Remembering Terry Redlin

“America’s rural past, in my eyes, was a wonderful place full of both beauty and opportunity. How fortunate I’ve been to spend my life creating memories of those distant times for others to enjoy.” - Terry Redlin

For 22 consecutive years (1991 to 2012), Terry Redlin had at least one piece of art in every NWTF core pack - helping raise countless dollars for wildlife conservation at thousands of NWTF events.

Our hearts go out to the Redlin family at this time as we all mourn the loss of a legend and friend to hunters, conservationists and wildlife.

Terry Redlin (1937-2016)

Below is an article titled "Terry Redlin, Accidental Artist," pulled from the 2011 January/February issue of Turkey Country magazine. Please read and remember this great man.

Fifteen-year-old Terry Redlin wanted to bum a ride to work on his friend’s motorcycle. The friend had strict orders from his father not to give anyone a lift, but Redlin was persistent. After all, it was only for three blocks.

Moments later, a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit the motorcycle, pinning Redlin’s leg between the bike and car. His leg had to be amputated from the knee down.

The renowned wildlife artist may not have pursued a career in art if that accident hadn’t forced him to change the direction of his life, but his love for the outdoors was always there — a passion waiting to be captured on canvas.

Outside inspiration

If you have attended a National Wild Turkey Federation banquet, you have probably seen a Terry Redlin painting. His work graces the coveted expanse of wall above many Americans’ living room sofas.

Few wildlife artists are better known and more respected than Redlin, who hails from Watertown, S.D. For more than 30 years, his breathtaking paintings of waterfowl and wildlife in scenes that bring us back to the good old days have garnered the attention of millions of art collectors and outdoors enthusiasts alike.

He was voted the Most Popular Artist in America nine years in a row by U.S. Art Magazine by a poll of art galleries. Redlin credits much of his success to the fact that he started donating prints to conservation groups like the NWTF.

“Terry has always been a big fan of conservation and enjoyed donating prints to groups that helped conserve wildlife,” said Julie Ranum, director of the Redlin Art Center. “Conservation groups fell in love with Terry’s work which helped Terry and many conservation groups succeed at the same time.”

Redlin believed in the efforts of Ducks Unlimited and the NWTF so strongly, he did paintings specifically for them. Conservation groups have raised more than $40 milliion through the sales of his prints.

 “Terry has always had a great love for the outdoors. As a child, he dreamed of being a conservation officer, because he could spend a lot of time outside,” said Ranum. But that horrible accident changed his life course. “It devastated Terry, but good things resulted from it.”

A few special visitors

At the time of Redlin’s accident, South Dakota offered a college scholarship for kids with disabilities. Redlin was eligible for a $1,500 scholarship to the school of his choice.

Today, $1,500 wouldn’t even buy books at most colleges, but it was a lot of money in 1955, the year Redlin graduated from high school.

“Terry’s family didn’t have much money. Without that scholarship, he probably wouldn’t have gone to college at all,” Ranum said.

Without the full mobility of one of his legs, Redlin gave up his dream of working as a conservation officer. He ended up going to the St. Paul School of Associated Arts in Minnesota.

A new dream

After graduating with a degree in graphic arts and commercial design, Redlin spent the next 20 years raising a family and working as a graphic artist and illustrator for several companies, and mastered his painting skills on nights and weekends.

Redlin was working for Webb Publishing when he decided to pursue a full-time career as a wildlife artist.

“Terry climbed the ladder at Webb Publishing and eventually was managing a group of artists and not doing the artwork himself. He didn’t like that,” Ranum said. He left the company at age 40.

During the following years, Redlin produced several wildlife prints, many of them featuring waterfowl or pheasants, harkening back to fond memories of growing up in rural South Dakota. His artwork eventually caught the eyes of magazine editors, and his paintings appeared on the covers of Farmer Magazine and Outdoor Life.

More to give

According to Ranum, Redlin is a humble person who hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings or the scholarship that South Dakota gave him. In the late 1990s, Redlin opened a nonprofit art center on 30 acres in Watertown as a gesture of thanks to the people of South Dakota.

Terry’s son, Charles, designed the Redlin Art Center on property purchased and donated by the city and private donors. As a gift back to the state that gave him a “grubstake,” Redlin solely funded construction of the multi-million dollar art center.

More than 150 original Redlin paintings are on display inside the gallery. The art center brings in thousands of visitors from across the country — fans want to see the amazing paintings of Terry Redlin.

You won’t, however, find Redlin there.

“Terry is in poor health now, but even when he was healthy, he didn’t show up very often,” Ranum said. “He isn’t one to bask in the limelight. He is very shy and told me he never got comfortable around large groups of people.”

For many years, Redlin scheduled an annual signing at the art center, but that was the extent of his public appearances.

“Shortly after the art center opened, I looked outside and saw Terry driving around the parking lot very slowly,” Ranum said. “When I asked him why, he said he was looking at the license plates on the cars and couldn’t believe people were coming from so many states to see his artwork. He was truly surprised at how much people liked his paintings.”

The Redlin Art Center is a major tourist attraction for Watertown and is funded by a gift shop and commissions from Redlin’s “America the Beautiful” series of eight paintings.

The road to success

In a book published about him, Redlin was asked if he would change anything about his life. He said he would be tempted not to get on the motorcycle when he was 15 but acknowledged that without the accident, he wouldn’t have taken the career path he did.

Though the beginning of Redlin’s road as a famous wildlife artist was paved in hardship, millions of Americans — and countless wildlife species — have certainly benefitted from it. 

Jack Paluh - Another Artist Found Through Tragedy

Nationally known wildlife artist Jack Paluh, of Waterford, Pa., found his way to a painting career after a hunting accident.

“I was in my early 20s and climbed into a homemade treestand. From the moment my feet touched the platform, I knew something was wrong,” Paluh said. “The treestand was making a weird noise, and the next thing I knew, it gave out and I fell to the ground.”

He broke a vertebra in his back and spent the next six months on the couch recovering.

“I was not paralyzed but was laid up and couldn’t really move around,” Paluh said. “I’d dabbled in painting before then but didn’t know if it was going to go anywhere. While I was recuperating, I decided to start painting more because there wasn’t much else I could do. My first painting was inspired by a deer head I had hanging on the wall.”

Eventually Paluh healed from his accident and was set to return to his job as a truck driver. His boss promised him a supervisor position, but Paluh had other aspirations. He was ready to paint full-time.

“I asked a gallery to print my deer painting, which was titled ‘Monday Morning.’ They were hesitant to print it,” he said. “The painting sold quickly. I really started concentrating on my painting at that point.”

Paluh’s most popular paintings depict Eastern Woodland Indians hunting and fishing. He has become somewhat of an expert on the tribes, and his paintings depict actual hunting methods and typical dress of the people.

“I became interested in Native Americans when I found an arrowhead in my garden,” Paluh said. “When I picked it up, I wondered what it was used for and if an Indian had taken an animal with it, which really started me down the path of researching Indians and painting them.”

Paluh is another example of how good things can come out of bad situations.

“I believe God created a silver lining for me when I had the accident,” Paluh said. “I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for it.”

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