Artists, Authors and Makers Volume 12: Ross B. Young
I'm embarrassed to admit that I first learned of one of our generation's greatest sporting artist because I saw his work on a beer can. Yep. True story. My friends in the know were mortified. I wasn't far behind. It's a little like "discovering" U2 because I heard their music in an iPhone Commercial.
Embarrassment aside, seeing Ross's art on the side of Austin Brothers Brown Ale got me digging into his story and his paintings, and man oh man was I blown away. Eventually we struck up a conversation, and I don't think I'd be going too far in saying a friendship.
Ross is the real deal as an artist, an outdoorsman, and, most importantly, a person. Down to earth, genuine, and far too humble for the talent he possesses. I am tremendously excited to share my interview with him here, you guys are really going to enjoy this one!
Q: You are a life-long hunter and fisherman; how did you get your start?
A: "I was in diapers when my father took me to my first field trial in 1956. While obviously I don’t remember it, I guess that is when it all started. Going fishing soon followed. I caught my first mud turtle at the age of four, fishing with a steel rod and a bait casting reel that didn’t work. At six, I started following my dad and his Brittany, Tolly, hunting for pheasant, bobwhite quail and ruffed grouse at a place called High Meadows, somewhere in northern New Jersey. It was a hunt club of sorts, nothing fancy, no clubhouse or anything, just rolling farmland with wooded bottoms and hills. Gene Hill was a member and I remember meeting him in a corn patch in one of the creek bottoms. He and Dad talked for a long time, at least it seemed a long time to a little kid. Undoubtedly they had set up an after- hunt rendezvous. I remember when the hunt was over we ended up in a tavern where Dad and Gene sat at the bar having drinks and talking while I stared intently at a big, framed poster of 'Custer’s Last Stand' that was behind the bar. If experiences like those don’t get you hooked on hunting and fishing, I don’t know what would."
Q: Who were some of your influences in hunting and fishing?
A: "Obviously my dad was a huge influence on me. But so were his friends. My father hauled me everywhere with him so I was fortunate to grow up with men. All were WW II vets; tough, honest, straight-talking guys who were happy to share their love of hunting and fishing with me. There was never an utterance of 'oh, the kids with us again.' I was a quiet kid and paid attention and in return they taught me about hunting, fishing and, most of all, life. My mother was also a great influence. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s my father was away on business three weeks out of every month so my mother took up the slack by taking me fishing, visiting wildlife preserves, hiking, casting animal tracks in plaster, you name it."
Q: You were born in New Jersey, went to college in Oklahoma, and now reside in Idaho, those are very different environments. Can you touch a little on each and maybe how you ended up in Idaho?
A: "Those are indeed very different environments and I will add a few more to the list. I lived in a small town in New Jersey until the age of nine when my father took a new position in the company he worked for and we moved to a rural area east of Springfield, Missouri. After high school, I went to the University of Tulsa and received both my BFA and MA degrees in painting."
"Upon graduation, Judy and I set out to hike the Appalachian Trail (long story) and we both fell in love with Maine. We moved to Maine shortly thereafter. After 7 years, we moved back to Missouri with two kids and two dogs to be closer to family."
"Twenty years later our son started guiding for Mike Lawson at Henry’s Fork Anglers in Last Chance, ID (another long story). Judy and I found ourselves spending more and more time camping, fishing and hiking in Idaho and dreading the return trip to Missouri. A few years later Judy obtained a free flight voucher while on a business trip to Atlanta so we used it to fly to Utah to visit our son and his wife and do some skiing. We had a day off from skiing, so we drove around to explore the area when we happened upon a for sale sign on a rural road in Idaho. We turned off at the sign and drove 2 miles up a dead end gravel road, saw the house that was for sale and immediately called the realtor to take a look at it. It had everything we needed, studio space for me, office space for Judy, almost no neighbors and a million dollar view. A day later we made an offer, negotiated the deal while riding the ski lifts and sitting in the warming house. As we were boarding our flight back to Missouri, we received a call that our offer had been accepted. When we got seated I told Judy 'Shit! We just bought a house! I guess we better get our butts back to Missouri and sell our house.' It was the craziest and best thing we ever did!"
Q: You have your BFA and MA degrees in painting – when did you discover the passion/talent for painting and who were some of your influences on that path?
