is a longtime friend or close relative of mine. And in many ways, each one is an expert on a small part of my life. The 6 authors and the chapters they wrote are as follows:

  • “Introduction” by Jeff Sieve—my older brother
  • “My Dad” by Heather Sieve—the older of my twin daughters
  • “A Signature Style” by Jim Rataczak—a fellow artist whose work I greatly admire and close friend of over 20 years
  • “The Spirit of Hunting” by Rick Grooms—a hunting partner, art collector, and friend for almost 40 years
  • “Partners in Photography” by Mark Newman—my worldwide travel partner, friend, and role model since the 1980s
  • “A Commitment to Conservation” by Scott Bestul—a professional outdoor writer, expert bowhunter, conservationist, and friend since he wrote one of his first articles about turkey hunting with me 30 years ago

Some of these contributors know each other; others have never met and probably never will. They know me very well, and I know them equally as well. Taken together, and including the dozens of stories that I personally wrote, their writings provide a pretty good idea of who I am, how I work, and what it takes to paint the way I do.

A Special Thank You

As a bonus, Heather has worked with me from the very beginning of the process. She first took on a very small role, but as we continued and she proved to be incredibly competent, her role expanded. Not only was she a co-editor with Chuck Wechsler, but she has been instrumental in the design of the book, the layout, and the many judgement calls that are necessary to get it right. And now she is helping promoting and marketing the book. This book would not be what it is without her. Heather’s influence starts on page 1 and doesn’t end until the book is closed, and I am deeply grateful for that.

Conclusion

It’s been a wonderful working and bonding experience with each contributor, and I only regret that I’m not starting over and doing it all again. I think when you get the book, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Read more about the book or buy your own autographed copy.

Part 1: The Story Behind My New Book

Table of Contents in “Michael Sieve: An Artist’s Life”

Background

I’d like to tell you a little bit about how my upcoming book, An Artist’s Life, came about. Chuck Wechsler, the editor of Sporting Classics magazine, approached me about 15 years ago and asked if I was ready to do a book. I said, “No, I’m too young and I have too many paintings I want to do yet.”

In 2019, he asked me again—and I was ready. We agreed to publish a book together through Sporting Classics in about a year. They publish a widely respected and high-quality magazine, but they also publish a lot of books on artists, hunting and fishing, history, and related subjects. We figured the book would be about 125 to 135 pages, and it would follow the general format that Sporting Classics had successfully used for many art books in the past. I could pick a writer from a list, many of whom I already knew, and we would get started.

Postponing Publication

And then Covid hit. When that happened, everything was put on hold and the whole project was indefinitely delayed.

For me, that was a blessing. It gave me time to think about the book, what I wanted to say and what it would look like. And it gave me time to get busy on a lot of paintings that had been on my bucket list for years. While I isolated for the next 2 years, I painted away.

Changing the Scope of the Book

I also took that time to talk to Chuck about what I thought might be a better way to do a book—my book anyway. Eventually Chuck agreed, or at least gave up trying to reason with me. But there was one big hitch. The price of publication, printing costs, paper cost and more were skyrocketing. We’ve all seen this in our lives, and it came very close to stopping the book in its tracks. About a year ago, we agreed on a way to keep the book moving forward—but under very different circumstances than when it started. I agreed to pay the lion’s share of the production costs. It was a slightly unusual arrangement, but I looked at it like a legacy project. I was happy to contribute in order to get a book that I could truly be proud of. I believe that’s the book we got—and I think you’ll agree when you see it.

In addition to the economics of the book dramatically changing, the scope of the book changed too. The book would no longer be written by a single author but would now contain 6 separate chapters. Each chapter would focus on a particular aspect of my life and would be written by personal friends or relatives who knew a great deal about those separate parts of my life.

Conclusion

Next week, I will share more about what the changes to the book look like, who the individual chapter authors are, and more. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, read more about the book itself or buy your own copy.

