The inspiration for his work comes naturally for wildlife artist Connor Severson.
An avid outdoorsman, Severson’s artworks have featured the first buck he shot, fish he’s caught, lands he’s hunted on and the large whitetail deer that was the previous owner of a shed antler Severson found.
That shed antler and an island in the middle of the swamp where he shot his first buck became the inspiration for Severson’s first deer painting.
“I’d seen the deer and the spots on our hunting land, and I decided I had to paint that,” Severson said. “It comes a lot from personal experience. I guess I’ve had some success hunting and fishing. I’ve put in my time and caught some nice fish.
“But just looking at fish, I think they’re the coolest. And deer too. Something about antlers just fascinates me. That’s probably why I have kind of an eye for it. You get to a point where you’ve looked at them enough and practiced drawing enough that you can draw them any way you like.”
Severson, who works part time in the hunting and fishing department at Scheels in Eau Claire, has been doing art seriously for about three years. He said he got interested in art while attending middle and high school in Eau Claire and that his artwork started to draw more interest during his freshman year of college at Carroll University in Waukesha.
“People started asking me to draw things for them for commissions,” Severson said. “It started with dogs, and I did a few dogs for some of the parents of kids on my baseball team.”
Severson said he tries to get to about five commissioned works a month. He’s had artwork go to hunters and anglers in New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, Washington and Canada.
“People have pictures of a lot of their hunting dogs when they’re in their prime,” Severson said. “Those are my favorite projects.”
Severson started out working with colored pencils but has since moved more to oil painting. He said he likes the details the pencils allow but prefers the oil paints when landscapes are involved.
“I’ve almost always used colored pencil. Then last year I decided to try painting for the first time with oil paint,” Severson said. “I don’t really know what I’m doing. I just do what looks good.”
Severson’s first oil painting, a musky piece called “Rocky Ambush,” was chosen for Musky Hunter Magazine’s 2018 calendar. “That was kind of a surprise,” he said, “to have my first one ever end up in a calendar.”
Severson participates in several art tours in the area each year. His work will be on display today and Saturday at the ninth annual Banbury Art Crawl in Eau Claire. Prints of several of his works can also be found at Lures of the North in Hayward. Much of his work can also be viewed on his Facebook page, facebook.com/seversonwildlifeart.
Bob Hujik, a state Department of Natural Resources program manager in the Division of Fish, Wildlife & Parks western district based in Eau Claire, has bought several works from Severson, including, most recently, a painting of his yellow Lab.
“That was my old hunting buddy,” Hujik said. “Connor did a phenomenal job. The attention to detail is just incredible. And his fish are really good, especially the brown trout.”
Hujik said Severson’s experience with what he is creating adds a lot to the work.
“What’s cool about Connor is he’s not just drawing, but because he’s out hunting and fishing, he can appreciate it more,” Hujik said.
Severson said because his inspiration comes from being in the woods, he’s not likely to run out of ideas — including an idea he has for a future wolf painting — anytime soon.
“The painting is what I want to do now,” Severson said. “For the wolf one I’m doing, we were up at my friend’s cabin in Iron River and, obviously, there are a lot of wolves up there. But the woods are so much different from even up by Bruce. There are huge cedars, all snow-covered, so I took a few pictures that gave me some amazing ideas for the wolf painting.
“I’m kind of a freak about the outdoors. If you’re willing to talk about it, I’ll talk your ear off,” he said.
Jackson is assistant editor for The Country Today, a rural life newspaper published by Adams Publishing Group.