When you follow conventional advice, you generally get conventional results.
Some people are fine with this, but others . . . aren’t. They have a dream, a desire, a goal that impels them through each day, and regardless of how many people tell them what they want is impossible, even silly, they keep striving.
“From early on, I knew that I wanted to be an artist and that animals and birds of all kinds would be my subject matter, but it took a good number of years for my dream to become a reality,” says Catherine Temple, an acrylic painter from Clarkston, WA, who focuses on wildlife artwork and pet portraits.
“While many people thought I had a lot of talent, they weren’t very encouraging of my dream to be a wildlife artist. It could be a nice hobby, I was told, but it wouldn’t earn me a living.
“For years, I tried to go the conventional route with things, but it never worked out well.”
It didn’t work out well because Temple refused to give up. She kept painting, focusing on what she loved, what she knew. And what Temple — who grew up on a farm with a father who had a passion for exotic animals — loved was the outdoors, wildlife, animals of all kinds.
A Flamingo among the Chickens
“Our backyard was full of a diverse array of birds and beasts. Flamingos lived near cows and chickens. Small Sika deer lived near exotic pheasants and ducks. There was plenty to inspire me.”
When the farmyard wasn’t enough, Temple wandered off to the wetlands and pastures near her home and built a makeshift blind. There, she sat and observed nature in quiet study. For hours at a time she lost herself watching frogs and dragonflies, birds and snakes.
“It didn’t really matter what creature it was, it eventually made it onto the pages of my sketchbook.” She knew, just knew, that she needed to be an artist.
But, as conventional advice warns, you can’t make a living as an artist. At least that’s what “they” say. Fortunately for Temple, other voices were stronger.
“The animals and birds and wild places continued to call strongly to me, and I would find myself frustrated and unhappy with trying to be something I wasn’t.
“I almost gave up on the dream, but then God opened a door for me.”
She had painted a portrait of her beloved dog, Jake. People seeing it asked if she were able to paint their pets as well. Soon, she was taking commissions and handling a growing client list. At the same time, she kept painting wildlife, because she simply wouldn’t, couldn’t give up. And in 2016, God opened another door through the duck stamp competition. (As an aside, federal and state duck stamps are not postage stamps, but permits for waterfowl hunters. They additionally offer an opportunity for artists to showcase their work, collectors to enjoy it, and the environment to benefit with sale proceeds dedicated to acquiring and protecting wetland habitat.)
From Pet Portraits to Duck Stamps
“I heard about a duck stamp contest for the state of Delaware. The stamp was to feature a Chesapeake Bay Retriever with Canvasback ducks. I had already been painting many hunting dogs with birds in my pet portrait business, so this seemed a good fit for me. Also, the featured dog was the exact breed I owned, giving me more incentive to give this contest a try.”
Knowing that duck stamp contests drew some of the best wildlife artists in the country, Temple hoped, at worst, that she wouldn’t embarrass herself, and at best, she would win. She didn’t do the first, but she did do the second.
“When I got the call that I was the winner, I could scarcely breathe. That win changed a lot for me.
“Suddenly, I went from fighting for my dream all those years to stepping into the realm of a recognized wildlife artist!”
Two years later she won her second duck stamp contest for the state of Washington and took second for the Michigan Ducks Unlimited Sponsor Print. She began receiving invitations for solo shows and more contests. Presently, several of her pieces are being considered for the Ducks Unlimited National Art Package.
Unconventional, and Blessed
“I feel I have been particularly blessed and privileged to live in an area where I have access to so much of God’s magnificent creation,” Temple says, adding that almost every wildlife painting she creates comes from a personal experience with that bird or animal.
“It is because of these blessings that I feel compelled to create paintings that showcase God’s handiwork.
“Through my art I hope to bring the wild things to those who may not have the opportunity to experience it for themselves.”
And it all started because she refused to be conventional.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.