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?
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
On the first weekend in December we had our annual Chisholm Valley Wildlife Art open house and Christmas sale. The weather, unlike last year’s snowstorm on both days, was perfect. The crowds were excellent and our sales reflected that. Hannah came down to help and it was a fun but exhausting couple of days for all of us. It’s always exciting to have friends from near and far stop in. We sold more than 40 prints and one original. The original “Party Time – Wood Ducks” was purchased by a nice couple from Winona. That painting was a personal favorite of mine and I always hate to see favorites go out the door. The gallery will not look as good without it, but that’s part of my work as an artist, and so I must just accept it. It went to a good home, and placing an original in an appreciative home is always extremely gratifying. Thanks to everyone who attended. In the years ahead we will continue to have our Christmas open house on the first full weekend in December, and we hope to see you then.
Recently I got the good news that I won the Minnesota Pheasant Stamp contest. The last time I remember that I entered was in the 1980s and didn’t win back then, so I was very pleased to get this news. I will be entering more stamp contests in the future for two reasons. The first is to practice for my entries into the Federal Duck Stamp, to develop ideas and to work on the skills it takes to be competitive. The second reason is, as good friend and art dealer Chris Knutson suggests, “to take advantage of the free publicity that goes with winning.” These stamp programs raise a lot of money for habitat and so I’m pleased to be a part of that also.
A note from Juli: Those of you who know Mike personally will understand the humor in this photo. Mike put on a new shirt for the picture. Think Minnie Pearl.
What an exciting weekend at the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp contest! Mike entered this piece depicting two mallards in flight. There were 217 entries in the first round, in which each of the five judges simply indicated In or Out. Mike’s entry was Number 48, and his was the first to receive five In votes. We knew then that the judges liked his piece, but he still had a long way to go. The second round of judging took place the next day, and in this round each judge assigned a score from 1 to 5 to each entry, with 1 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest. Mike’s piece was the first to receive a score of over 20—four judges gave him a 5 and one judge gave him a 3. His score of 23 remained the highest score through the first half of the second round, but there were a lot of good entries yet to be judged. By the end of the second round, only twelve entries remained, two with a score of 23 and two with a score of 24. We were feeling very hopeful, but contests can be tricky, and we knew that things could change quickly in the final round. Unfortunately, we were right. Mike’s piece was the first to be judged in Round 3, and his score went from 23 down to 20. At that point, we knew that there wasn’t much chance of his entry being in the top three. In the end, he received the fifth highest score, but with several ties in both fourth and fifth places. We are saying that he finished in the top ten. In first place was Bob Hautman with his third Federal Duck Stamp win. He and his brothers Joe and Jim have thirteen wins among the three of them, so they are tough competition. Luckily, the winner must sit out for three years, so that will help level the playing field for next year. We were thrilled to see Mike’s good friend Greg Alexander take second place. Third place went to 23-year-old Christine Clayton, and it was wonderful to see a young woman do so well in the contest.
We truly enjoyed the entire weekend, and Mike is already working on his design for next year!
Please click for information about our Christmas Open House. If you have not visited our gallery, go to the Contact Us tab for directions.
This year Mike entered his painting “The Elephant in the Room” into the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Birds in Art exhibition. Not only was his painting chosen to be included in this wonderful exhibition, but it was also chosen as one of only three entries to be used as a show poster. Mike was asked to create an audio description of the painting and to provide slides showing his research, and then Woodson Art Museum used his slides and audio to create a video that goes with the painting. Click Show Poster to view the poster, and click the Play button to view the video.
Please check out the new Videos tab to see start-to-finish videos of Mike’s latest painting!
Last September our new gallery, Chisholm Valley Wildlife Art held its grand opening. We held it on the Saturday and Sunday of the first two weekends of that month. My son Eric and his fiancé Marissa were married in Rochester on Friday, so needless to say, it was a very busy weekend. The show itself was a great success, far better than we could have asked for. People began to arrive even before we officially opened the doors. The first Saturday was busy and every following day seemed to bring even more people. We don’t have a good count on how many, but I would guess somewhere over 750. We do know that there were people here from at least 10 different states. Friends and relatives from near and far as well as many people from the local area were there. There were also hunting buddies, gallery owners, a few artist friends, former in-laws but no known outlaws, old classmates and even some of the nuns who were my teachers a lifetime ago. Sales also were far greater than we could have asked for…except for the nuns of course. All in all it was an exhausting couple of weekends, but very successful. Reminiscent of some of the shows from the past when wildlife art was super hot.
Many people helped to make this show a success and we would like to thank them here. They are:
Collin and Austin Johnson
And most of all I would like to thank my wife Juli, who did an amazing job of planning, inventory, sales, greeting people with her ever present smile, her constant unwavering support as we planned this show, and for making my life so much easier and better.
Many thanks to all,