A: "From my earliest memories I have always loved art, both creating it and viewing it. Both of my parents were very supportive of my interest in art but in very different ways. My father was supportive as a parent should be whereas my mother was more hands on. I give her the credit for cultivating my budding enthusiasm for the visual arts at a very young age. My mother was a classically- trained musician, having studied at Eastman School of Music in New York. She had a passion for music and understood the carryover to the visual arts. While I was a total disappointment when it came to music, she saw my intense interest in the visual arts and did everything she could to nurture it. Paper and drawing supplies were always available to me. Trips to art museums and the Museum of Natural History in New York City were favorites of mine."
"That being said, I never really thought about art as a vocation until I visited the art department at the University of Tulsa. That is when it really hit me. WOW, this is what I want to do with my life. As an eighteen year old, the prospect of drawing and painting nude women for the next four years (which turned out to be six years) may have swayed my decision just a tad bit. One of my biggest influences though, was my drawing and painting professor, Carl Coker, who was like an Edward Abbey of the art world. He understood where I was coming from which was just what a country boy needed in the big city. Of all the things that Carl taught me, how to self-critique was the most important. To be honest with yourself about your work is easier said than done. When aspects of a painting aren’t right, no matter how much time you’ve put into it, one needs to correct it, wipe it out and start over or admit it was a poorly conceived idea and abandon it. I use this valuable lesson every day with my work. For this knowledge I will always be grateful to Carl."
Q: You spend a lot of time out of doors; hunting, fly fishing, hiking, training bird dogs, skeet shooting, traveling, and camping. Can you talk about how important the outdoors is to you?
A: "The outdoors is everything thing to me. Being outdoors is life affirming. It’s a feeling I have deep down inside that can’t be described but I know it means something very important and it humbles me. Being a part of nature is not just being a bystander. You must interact with it. Hunting, fishing, hiking, snowshoeing, camping etc. is the total package and essential to who I am as a person. I am very fortunate to live in a place where I can walk out my back door and hike for miles or take my gun and hunt as I please. That’s something I take very seriously and never for granted."
Q: How does that influence your work? Do you find any similarities between the “art” of fishing/hunting and the art of painting? Is there a common thread between the two that attracts you or maybe similar mindsets or skills or approaches?
A: "As I stated above the outdoors is everything to me and that includes my art. Some might think it’s a curse but everything I look at or see (there is a difference between the two) I take in through an artist’s lens. I wake up in the morning and look out the window and marvel at how the light is striking a mountain to the west. The look of a snow squall coming up the canyon or the sunset reflected on the mountains to the east. It all goes into the art box in my brain. A pretty crowded place for sure and some things might not be used for years."
"As for similarities, I would say it is all about attempting to refine your abilities. I’ll never be a great fly caster but I get by and am always looking to improve and try new techniques. I’m a pretty fair upland shot but I still find myself saying, 'slow down,' or 'keep that gun swinging,' or 'keep your damn head down.' These are all things I do with my painting as well. 'Let’s try applying this paint differently, maybe with a sponge or wipe part of that off.' 'Let’s see what shows through or lay it on thicker, damn it!' I’d say that’s life imitating art or the other way around. Personally I don’t approach my work the same way every time I come to the easel. If I did that would stagnate me. That’s also the way I hunt and fish. I like to try different approaches; it keeps things fresh. Work a dog the same way all the time and you get a machine and who the hell wants to hunt behind a machine? Not me. The same goes for my art."
Q: I don’t know if you feel the same, but I feel like all of my favorite activities (hunting, hiking, and fly fishing) all happen, or at least are at their best, at the same time of year, so tough choices here, but if you had to pick, what’s your favorite: waterfowl, upland, or fly fishing?
A: "Upland hunting hands down. I get to work my dogs and cover lots of territory. By nature, I’m a mover not a sitter. I love the partnership between man and canine and to watch a bird dog knowledgably cover the country, working edges and hitting the cover to find birds is nothing less than beauty. Duck hunting and fly fishing are a toss up; I love both for different reasons. Once again, dogs are involved with the ducks and I love to watch a lab work it’s magic on a retrieve. Plus there’s the social aspect of sitting in the blind BS’ing with your hunting partner when the action is slow. Slow can turn to warp speed excitement in a flash and ducks cupping into the decoys is a sight to behold. Fly fishing is an almost internal thing, reading the water, hunting for heads (I prefer dry fly fishing), getting into the rhythm of the fish you have selected and hooking up on the perfect cast and drift. All theoretical in my case but some times I’m in the zone."