Mark Your Calendars: Book Signing in Early October

Cover page of “Michael Sieve: An Artist’s Life”

This fall, in collaboration with Sporting Classics, I’ll be publishing Michael Sieve: An Artist’s Life. This coffee table book features more than 280 images of my artwork from the past 50 years. Alongside the images will be firsthand accounts of the adventures and experiences that inspired many of my paintings. Each chapter of the book will be introduced by close friends or family and supported by personal photographs and anecdotes.

In the afternoon of October 8, I’ll be hosting a book signing at my gallery, Chisholm Valley Wildlife Art, located between Houston and Rushford, MN. Here are additional details:

  • When: Saturday, October 8 from 1 to 5 pm
  • Where: Chisholm Valley Wildlife Art (22388 Daley Creek Drive, Rushford, MN)
  • What: Signing and personalization of Michael Sieve: An Artist’s Life

I invite you to stop by, pick up an autographed copy of the book, and have it personalized if you’d like. I’ll have food, refreshments, and plenty of stories to tell.

I hope to see you then! If you have questions in the meantime, please email mikesieveart@gmail.com.

For the Book – Playing with Fire-Lynx and Chickadees

Early one misty October morning in an Alaskan spruce forest I watched a lynx as he was hunting. After he passed out of sight I tried to call him back by imitating an injured mouse squeak. I stood quietly watching for a long time and eventually turned to leave only to discover that the lynx had approached me from behind and was quietly watching me from only a couple feet away. After my initial surprise I was impressed by the rich wet colors and textures of the woods, a perfect complement to the soft grey of the lynx. I added the chickadees to tell more of a story with this painting.

For the Book – The Mammoth Hunters

Here is one of the paintings that I am working on for the book, from my bucket list.

It had been a long hot day hunting elephants in Botswana and we were heading back to camp. The dusty road that we were on was like a tunnel through the dense low bush. No one was expecting anything interesting to happen with only a couple miles to go, but when we went past the spot where a bull elephant had just crossed the road everything changed. We didn’t see his tracks in the fading light, but we sure smelled him. The scent of a musth bull was overwhelming. Instantly everyone piled out and the chase was on. There were five of us and we were moving fast with a bushman tracker named Tee in the lead and me with my camera bringing up the rear. When Tee nearly reared ended the bull, he made a quick U-turn and came back past us with the elephant close behind. From my vantage point I looked up just in time to see the bull stop a bit over ten yards away! He towered over us with his trunk raised against a glorious African sky. Yeah, I know–the mammoth, the snow, the boreal forest, the Stone Age hunters are all made up, but how could I not paint that experience?

Mike’s big announcement

Last January I met with Chuck Wechsler and he asked me if I would like to work with him and publish a book about my art. I immediately and enthusiastically agreed! Chuck is the editor of Sporting Classics magazine and asked me the same question over 10 years ago. I turned him down then, thinking that I was not ready to do a book. I felt like I was too young and still had too many “bucket list” paintings that I wanted to do before I did a book. A book like we are planning will be the capstone of my painting career, and I wanted to do it at the right time and with the highest quality possible. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am taking it very seriously. It will dominate my life for the next year or more.

My friendship with Chuck Wechsler goes back more than 40 years, when he was the editor of the Minnesota Volunteer magazine published by the MN DNR. Chuck also ran the Minnesota Wildlife Heritage Foundation Art Show back in the day. Nowadays with Sporting Classics, he publishes a high-quality hunting and fishing magazine. They also publish a lot of great books about hunting and fishing and many more about artists, both living and dead. At this point we are planning to publish the book in a little over a year and plan to have it hit the market just before Christmas 2021. Chuck has been through this process many times before, but it is all new to me. In the weeks and months ahead, I will be posting on my website where we are in the process. I will also be posting new images and the storylines of the paintings that will be in the book. If you want to receive updates, please click the Follow button and enter your email address.

