I bet a few of you have seen Jim Killen's artwork, especially the "that's my dog" series.
Capturing man's best friend
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
June 26, 2005 ANDY0626
Q: How did you get started as a wildlife artist?
A: I graduated in 1957 from what is now Minnesota State University at Mankato, where I studied art. I was recruited by Josten 's, where, coincidentally, (fellow famed Minnesota wildlife artist) Dave Maass worked. I was soon drafted into the service and came back to Josten's in 1960. Dave then was art director, overseeing a staff of about 15 artists. There was a lot of interest in landscape and wildlife painting at the time, and when Dave left and had success, I thought, "Wow."
Q: Did you also begin painting wildlife then?
A: I was art director at Josten's in 1965. Working there was great practice for an artist. Being in the ring business, as Josten's was and still is, the artists were required to draw intricate designs of animals, such as those associated with high school team nicknames -- the "Hornets," the "Jaguars" and so forth. When I first ventured away from that, doing my own work, I didn't do wildlife. I painted more abandoned farmsteads, what was called "Vanishing America."
Q: Today, you're famous for painting dogs, particularly sporting dogs. How did that start?
A: My first dog painting was of a black Labrador, a commission for a fellow in Kansas. I was hunting with him and I took a photograph of his dog after it had retrieved a duck. That's how it all began. By the late 1970s, I was painting dogs pretty consistently. Today, about 95 percent of what I paint is dogs.
Q: Do you paint sporting breeds only?
A: When I started, it was. Mainly Labs, golden retrievers and springer spaniels.. Now Vizlas, setters, pointers -- all breeds, really. Of course, there are more Labs than any other breed. Because of that, the market for Lab paintings is large.
Q: Are dogs difficult to paint?
A: I don't think so. It might be my interest in dogs that makes it easier for me. We have three. And we've always had dogs. My dad raised dogs. I would say dogs are only difficult to paint when a client sends me a small, crumpled photograph of a deceased dog and wants me to work from that image only.
Q: Is the print business dead for wildlife art?
A: Yes. It was great when I first came into it 20 or 30 years ago. But things are cyclical. Also, the market is saturated. And some of the big box companies sell things so cheap, it's hard to make money. I saw recently where Fleet Farm was selling a respectable piece of art, framed and matted, for $45. I can't frame a painting for that. But the original art business is good.
Q: How much do you charge for a painting?
A: They start at $2,000 and go up.
Q: Tell me about your first dog.
A: It was in high school and I had a springer spaniel. We lived in St. James and Jackson, which was good pheasant country at the time. And these were good pheasant dogs. Later, when Karen and I got married, we started out with two mixed breeds, German shorthair and English pointers. Since then we've had basset hounds, poodles, you name it.
Q: What kind of dogs do you have now?
A: A black Lab and two Braque-d'Auvergne, which are pointing dogs. They're a breed touted as an all-purpose dog, but I've never seen any of them swim. They're marvelous upland game dogs, however, and great house companions.
Q: How many paintings do you do a year?
A: About 25 dog commissions. And I try to do a painting every year for Ducks Unlimited. I was national Artist of the Year for the National Wild Turkey Federation this year, and a featured artist for Pheasant Fest in Omaha last year. I also have some industrial accounts I paint for. In all I do about 40 paintings a year.
Q: Do you have time to hunt in the fall, being that busy?
A: Yes. This spring, Karen and I got Grand Slams while turkey hunting. In fact, I killed seven long beards this spring. In the fall, I hunt pheasants, some in Minnesota and some in South Dakota, where we've hunted for 30 years. Also I hunt deer near my home, with slugs. And every year we go to Louisiana to hunt ducks.
Q: Was your wife always a hunter?
A: Not until our last child left home. She's not an avid big game hunter. But she loves turkey, pheasant and duck hunting. Last year, we hunted sharptails in North Dakota, then Montana, before moving on to Utah to hunt waterfowl. On our way home, we each shot an antelope in Wyoming.
Dennis Anderson is at
If you have the paper, take a look at the pics too.