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Catching up with Minnesota wildlife artist John House

by Mike McFeely

Just finished recording an interview with Minnesota wildlife artist John House for my Saturday outdoors show on KFGO (11 a.m.-noon). John and I got to know each other a decade or so ago when I was writing for The Forum. He and his family were very gracious to me back then and I ended up writing a couple of stories on John and his work, one of which got picked up by the Associated Press and ran in many newspapers and web sites around the country.

John lives in Melby, Minn., on a beautiful 80+ acres of land near famed duck-hunting spot Lake Christina. Melby is a little over an hour southeast of Fargo-Moorhead on I-94.

John House's winning entry in the 2011 Minnesota walleye stamp contest.

John is a very talented, passionate and articulate guy, so he's always fun to talk with. Unfortunately, I had allowed our relationship to lapse for several years ... until I saw an article on John in my hometown Alexandria Echo-Press newspaper.John had a piece of artwork selected to grace the cover of a Cabela's magazine, and writer Eric Morken did a story on it.

So, I contacted John and to see if he wanted to do some radio with me. And he graciously said yes. You can hear the 15-minute interview Saturday morning at 11 on KFGO. In the meantime, here are some tidbits to prime the pump. I promise, it will not be long before John is back on my Saturday program. He is great on the radio.

Here is a piece of an article I wrote on John way back in 2003:

MELBY, Minn. -- At one time in his life, John House was going to be an accountant.

Math always came easy for me. I went to college to study accounting, which was fine until they went from numbers to theory, House says. When they showed me five ways to make two plus two equal six, thats when they lost me.

Consider it accountings loss and arts gain.House went from crunching numbers to the world of wildlife art, first carving decoys from blocks of wood before moving to oil paintings. While he admits there were lean years, the move has paid off for more than two decades.

House was recently bestowed another honor when his latest entry was chosen as the winning design in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources pheasant stamp contest. Houses portrayal of a rooster and a hen pheasant walking in a snowy marsh will grace the 2004 stamp, which is required of all Minnesota pheasant hunters between the ages of 18 and 64.It is the second time Houses work has been selected for a state stamp. His painting of a green-winged teal pair was on the 1999 Minnesota duck stamp.

"My messes have kind of become tidied up, the 47-year-old House said of earlier years when he struggled to make a living. This has really become fun now.

Houses home, located on 82 acres southeast of Fergus Falls near Lake Christina, is a testament to both his work and passion for the outdoors. On the walls are prints of his paintings -- one a flock of canvasbacks banking over decoys and past hunters in a blind, another a group of bluebills using the same maneuver.

His work studio is an old trailer stuffed with photographs, mounted game birds, drawings, newspaper and magazine clippings, books and anything else from which the artist can draw inspiration. House has tacked inspirational messages on the walls of the studio, in keeping with upbeat and frenetic personality. Desire is 80 percent of achievement, reads one. Another reads, Most of lifes limitations are self-imposed.

House's winner in the 2004 Minnesota pheasant stamp contest.

Here is a link to an article Doug Smith in the Star Tribune wrote a few years ago when House won the Minnesota walleye stamp contest, completing the so-called Royal Slam of winning all five state stamp contests: Royal slam: Winning all five stamp contests .

Here's the link to John's web site, where you can see more of his work and purchase prints: John House's web site .