I've hunted my whole life.
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 at my time in the field differently.
Hunting, like art, is: Fun
Over the past three blog posts, I've written about how hunting and art are each an obsession, a craft and play a timeless role in human history. But most importantly, hunting and art are fun.
As a young boy growing up in Illinois farm country, the thrill of hunting was simply tagging along. I loved hearing the stories of my dad and his hunting buddies, walking the woods with them, sharing a tailgate and taking a ribbing every now and then, like all rookies do. Eventually, a gun was passed into my hands, and with it came new responsibility and new challenges. For me, it then became fun to fill a tag and earn a sense of independence in the woods. . As I grew, putting my tag on the right deer or turkey became the fun part. I wanted to wait on an older deer, or a longbeard rather than a jake. Then came travel, and I enjoyed trying to fill tags in other locations and see new country. Recently, things have come full circle and I've come to appreciate the simple truths my family, friends and I started with.
I've learned to appreciate the tagging along again.
Since I became a father, my time has become more compressed and, as a result, more valuable. I find myself looking to have fun again in the woods. Don't get me wrong, I'm a driven guy and very competitive, and at some level being successful is always a goal. But it's no longer the ultimate goal. You change enough diapers and talk through enough tantrums, and you'll learn to appreciate the simplicity and freedom that comes with the act of hunting. Driving around in camo with a buddy telling jokes and talking about man stuff becomes therapy. Listening to the woods wake up without hearing a baby monitor go off is heaven. I cherish the little things more, and it's more fun.
On the other side of that coin, I see the outdoors through Rhett's eyes now. Walking through the woods with a stick is an adventure. Hearing a crow caw is the most incredible sound in the world. Seeing a deer bound away from our ruckus is an event so noteworthy he tells his mom the story (or tries to at least) when we get home. It makes me stop and think about how truly incredible this natural world that we live in really is.
Hunting is fun. It should be fun. If my boy is going to learn to love it, he needs to see the fun side first, and never lose sight of that. The same goes for those anyone new to the sport. A beginner doesn't need to sit on stand for 4 hours in the cold, "sushed" every 5 seconds and hear endless debates over whether that deer is 2.5 or 3.5. Let 'em have some fun first. Let them soak in the small things, relax and appreciate the camaraderie that comes with camo.
Art is no different. One of my favorite quotes about painting is this: "The point of painting is not to finish. The point of painting is to paint." It's easy to feel the pressure of hitting deadlines and making sales, and I certainly believe those are important to run a business and provide for my family. But at the end of the day, art is fun. I enjoy the creative process. I relish in the challenge of bringing an animal to life with a pencil or a brush. As I gain experience in the studio and the woods, I hope that I can do a good job of keeping art lighthearted and relatable to you, the people who read my blogs, watch my time lapses and follow along on social media.
If we're going to pass along the traditions of hunting and art, we need to keep them accessible, keep them fun, and never lose sight of the richness they bring to our lives. This spring, remember that Hunting is an Art, and it's a heck of a lot of fun. Purchase your own "Hunting is an Art" Signature Series T-Shirt below and have a blast wearing it this spring.