Ken Carlson, b. 1937, Morton, Minnesota, (United States)
While many young boys dreamed of becoming baseball heroes like Joe DiMaggio when they grew up, Ken Carlson had aspirations of becoming an artist like Bob Kuhn. Carlson won a scholarship in an art contest to the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis, where his teachers included the renowned animal illustrator, Walter Wilwerding (1891-1966). After high school, he attended the Minneapolis School of Art for a year, then joined a commercial art firm. Although commercial art was not his main professional focus, Carlson accepted a commission to illustrate for the publication Birds of Western North America (McMillan, 1972). After two years on the project, he returned to painting animals in oils on large-scale canvases.
Today, Ken Carlson is widely recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of North American wildlife. A critical element of Carlson’s work is first-hand observation. Every fall, he travels to Alaska, the Western prairies, or the Canadian Rockies to find his animal subjects when they are in full coat and prime physical condition. His interest in animals and art combined and developed into a consuming lifelong vocation involving the study of animals in their environment.