Q: I am very much a novice in the world of upland and waterfowl hunting, but I love pointers. Having worked with some of the very best dogs in the world, what are your favorites? What dogs do you own?
A: "This is a tough one because breeds are so different and are used for different types of cover whether it is on terra firma, water or both. I have owned many different breeds and within each breed I’ve had good ones and not so good ones but, that aside, my favorite breeds are English Pointers, English Setters, American Brittanys and Labs. These breeds suit my temperament, which I think is an important consideration when one is picking a breed to own and hunt with. Right now we have an English setter, yellow lab and an ancient Brittany in the house."
Q: Tell me more about “Raven’s Roost,” the name alone makes me want to visit.
A: "Ravens are special birds for Judy and I. It all stems back to high school when I had a pet crow named Kubla (Kubla crapped in Judy’s purse once and she still kept me and the bird around and later wrote novel called Promise in which he was a main character). Kubla would fly down from a perch and land on my shoulder, talk in my ear and pull at my hair. He was just a cool bird. Where we are in Idaho there are very few crows at this elevation but we have lots of ravens that fly over and check us out. They are very curious birds and like to keep tabs on what’s going on. Couple this with the fact that Judy and I like to name places and things and we came up with Raven’s Roost for our place here."
"We started out with 10 acres, but a few years ago we purchased 142 acres directly to our west that we are maintaining for wildlife that we call Raven’s Roost Preserve. It is surrounded by thousands of acres of ranch and farmland, much of which is in CRP. National Forest and BLM is just a short walk away. This is a life time dream of mine, to protect land from development, manage it for wildlife, and be able to hunt, train dogs and hike on my own property. The feeling is amazing whenever we’re out there and seeing the diversity of wildlife. One of the first things we did was set up a guzzler so wildlife could get a drink during the dry months. We placed a game cam there and it has been amazing how many species use it; everything from mountain lions to mice, sandhill cranes to sharp-tail. Mountain lions are our alpha predator; bobcats, coyotes and fox round out the large predators. We have an elk migration route that crosses a good portion of our land; the herd population has been pretty consistent over the years at approximately 35 to 40 head. Mule deer are everywhere and moose pass through from time to time. As for game birds I am particularly interested in propagating the sharp-tail and Huns. This year we have had a very huntable population of both, which is encouraging. We also have pheasant that seemingly need no help whatsoever. I have seen ruffed grouse down by the creek but at this elevation and in the steppe that is a rarity. Of course, we have a large variety of raptors from golden and bald eagles all the way down to merlin and kestrels."
"My neighbors who have large areas of land that boarder ours completely understand what we are doing even though they aren’t bird hunters. They too love this area (their ancestors homesteaded here in the late 1800’s) and want to preserve it from development as well. As I said earlier, this is a life’s dream and it is amazing to see it coming to fruition. Feel free to visit any time the door is always open."
Q: You paint a number of different genres. Do you have a favorite? Why?
A: "I’ve never liked the idea of being pigeon holed, which happens so often in the arts. Painters, musicians and writers are all susceptible to this and it can really put a damper on creativity. I do love to paint landscapes, skies in particular because of their abstractness, lighting and hues. They also set up the entire atmosphere for a painting. Whether you can see a sky in a painting or not, the sky still dictates the look and feel of the scene. The sky or weather must always be in the painters mind. To quote Hemingway, 'Remember to get weather in your damn book – weather is very important.' Well, as far as I’m concerned the same goes for painting. So obviously landscapes play an important role in my work."
"As for a favorite genre, I can’t say I have one. My dog portraits are just that, portraits. However, I am always trying new ideas with lighting, backgrounds (landscapes) foregrounds, etc. Sporting scenes, such as upland hunting and fly fishing, are usually based on an experience I have had. These paintings allow me to use my imagination to capture the feel of the moment, not a reproduction of a specific event or place. Wildlife painting is much the same and is usually about something more than the subject. A good example is a painting I did of a mule deer in a dark grove of spruce with sun spots glowing on the ground. While on a hike I saw this doe watching me from a spruce grove but it was the sunspots that really intrigued me. The doe was the subject matter but it was the sunspots that made the scene. Without the doe hiding in the trees the sunspots would just be sunspots and look a bit silly on their own. So basically all the various genres I work in are connected in some way or another."
