Terry Redlin Biography
1937 - 2016
It is very rare that an artist's work is so original in style and so immediately recognizable that it actually evolves into a genre of its own. Such is the case with Terry Redlin, whose serene, heartwarming scenes have been gracing art lovers' walls for three decades - Ducks struggling against the wind. Spooked white-tailed deer. A cabin tucked beside wooded lakeshore. A rustic house atop a hill with glowing windows welcoming the neighbors. A stranger lending a helping hand. Children fishing. Dogs, ever-loyal members of the family, following, guarding. Redlin's paintings often contain buildings and landmarks—churches, barns, houses, cabins, farming equipment, grain elevators—that are real, but the scenes he creates with them are all in his head. Light—maybe more than his name—is his signature. Luminous sunsets. Darkened clouds split open by sunlight. Shining water. Twinkling windows. Flaring yard lights. Cozy, glowing, warm, inviting. Simple, bucolic images that please the eye.
"I want to please people," Redlin said. "And the average person, well, they think like I do. I think I'm an average person with a very average mind. So I just paint what I like."
In fact, Redlin is very far from average, at least artistically. Few, if any, artists can rival his standards of excellence or accomplishments over the past two decades. Truly one of the country's most celebrated and collected painters of wildlife and Americana, Redlin was named America's Most Popular Artist in annual gallery surveys conducted by U.S. Art magazine for eight consecutive years, 1991-1998, and was inducted into U.S. Art's Hall of Fame in 1992 following the magazine's poll of 900 galleries nationwide which, that year, placed five of Redlin's limited editions in the top eleven in popularity (Over the life of the poll, thirty prints have been included in that list.). At the peak of his career that made him famous and successful beyond his wildest dreams, his prints were sold in more than 4,000 galleries. His use of earthy colors to explore outdoor themes and wildlife, usually during twilight's blazing sunrises and sunsets, are often cited as the reasons for his immense popularity.
Born and raised in Watertown, South Dakota. Redlin traces his interest in the outdoors to his childhood. At the age of fifteen, a ride on a motorcycle resulted in a life-altering accident when he was hit by a drunk driver, crushing his leg, which had to be amputated, and ending his dream of becoming a forest ranger. Through a state-sponsored scholarship program for students with disabilities, he opted to pursue a career in the graphic arts. "It was a gift," he said of receiving that fateful scholarship. "The chance that they'd ever see any return on that money was virtually nil." He earned a degree from the St. Paul School of Associated Arts in Minnesota and spent twenty-five years working in commercial art as layout artist, graphic designer, illustrator and art director. In his leisure time he researched wildlife subjects and settings, indulging an passion that fueled his art for the rest of his life.
Webb Publishing in St. Paul hired him as a designer. He figured he was set; this would be his career. He kept moving up. From designer to illustrator to layout artist to magazine art director. He learned to handle a camera. He worked as the quality-control director for color and learned printing. He didn't draw any more. Then, suddenly, the company began laying off artists. He assumed it would be just a matter of time before it would be his turn. So he embarked on a five-year plan to become a wildlife artist. For the first two years of the plan, he did not pick up a brush, instead studying learning everything he could about wildlife and wildlife art. While still working full-time, he spent all his spare hours outside, observing and photographing.
He rose early every morning and worked for several hours, wearing covers over his office clothes so he wouldn't get them dirty. Then he drove by himself to his art director job, working on his own projects again at lunchtime and in the evenings when he got home. When he was finally ready to paint, he created a studio in the basement of his home, also setting himself up a base of operations to create prints from his paintings, then frame, pack, and ship them.
True to his word, five years later, at the age of 40, Redlin burst onto the wildlife scene when his painting "Winter Snows" appeared on the cover of The Farmer magazine. Morning Retreat, his first major print for Ducks Unlimited, broke the $5,000 mark at three different banquets. At more than a dozen other banquets, it sold for more that $3,500. As interest in Redlin's grew, galleries started opening up in small towns all over the country where those banquets were held. And as the concept of limited edition prints gained acceptance, more publishers began representing artists and making prints available.
He decided to enter half a dozen paintings with prints in The Wildlife Heritage Art Show at Dayton's in Minneapolis. "I was scared to death," Redlin recalled. "But they just sold, and it was great. Then I really knew I was probably going to make a living at it all right."
