John C. Green Arts Column

John C. Green to give public painting demonstration.

Emmeline Elliott

The work of wildlife artist John Green is widely recognized and soon folks will have a chance to meet the painter in person.

Green will finish an original painting during a demonstration sponsored by the Madison Area Arts Council Chautauqua Series. Those in attendance can register for a chance to win the painting. The event will take place Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Jerald A. Tunheim Classroom Building Auditorium at Dakota State University. A reception with Green is to follow. Doors open at 6 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Green, a lifelong Madison resident, has painted wildlife scenes and iconic images for the past 40 years. He’s known for his lifelike renditions of pheasants and ducks, such as in his works of “South Dakota’s Finest” and “River Refuge.”

Green has painted wildlife since he started hunting at the age of 12. He, his father and brother would spend every weekend of the hunting season out in the field, Green said, and he would later try to paint what he saw.

Green credits his father, Larry Green Sr., with teaching him how to paint. His father went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts after World War II. It wasn’t possible to make prints of an artwork at that time, so it was difficult for artists to earn a living. Green’s father had a wife and 13 children at home and worked at East River Electric and Philco.

“He taught me all I learned and gave me free room and board on top of it,” Green said.

Green Sr. wanted to teach all of his kids to paint, but “11 out of 13 were girls and could care less about painting ducks,” so Green and his brother Larry Jr. were the only ones to pursue it.

After high school, the Madison chapter of Ducks Unlimited asked Green to do a painting at a banquet. From there, Green was introduced to other chapters of the organization.

Painting at banquets still makes up a significant part of Green’s work schedule. He attends 40 to 50 banquets each year. To prepare for banquets, Green has most of a painting done beforehand and finishes the piece during the banquet where people can watch him work. The painting is then auctioned off.

What kind of picture he paints depends on who’s hosting the banquet. For instance, he’ll paint an ice rink for an ice fishing tournament.

“That’s what I like about my job, because it’s something different all the time,” Green said. “I learned a long time ago that if you’re going to try to make a living in this business, you need to be versatile.”

Green has several Americana and nostalgic artworks featuring landmarks, country churches and children at play. Green also paints portraits of families and pets.

Dogs, like Labradors and Weimaraners, are often part of Green’s pictures. He likes painting yellow labs since its light coat color lets him add more features with shadow and color. In wildlife, his favorite animal to paint is the state bird because the pheasant is colorful and its small feathers can be a challenge to paint.

Conservation has always been an important issue to Green. Sales and donations of his prints and original artwork have raised more than $3 million for conservation organizations across the country, like Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. In acknowledgment of his efforts to promote conservation, Green was given lifetime memberships in Ducks Unlimited in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Pro Pheasants also named a Lake County wildlife production area after the artist.

“I’m an outdoorsman, and if we want our wildlife to survive, you have to give back too. You have to provide a habitat and food for the birds if you want them to survive,” Green said.

Whether or not one is a hunting enthusiast, wildlife supplies entertainment for all because it’s fun to watch, Green said.

He also raises funds for many other groups, like fire departments, children’s hospitals and churches.

Green is a two-time winner of the South Dakota Duck Stamp contest, first in 1990 and again in 1997. He took top honors in the Delaware Duck Stamp contest in 1983. In 1991, Green was selected as State Artist of the Year by the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

Green said it’s important for artists to win awards because that’s when art buyers begin to take notice.

Although the acclaim that comes with winning an award is good for Green’s career, it’s not the best part of his job, he said.

“When you see people break out into tears of joy when they see something you do … it makes my job fun and rewarding,” Green said.

His paintings are on display in the John C. Green Art Studio at 111 S. Egan Ave. in Madison.