Q: You were quoted as saying: “What is consistent through my work is a painterly approach to the subject matter, concentrating on the way light effects a scene and my emotional reaction to it. I prefer to paint intuitively rather than methodologically, allowing each subject to dictate how I should go about the painting. This, I feel, helps me to keep the essence of the moment or subject alive on the canvas.” Can you talk me through that? Do you often paint plein air, from memory, sketches, photos?
A: "I have touched on this a little earlier. I must say it’s even hard for me to get my head wrapped around it because so much of what I paint comes from within. I see something like light skittering across a ridgeline and BAM! I need to try and capture how that looked and how it made me feel. It may end up being a landscape or I might incorporate it into a sporting scene, I never know where something will end up, but I know I’ll have light skittering across a ridgeline."
"I do paint plein-air most often when on a trip but honestly not nearly enough. It is an amazing tool and teacher for sure."
"My favorite method of painting is from memory. Who needs a camera when you have the human eye and mind to capture images? This also ties in with trying to paint my emotional response to the subject. Once seen, the mind responds and that is what interests me."
"As for sketching, most of my sketches are on the canvas under the paintings. I sketch occasionally, usually on a trip, but not as much as I once did."
"Photos? I have always disliked working from photos although I do use them for a quick reference at times. I must note here that I must use them for my dog portraits so that I get the body structure and markings correct. However, I do not copy a photo but work from a number of photos. I always draw the subject on to the canvas freehand, which insures it is my interpretation of the dog, not a copy of a photo. Photos often distort the subject, you just can’t trust them. Not to mention, if you have a fantastic photograph what is the point of copying it? Enjoy it for what it is."
Q: Talking more about your process, you say: “Time for walks throughout the week is important to clear my head, mull over projects, and keep my life in perspective. To relax I enjoy hiking, hunting, tending my flower gardens, and fly fishing. These are hobbies that feed my art as well as my soul. My life as an artist is truly prodigious." By this I assume you mean that your art is, in many ways, part of your daily life; can you explain that?
A: "Wow, that is a quote from an interview decades ago but pretty much accurate for me to this day except for the garden part. That’s all Judy’s now. These days I would not consider much of those things hobbies but simply part of my life. To that point, my art can not be extracted from what I do on a daily basis. Heck, even when I fly my homing pigeons, I’m looking at how the light and shadows form on their wings and bodies and how I would portray that in paint. Observation is such a big part of what I do as an artist. I would guess it’s the same with most artists."
Q: You’ve done some illustrating for writing, including that of your wife, Judy. In a previous interview you said: “It wasn't until Sleeping Bear Press approached me in 2000 about illustrating what ended up to be the book S Is for Show Me: A Missouri Alphabet (written by my wife Judy) that I truly had what I considered a real, sink your teeth into, illustrating project. Up until then my illustration jobs were not much different from doing a commissioned painting. S Is for Show Me gave me the opportunity to work from a manuscript and to bring the words to life visually. Illustration work is a very different approach to art than is studio painting. In illustration the technical aspects of materials, prescribed subject, deadlines, format, printing specifications and story line are dictated to me. With studio work I usually have the liberty to control these components. However, I have found it a refreshing challenge to deal with someone else's subject matter and ideas and then apply them to my own vision and style of painting or drawing.” Can you talk a little more about that…working on the writing of your wife and the difference in commercial illustration work versus studio painting?
A: "There is a funny story behind my foray into the world of illustration. I received a call from the publisher at Sleeping Bear Press. She had seen an ad I had in a magazine featuring yellow labs. Turns out she had yellow labs too and gave me a call. Gotta love dog people. She said they had an idea for a children’s book about Missouri and wanted to know if I would be interested in illustrating it. After agreeing to the particulars she said she would send me a contract right away. She then asked me if I knew of any Missouri authors that might be appropriate for this project. I thought a moment and said I didn’t know any authors and hung up the phone. Lost to me at that moment was the fact that my wife Judy had been writing, mostly poetry, for years and was aspiring to be a published author as she was getting burned out on speech pathology. I went back to painting and all of a sudden I thought, “What the hell was I thinking? Judy’s a writer!” I called the publisher right back and told her about Judy. Better late than sorry. Judy interviewed with Sleeping Bear and got the job. Once the book was published she retired from speech path and launched her writing career. To date, Judy has had 28 books published with Sleeping Bear and one is in the works as I write."
