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Michael Sieve

Minneapolis Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), February 18, 1990,
Sports Sec., Metro Edition,  Pg. 13C
Author: Ron Schara, Staff Writer

Drawing on his experience, wildlife artist Sieve, a natural when it comes to outdoors.
Houston, Minn. - Like the whitetails he loves to paint, Michael Sieve also is at home on an oak ridge in southeast Minnesota.
In fact, Sieve's art studio is on Oak Ridge, a high and winding limestone plateau littered with rich oak draws that reach like fingers into fields of corn and alfalfa.
For a whitetail, the rolling limestone bluff country, with its brush thickets and handy corn yields, is easier duty than a zoo, and there's not a timber wolf for 300 miles.
And for one of the nation's premier deer artists, the scene beyond Michael Sieve's studio is . . . well, picture-perfect. Sunsets and scenic horizons. Whitetail meadows and wooded trails.
Oh, so natural. But so is Sieve.
"I remember drawing when I was 4. I could always draw," he recalled the other day, shrugging his shoulders and dabbing his oil brush on a painted pack of Canada wolves.
Easy for him to say.
In a field crowded with Minnesota talent, Sieve, at the relatively young age of 38, has painted his way toward the top of wildlife artistry. While the richest purse, the federal duck-stamp design, has eluded him (and he does ducks very well), Sieve's forte clearly is large mammals, notably the deer family.
"That's Michael's strength, and he's recognized as a mammal artist," said Bill Webster, an authority on wildlife art who founded Wild Wings, one of the nation's largest dealers of sporting art.
"I remember when he walked in to see me, a kid out of school, with five paintings. I think he was about 23. You could see already that his art was good," said Webster, who has seen them all.
If Sieve can turn canvas oil into whitetails, there is another reason
besides talent.
"He's a student of the woods," Webster said.
Call it a conservative description.
Sieve is the consummate deer watcher. He sits for hours in deer stands, hikes deer trails by the miles, maps deer hangouts by the dozens.
He's a deer hunter beyond avid, stalking with bow and arrow. When the bow seasons end, he stalks with a camera.
His newly built studio near Oak Ridge is stashed with deer antlers that Sieve will use for models. On the back deck, he has built a deer-hunting stand for practicing, an elevated perch to sharpen his arrow-shooting skills.
"I suppose I've got about 100,000 slides of everything from deer
trails to western skies," Sieve said.
Indeed, Sieve knows his deer. And then he paints.
And it shows.
Raised in Wilmont, Minn., a small southwest farming community, Sieve credits his father with the introduction to the outdoors. "My father hunted a lot, but I guess I was just interested in wild animals," he said.
After high school, Sieve's plans to enter the advertising field were sidetracked when he flunked a college accounting course. "My accounting instructor took me aside and gave me a little advice," Sieve said. "He said I should be a painter."
Sieve tried the commercial-art course work, but there was one problem: "I couldn't stand the assignments." He ended up butchering cattle in a slaughterhouse and living the life of the starving artist who painted at night and dreamed of richer days.
"My goal was to save $10,000 so I could live for a year and paint," Sieve said.
He made the goal. In 1984, he also got a break by winning the Oregon duck-stamp contest, a feat he accomplished three times. Other organizations - the Minnesota Deer Hunters, Iowa's Bowhunters, the Minnesota Conservation Federation - also recognized his talents with limited-edition print programs.
In a 10-year period, Sieve produced 38 oil paintings that were reproduced as limited editions, 21 of which have sold out.
While Sieve believes, and rightly so, that his skills make him more than merely "a deer artist," his whitetail paintings lead the sold-out list. Yet his collectable works include caribou, moose, song birds, waterfowl and wild turkey.
On Sieve's easel the other day was an oil rendition of timber wolves, a pack of canine hunters in the rugged Rockies of Canada howling under a  full moon.
Why wolves?
"No reason. I just spent a month in Canada, and I happened to come across a huge wolf track," he said.
Presto, an inspiration.
"I paint what I want to paint. And that's why I don't do commissions. I guess I don't take orders well," Sieve said.
In the artist's view, the success of his whitetail paintings stems from his intimacy with the topic. "I'd say my paintings are very experience-oriented," he said. "If you spend any time in the woods, you'll see the deer I'm painting.
"I simply show people what I've seen."
It means spending time in the field. Sieve recently explored Africa for six weeks and Canada for a month, and he typically bow hunts deer or hikes deer country for 40 days or more.
Sieve also understands the mystique of deer hunting: the dream buck. And so he painted one.
"Dream Buck" is the title of his latest effort. But it's not all imagination. An actual set of antlers, old and chewed, was used as a model for the buck of every hunter's dream.
It's the eyes of the buck that capture, however.
The giant whitetail is looking back over its right shoulder, staring in your direction. The buck is not alarmed.
All of which means you're probably too late to bag the trophy in Sieve's brush strokes.
Obviously, Sieve's dream buck saw you first. Bucks usually do.

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