I've hunted my whole life.
During this same length of time, I've also been an artist. I've learned a lot about hunting and art over the years, seen failure and success in both, and seem to grow in both arenas each season.
As my passion for hunting and art has grown over the years, I can't escape the similarities between the two. In my career as a wildlife artist, it's become nearly impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. Hunting influences my art, and art influences my hunting. Experiences afield fuel creative new ideas in my studio, and the demands of creating art have caused me to look my time in the field differently.
Hunting, like art, is: A Craft
Art is defined as "the expression of something beautiful." A perfectly placed series of brushstrokes. A solo sung with flawless pitch. A series of cutts and yelps from a Grand National Calling Champ. Jordan mid-air from the free-throw line in the '88 dunk contest: poetry in motion. Art not only inspires us, but also seems to make time stand still.
These expressions of art seem to occur with ease and grace, as if the artist was born for this moment. But if you take a closer look under the hood, you'll find a craftsman. Hard work. Calloused hands. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Wins. Losses. Learning. It's all part of perfecting the craft. And hunting, just like art, is a craft.
A craft demands respect. Everyone who has ever set out to master their craft started with awe and reverence for it. The best athletes respect the game. The best artists work with a sense of dignity and appreciation for their art. The best hunters respect the game they pursue. They take pride in the manner in which they pursue it and know that the road to greatness is never a shortcut.
A craft requires years to master. My iPhone screensaver is a Gary Vaynerchuck image that simply says "Hard Work & Patience." In addition, I have a sign above the trashcan in my studio that reads "10,000 hours." Malcom Gladwell popularized that number in his book Outliers, suggesting that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to achieve greatness in a chosen field. Talent alone is never enough. Every time I throw a dirty paint rag away, I use that sign as a backboard to remind myself that a craft takes time. The best hunters know this as well, realizing that hours in a deer stand, experience on a blood trail and time in the turkey woods is the greatest teacher of all.
A craft requires special tools. This is the fun part. It's also the most challenging. Bows, broadheads, box calls......and brushes. Learning the tools of the trade takes time, a willingness to learn and the courage to make mistakes. But man, is it rewarding to finally get a handle on them. The artistry and technique that I try to achieve with my brushwork is the same as trying to achieve the perfect tone and cadence on a diaphragm. Ironically, the true craftsman will never fully master these tools, the but pursuit is half the fun.
The true beauty of a craft is that once you respect it, pour enough time into it and master the tools it requires, you can fly. The subtle nuances that used to elude you become second nature. The cues that you used to miss are handled almost subconsciously. That's the moment when art and hunting become the expression of something beautiful.
This spring, remember that Hunting is an Art, and embrace the craft. Purchase your own "Hunting is an Art" Signature Series T-Shirt below and wear it with pride this spring.