"Judy and I learned very quickly that she didn’t want me to tell her what to write and I didn’t want her to tell me what to illustrate. When we did throw ideas back and forth, it was usually on our daily walks, common ground you might call it, which worked out very well, and our marriage survived. And although I illustrated a companion book that Judy wrote, as well as some other commercial projects here and internationally, I found that commercial illustration is just not my bag. I haven’t done any in years with the exception of my work with International Paper Company who I have worked with for over 20 years. It is an annual project that I have artistic control over. In short, the difference between commercial illustration and studio painting is FREEDOM!"
Q: You say “it is the telling of the story, the conveyance of an emotion or an idea that I am after in my art. It is the ability to choose those components (composition, color, values, etc.) that will best help tell the story that counts.” This is such a simple statement, yet a complex process. You and I have talked about how all artists, at the end of the day no matter the medium, are storytellers. What inspires the stories you share through your work?
A: "For the most part it is simply personal experiences that set the table and then I take it from there. Stories don’t have to be grandiose. They can be little things, a fleeting moment. As an artist I don’t have to be a slave to the actual occurrence, I have options. I may experience something on a robin’s egg blue sky day that could be the idea for a painting, but then I think what if it was at twilight or on a stormy day? Would that tell a better story? The trout actually sipped the fly mid-stream but what if I portray the trout hammering it near a log jam? Wouldn’t that add more tension to the painting? The choices are endless. Then there is composition. Should the fisherman be placed close to the bank or further out? Should the rod break the plane of the landscape? Should it angle to move the viewer’s eye or not? All this is considered to help tell the story. I think the bottom line is if you haven’t been out there, haven’t lived it, it’s pretty hard to convince the viewer that what they are looking at feels true."
Q: Have you had mentors along your journey as an artist and/or are there other artists whose work has influenced your own?
A: "I have had many mentors, most of whom I have never met. Books, auction catalogs, galleries and museums are great places to study different artists and learn from the residue that they have left behind. In 1985 I studied with Bob Abbett at the Scottsdale Artist School. Bob was a good guy, had a fun sense of humor and had great advice on how to approach a painting. I learned a lot from him, some things I still utilize to this day and others I have tried but found not to be my cup of tea. In the mid-nineties I had the opportunity to stay a week with Walt Gonske in Taos. I would roam the mountains and valleys near Taos and paint plein-air all day. In the evenings over gin and tonics (Tanqueray only for Walt) he would look over my day’s work and critique it. What a great experience that was. Other than this, I have pretty much gone my own way."
Q: How would you describe your work or your style?
A: "I would call it Representational Impressionism."
Q: I often find art and the language around it similar to the wine world. There’s obviously good wine and bad wine, but when you get into the good wine the nuances can be subtle and often come down to personal preferences. Likely due to similar nuances (color palette, subject matter, etc.) some of my favorite pieces of yours include Broken Silence, Evening Hatch, Holding On, Gray Day at Coffee Pot, Eruption (probably my favorite of all), Sunset Grandeur, Parlor Tricks, An Open Shot, Evening Light, Lone Lodgepole, and Sounding Off. What are some of your favorite works and why?
A: "I have to admit I had to look a few of these titles up to jog my memory of which painting it was. Evening Light and Sounding Off had me stumped."
"This question is like asking which one of my kids I like best, both are very different but I love them both none the less. I see from your choices you are mainly subject driven, you like a painterly approach and you like color, which I think is great. Of the ones you chose, I really like Broken Silence, Evening Hatch, Parlor Tricks, Evening Light, and Lone Lodgepole. Notice all are late in the day settings, I love to paint that time of day, and all are based on places I’ve been."
"As for me, I have a number of paintings hanging here in the house that I have never put before the public to view. They are special to me and hopefully they will be special to whoever ends up with them when I’m gone. So I would guess those are my favorites. They all depict moments of my life and most of them are coupled with the evening palette I love to paint with. There is one work that is extra special to me. The title is The Way It Should Be. I think it is damn well-painted and it depicts the last wild quail hunt I ever went on with my father. It hangs in my studio."