Having already worked twenty years as a commercial artist, he did not quit his art director job at Webb until he was already making four times his Webb salary through his paintings. He was that cautious. It wasn't until two years later, when demand for his work had become so great, that he left his art directing job to to concentrate on painting wildlife until his retirement in 2007. By then, he finally allowed himself to just paint, leaving the other roles—matting, framing, shipping and other aspects of the business—to others. Since then, Redlin's meteoric rise has been unparalleled in the field of contemporary wildlife art. In 1981 and 1984, he won the Minnesota Duck Stamp competition, and in 1982, the Minnesota Trout Stamp contest. He also placed second that year in the Federal Duck Stamp Competition. He has been honored as Artist of the Year for Ducks Unlimited (National and Minnesota), and as Conservationist of the Year-Magnum Donor by the Minnesota Waterfowl Association for his gifts of entire print editions. In 1985, Redlin added an entirely new artistic direction, limited edition collector plates. To date, he has released more than twenty editions, many of which are now available only on the secondary market. The National Association of Limited Edition Dealers has honored him three separate times with the "Lithograph of the Year" award for excellence in the medium.
By 1987, Redlin began exploring his interest in Americana subjects and nostalgic scenes, painting images for his American Memories and Country Doctor Collections. Since then his annual Christmas prints have attracted many thousands of art collectors across the country. His induction into U.S. Art's Hall of Fame in July, 1992 followed the magazine's poll of 900 galleries nationwide, which placed five of Redlin's limited editions in the top eleven in popularity. In 1992, he completed his most ambitious work to date, painting each line in the first stanza of "America the Beautiful." All eight paintings, which depict American life from the settling of the west to the present day, were released as limited edition prints over a three-year period, ending in January, 1995. The series has been showcased in art and consumer magazines nationwide and has been acclaimed by thousands of collectors. "Terry Redlin Paints America the Beautiful," a video, earned him a coveted Telly Award in the 1993 national competition.
Redlin's immense popularity can also be measured in the success of his book, Opening Windows to the Wild, The Art of Terry Redlin. In its sixth printing, the book details his paintings, pencil sketches and biography. Always the perfectionist, he personally supervised the printing and production of this project. A critical as well as a commercial success, the book was a Certificate of Merit winner at the prestigious Printing Industries of America competition in 1988. His second book, Terry Redlin, Master of Memories, was released in 1997 and was recently voted Best Art Book by those galleries polled for the U.S. ART survey.
Redlin's most compelling project to date may be the construction of the museum to showcase his original art in Watertown, South Dakota. The Redlin Art Center features 160 original oil paintings by Redlin as well as many prints, sketches and childhood drawings. When they were last on the market, Redlin paintings sold for $50,000 to $75,000. Now, they could be considered priceless because they are not for sale. He has not sold any originals since 1985, when he agreed to his son's suggestions that he build the museum to house them. Since opening in the summer of 1997, the Art Center has welcomed more than three million visitors from all over the world. This is Redlin's gift back to the State of South Dakota in appreciation of the scholarship he was awarded after high school, a gift he never forgot. To him, he's just making good on the advance they gave him, without which he never would have been able to continue his education. "The idea of the museum is to bring in outside tourism money for the state, to pay back what South Dakota gave me for tuition to go to art school," Redlin explained. "They grubstaked me, so I'm just paying them back now." The Redlin Art Center is open year-round and admission is free.
As if that wasn't enough, Redlin was honored in 1998 by the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota by having an elementary school named after him. Terry Redlin Elementary School opened in that fall. However, Redlin says he derives the most satisfaction from his conservation work. Over the sixteen-year period from 1981-96, his donations to Ducks Unlimited raised more than $21 million, setting an all-time record in art sales for wetland preservation projects. By his own estimate, he has donated an additional $4 million to other nonprofit conservation organizations.
After a lifetime of artistic achievements, Redlin announced his retirement from painting and print signing in 2007 due to his personal struggle with Alzheimer's disease, having accomplished what he set out to do. "I wanted to tell stories with my paintings, to remember the experiences of my youth, and to imagine and capture forever events that have been related to me by older folks I have had the pleasure of knowing," said 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."
A Note from the Artist:
"Throughout my career, I have hand-signed every limited edition print I release. Today, there are many ways for artists to market their prints as signed - even when the artist never touches the print. I have never changed my signing technique. Over the past twenty-five years, I have hand-signed literally hundreds of thousands of prints. It is important to me that you know when you buy a signed Redlin print, I am the person who signed it. My staff hand inspects every print, they hand number the limited editions, and they deliver them to me for my signature."
World Wide Art
World Wide Art is known for its wide selection of limited edition prints by renowned artists, including the luminescent works of Terry Redlin. Their expert staff also specializes in custom conservation framing. In business since 1996, World Wide Art is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a well-known art shop for both serious collectors and casual decorators. The staff at World Wide Art not only deals art, but are collectors and artists themselves who consider their work a labor of love and lifestyle of art appreciation.