Part II: Finding a Dream Buck

This post is Part II in the series: Behind the Scenes of Dream Bucks III. This series of posts chronicles the development of my upcoming painting, Dream Bucks III, the third and final piece in the Dream Bucks series. Click here to see all posts about Dream Bucks III.

Even prior to finishing Dream Bucks II - The Missing Trophy, I was already searching for a subject for its sequel, Dream Bucks III. Living in Iowa and knowing many serious deer hunters, coming up with a list of potential candidates was not difficult. However, with the multitude of great bucks this state produces, deciding which particular trophy to paint can be a challenge.

Things got a little easier by late October 2008. Photos of a tremendous buck started appearing on the internet. At least a dozen friends forwarded the photos to me to ensure I knew about the buck taken by a bowhunter in eastern Iowa.

After a couple phone calls, I found myself talking to Kyle Simmons, a pleasant young man from Jackson County, Iowa. You can read the story of Kyle's hunt in an article from North American Whitetail here.

After discussing the concept for the Dream Bucks series, Kyle was interested in the possibility of having his buck featured in the upcoming painting. We agreed on a time and place where I could see the buck in person and take photographs.

Once I arrived and Kyle pulled out the rack, it didn't take long to realize I was looking at a remarkable set of antlers. The rack was not only going to score well, but more importantly, it was very impressive visually. It was everything an artist wanted!

Unfortunately, it had taken me longer than I anticipated to get to Kyle's place, so I had to work fast to get photos before the sun hid behind a cloud bank moving in from the west.

The initial visit and photo-shoot was followed by numerous phone conversations, but it was challenging to arrange for a follow-up photo session while the rack was being cast for reproductions and being mounted by Joe Meder of Solon.

During this period, I considered, literally, dozens of compositions. I found a number of combinations I liked initially, but that would not work for this painting. I needed a strong composition, but the background had certain requirements beyond those of an artistic nature.

Over the years, I've partnered with many conservation groups. Since I now do my own color work and printing in-house, we've developed some creative ways to help conservation groups maximize their fundraising efforts.

Starting with Dream Bucks II, I have been customizing the painting and creating a unique image and edition for each of several conservation groups. For example, the prints in the Iowa Pheasants Forever edition have several added rooster pheasants, unique to this edition. The Iowa Ducks Unlimited edition has a number of wood ducks included, inconspicuously. Some editions include wild turkey. By offering a unique design, conservation group chapters have been able to raise increased funds for great causes.

That brings me to the complications introduced for me, as the artist designing each painting. It needs to be a composition that not only works well for the main focal point, the buck, but also one that provides a natural setting for turkey, pheasants, and waterfowl to share the scene, as well.

After many trials and much evaluation, I finally settled on one painting design. Also, I was able to see both Kyle and the trophy again at the Iowa Deer Classic recently, and I used this opportunity to take more photos of the rack in better lighting conditions.

[I will add some photos here as soon as they’re copied off my camera.]

I am currently in the process of painting the original, and I hope to have it done soon. After all, spring is coming soon, which means habitat management and prepping for this year's food plots!

In my next post, I'll show you the design for Dream Bucks III and explain how the particular composition was developed.