Q: Your body of work is beyond impressive having painted the most distinguished sporting dogs in the world (the Nestle Purina Company commissions Ross to annually paint 18 portraits of their Outstanding Field Trial Dog Awards and sponsored Championships), boasting over 50 of your paintings in the Bird Dog Museum and Hall of Fame, a corporate client list that include such corporate giants as Nestle Purina, International Paper Company, Procter & Gamble and Bass Pro Shops, contributing illustrations to well-respected periodicals such as Gun Dog Magazine, The Covey Rise, The Ozarks Mountaineer Magazine, Shotgun Sports Magazine, Sporting Tales, Quail Unlimited, Grouse Point Almanac, and Pointing Dog Journal, and exhibiting your work in national and international art shows, galleries and museums…I say all that to ask, what are you most proud of professionally?
A: "When I was in college I came to a fork in the career road. Professors told me I should go into teaching to ensure a livelihood and paint and work with galleries in my spare time. I really wanted to be an easel painter but that course looked rather daunting to say the least."
"One summer evening my father and I were quietly sitting on his screened in porch having a drink and listening to the night sounds of the surrounding woods. I was going into my junior year and had to make some choices academically. I told him my dilemma about teaching verses easel painting. He paused for a long time, took a sip of his bourbon and said, 'Follow your heart but use your head.' No more words were spoken. I would say the thing I am most proud of professionally is that I stayed the course and followed my heart but used my head."
Q: Ok, how did you end up on beer cans in Michigan?
A: "The bird dog world runs far and wide. The brew master at Austin Brothers Brewery in Alpena, MI, happens to be a GSP guy. He wanted to have a GSP on this season’s brown ale cans so they started to look around on the Internet and saw my work. They emailed me asking if they could use my image, Doubled Down (two shorthairs and a flushing grouse) for their brown ale. I happen to be a big fan of brown ale so I told them sure, if they would use my logo (which is my signature) and send me a six pack. They sent me two six packs plus cork coasters, a church key, camo cap with their logo, labels, etc. They were fun people to work with, the label was a big hit with their customers, and the beer was fantastic!"
Q: You call your studio the Dog House – there must be a story there…?
A: "The Dog House was my studio name back in Missouri. I had converted a barn into a gallery and studio. The gallery was on the first floor and the studio was up stairs. I spent so much time out there alone that it was like I was in the dog house. Judy and I thought that was pretty apropos, plus the fact that so many dogs were painted there; it gave the name a perfect double meaning."
Q: Tell me about Arlo.
A: "Arlo is our camper, named after our favorite comic strip character from the strip Arlo and Janis."
"In 2002 on our 25th wedding anniversary on the shores of Priest Lake, ID we abandoned our tent in torrential rains, opting to sit in the truck for the night. After awhile, there was a tapping on the window. I rolled it down and a stranger standing there with an umbrella asked if we would like to come down to his camper for steak and brain mushrooms he had picked earlier in the day (yes – this sounds like something straight out of a horror movie!). The stranger was a retired truck driver, a super nice fellow and the meal was delicious and we were dry! Without talking it over between us, we both decided right then and there we had had enough of tenting and needed to get a camper. As soon as we got back home Judy went out and bought a pop-up slide-in that was dry in the rains but about as cold as a tent in winter weather."
"A number of years after purchasing “Arlo,” we were camping near Last Chance, ID, an area known for its grizzlies. One morning, we awoke to find bear tracks on the truck. As we slept, a curious bear had been separated from us by only a bit of window netting. Our heads were just inches away from the bear. Judy decided right then and there we needed a hard sided camper. It would be warmer and relatively bear proof. We went with an 18ft duel axel camper trailer, which is small and maneuverable enough to get way back into the back country. Perfect for 2 people and a dog. The new Arlo has been part of some incredible journeys, the longest being a 4 ½ month trip from Missouri to Alaska and back. It truly is a mobile studio for both Judy and I as on these trips I paint plein-air and Judy writes."
Q: Without giving away too many secrets, what are some your favorite places to hunt and fish?