Here are some of the Sporting Classics books that I have in my library at this time. I have also given quite a few away as gifts to friends in the past. To see more of what Sporting Classics has to offer, go to www.sportingclassics.com

November 2018 Kansas Hunt

Today is the last day of my 2018 Kansas deer hunt.  It’s been a good year here,  I’ve seen lots of deer and have had a few adrenaline surge highs but have not been able to put it all together on a big one.  I try to keep track of what I see, and here are the results.  I have hunted 10 days here in Kansas and have recorded seeing a total of 87 deer.  I saw 38 bucks and 49 does.  Of the 38 bucks I have seen, I estimate that 27 were either yearlings or of unidentifiable age.   8 were two or three year olds and 3 were four years old or older by my estimation. Of all the deer I saw about a third were in bow range for me.  I usually carried a good camera and photographed many of them, but  I always reached for my bow first on any deer that might be of the size or age that I was looking for.  Two days ago I drew back on one, a very nice mature buck standing broadside at 25 yards, but there was a small tree in the way that made the shot too risky. When he left he walked straight away,  no shot there either.

But my best chance came early on.  A monster buck came past me from a totally unexpected place.  He was a massive heavy body buck with a great rack on  what looked like too small of a head and a neck that looked as big as his chest.  Clearly a mature buck.  I missed a standing 15 yard broadside shot at him when my lower bow limb hit a close branch in the tree that I was in. It was the best chance I’ve ever had at a big buck.  The arrow landed at his feet and he didn’t seem to even care.  That one will haunt me for a long time.  I didn’t get him but the rush was well worth it.  Am I disappointed?  Of course, but less than you might expect.  My real disappointment continues to be with the way the deer herd is managed in my home state of Minnesota.

A hunt like I’ve had this week here in Kansas is virtually unheard of back home unless you are lucky enough to manage hundreds of acres or more of land and are willing to rigidly control access in order to protect the younger bucks.  I call it the ‘Wisconsin Plan”.  The place I’m hunting here in Kansas is 240 acres.  I share it with two other bowhunters. The lands around it are heavily hunted as well. And the deer hunting is great.

But the opening day of their gun season doesn’t start for a few weeks yet, unlike Minnesota’s peak-of-the-rut gun hunt that started November 3rd this year.  Our two shotgun seasons and our muzzleloader seasons will continue until mid-December.  This monumentally stupid Minnesota plan annually overshoots the bucks and undershoots the does.  That is not an accident…it was designed to do exactly that!  Farmers in my area suffer from an overpopulation of deer, mostly does, and hunters see too few mature bucks.  Both of these things are a direct result of the way the Minnesota deer managers manage the deer in Minnesota and especially in the SE part of my state.  Because of this, many hunters are losing access to hunting lands as those who own or control those lands try to protect “their bucks .”  This method of private management, the Wisconsin Plan, has become very popular and common in our state.  This is why so many hunters like myself take our Minnesota dollars and spend them in Kansas, Iowa or elsewhere.   But enough of that for now.  If you want to see a few of the deer I saw and photographed in Kansas check back in a couple days and I’ll post a few of them.  And sorry about my rant about Minnesota’s deer management structure.  Every time I hunt Kansas or Iowa I come back home mad as hell that deer hunting in Minnesota can’t reach its full potential, or even be better than it is.  It’s called tradition.

Enjoy the photos.

Mike Sieve
November 18, 2018

2018 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

This last weekend, Juli and I flew out to Las Vegas to watch the Federal Duck Stamp judging. I entered a painting of landing pintails and thought that it was a better design than I entered last year. Although I made it to the final round and finished in the top ten, I really didn’t do any better than last year. The competition and the quality of the paintings was far higher this year than last (in my opinion), but the judging was crazy. Lots of drama and controversy surrounding that. Nevertheless, somehow when all was said and done, the winning design deserved to win. Scot Storm from Minnesota won with a swimming drake wood duck. All of the top three entries were friends of mine, as were several more of the top ten and other artists as well. It made for another fun and exciting event for both of us.

We also went to Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio and saw “O.” It was an incredible spectacle and well worth it.

Now it’s back to the studio to get after that 50-year-old bucket list item—winning the Federal Duck Stamp. More about that next year. . .