WORKS BY WILDLIFE ARTISTS, WAYNE WILLIS
A retrospective exhibit of the late M. Wayne Willis’ artwork will be on display at the Coutts Memorial Museum of Art, 110 N. Main, El Dorado, beginning April 1, 2010. A public reception will be held on Friday, April 9 from 6 – 8 p.m. Toni Jackman, daughter of the artist, will give a talk about her father and his work at 7 p.m.
M. Wayne Willis was born in eastern Kansas and spent part of his youth in Maryland and Virginia. In both environments he was constantly exposed to the sportsman’s life and spent every available moment hunting, fishing, and in the outdoors sketching and drawing wildlife. This assisted in developing his exceptional ability to illustrate from nature.
Wayne’s remarkable aptitude for painting stemmed from his desire to recapture his experiences in the field, for he was an ardent sportsman and conservationist. His oils portray a vividness and realism that sportsmen easily relate to, and others recognize. He ranks among the top wildlife artists in the country and is considered by many to be the premiere quail painter. He was always enamored by wildlife, especially wild fowl and their back country haunts. For 60 years he captured every movement of game birds on paper, canvas and in wood. His paintings take you to the backwoods, to enchanted water holes and across spring-fed creeks. Anyone can appreciate his scenes and the wildlife caught in action, but the sportsman appreciates his artistry most of all. His art takes you to those special places on days when you cannot go.
Wayne’s art training persisted throughout his education, including junior college where he won a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute. He was there only a short time before going into the Army during World War II. After the war, he continued his art training in Germany, spending almost a year studying, painting and wood carving under the guidance of two German instructors in fine arts.
Wayne was active in the Wichita, Kansas Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. He was a National Honorary trustee and in 1986 was presented with the prestigious Palette and Chisel Award for his generous contributions in support of Ducks Unlimited conservation programs. His donations helped them raise over $1,000,000 for their programs on the North American Continent. He supplied hundreds of prints to D.U. Chapters and demands for his litho prints have become increasingly heavy and have proven to be very popular throughout the country.
Wayne’s contribution to conservation continues today. In 1992, former Kansas Governor Mike Hayden, Community Leaders in Kansas, and the Willis family created the Wayne Willis scholarship fund, now the Wayne Willis Wildlife Foundation, partially funded by the annual “Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt” and auction. All monies raised go to support university students enrolled in Wildlife Management programs. A portion of the money raised by selling the Willis family’s collection of lithographic prints also goes to the Foundation.
Wayne was also honored by being selected to do the First State of Kansas Quail Stamp by Quail Unlimited, Inc., and the Kansas Fish and Game Commission. In 1985, he was commissioned by the Kansas Department of Economic Development to do the first print and stamp for the Kansas Wildlife Art Series. His paintings have been used to illustrate numerous books and articles on wildlife and the environment.
Wayne divided his time between his studio and his ranch near Eureka, Kansas. There he raised wild Maxima Canada geese for the Kansas Fish and Game Commission’s Restoration Program and received one of his greatest thrills in watching the wild geese fly overhead and land on the lake beside his cabin. The ranch continues to be managed for wildlife by his daughters.
This exhibit will be on display at the museum through May 19, 2010. The public is invited to enjoy the exhibit by attending the reception on April 9 or anytime during regular museum hours Monday – Saturday. The museum is free and open to the public. FMI: 316-321-1212.