A: "Without giving anything away, my favorite hunting and fishing spots are west of the Atlantic and east of the Pacific! I can tell you, though, that my hunting areas have changed over the years. Now that I am located in Idaho I pretty much hunt here and in Utah. Each area has some over lap when it comes to game bird species but typically in Idaho, I start hunting ruffed grouse and blues (dusky grouse) in September, then I move into sharp-tail and Huns the beginning of October and pheasant in November. Utah is for ducks mid-October into the first part of November, depending on when things ice up. Occasionally sage grouse and Huns and mid-winter chukar out in the desert. I have hunted in Montana but that is a long trip to take when I can hunt right here in my own backyard."
"I have fished all over Idaho chasing cutties, bows, and browns. A 15-minute drive from our house is a small impoundment that is full of crappie which Judy and I love to catch and eat. We usually have the place to ourselves. Just over the border in Utah I can go after wipers in the spring as well as tiger muskie. All in all it’s a pretty damn good deal."
Q. What is your favorite species to pursue and why?
A: "Boy that is a tough one. As for fish, I don’t have a favorite, I love catching them all. However, it’s hard to beat having a big redfish on in the Laguna Madre, what a rush! Trout are definitely my go to fish. My favorite way to pursue them would be with a dry fly. There is just something about scanning the water, picking a feeder and having the trout you’ve been stalking take your fly. Upland birds vary but I would have to say sharp-tail. They aren’t the most challenging of birds, but the fact that they usually allow the dog to work them (although they can run like the devil at times) and they are a native species and that makes them special to me. Huns and Chukar are a close second but boy are they challenging and the older I get the tougher they are to chase. I should have thrown in woodcock too and bobs and … See I told you it was a tough choice."
Q. Favorite artists. I’m always curious to know who inspires those that inspire me. So, who are some of your favorite artists (painters, musicians, writers, etc.) and why? Who inspires you?
A: "I have rather eclectic taste when it comes to the arts. Like so many things in life there are various reasons for each. Off the top of my head, for visual arts I will say Degas for his use of color and design, James Reynolds for his use of light and brush work, Charles Russell and Philip Goodwin for their story-telling ability and painting styles, Maynard Dixon and Gerard Curtis Delano for their ability to simplify a landscape down to it’s core essence, Bob Kuhn for his compositions and vast knowledge of animals (especially furbearers) and I’ll end with Modigliani who painted, what I consider the greatest portrait I have ever seen in person, Gypsy Woman with Baby which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This painting took my breath away when I saw it. There was a bench opposite the painting and I sat there for almost an hour in total awe."
"Music-wise I am all over the place and some of the new stuff I am listening to on Spotify these days I don’t even know how to categorize. Rock, Folk, Jazz, Country and Classical music about sums it up. Within each category there are musicians I love and some I can’t stand."
"As for writers I like a variety here as well. Since we don’t get TV here at Raven’s Roost, reading is a staple. I have always been a very slow reader but I do love a good book. Hemingway tops my list hands down, no explanation needed. Hampton Sides brings history to life better than any author I have ever read. A.B. Gutherie Jr., the greatest writer of the west that no one has ever heard of. His prose is smooth and quiet and his stories are told unflinchingly. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 and wrote the screen play for Shane. Robert Service and Jack London can be read over and over and their characters and adventures always seem fresh. For fun, who doesn’t like a good western by the likes of Zane Grey and Luke Short? Lately I have been reading Michael Punke, his Ridgeline is very good and Last Stand about the saving of the American Bison is a must read. And you can’t forget just a good ole Dr. Seuss story, although I’m still a bit worried about that Vug under the rug."
Q: Where can people find you and your work?
A: "Folks can find my work at rossyoung.com. As for finding me, I’m usually holed up here at Raven’s Roost when I’m not out and about enjoying the great outdoors."
Q: What’s next? Anything on the horizon you can share with us?
A: "The horizon right now is already filled with a year’s worth of commissions. However, in between commissions, I am exploring some new approaches to my spec paintings. With commissions I have to use a certain kind of medium to help dry the paint quickly so I can meet deadlines and ship dry paintings (kinda important). I’m trying to get away from using the quick drying medium as much and playing around with painting with raw paint and applied textures. I’m always trying new things out with my work so this is both fun and frustrating, but mentally satisfying."