Internationally known as one of the world's foremost painters of wildlife, Les Kouba's
deep understanding of the subject stems from his
youth on a Minnesota farm.
Impressed by the beauty of nature at an early age, he
was afforded ample opportunity to observe and study wildlife in their natural habitat.
At 14, Mr. Kouba
natural artistic talent with a correspondence school art course.
The guidance of professional art instruction was invaluable in helping develop his
own unusual technique which immediately identifies his
exciting oils, and dynamic water colors are known worldwide and reputed to be some of the most authentic portraits of wildlife existence.
In addition, Mr. Kouba's
works have appeared on the covers if many national magazines, as illustrations for outdoor books and he
is nationally known as an award winning package designer.
has also gained fame as the designer of Federal Duck Stamps
An extremely active supporter of "Ducks Unlimited," an international organization of sportsmen who foster the propagation of waterfowl, Les
says "Ducks have been good to me. . .I want to be good to them."
contributions in artwork to Ducks Unlimited now exceeds his
goal set for $1,000,000.
He is the Founder and Director of American Wildlife Art Galleries of Minneapolis, which houses one of the largest collections of original wildlife art in the Nation.
The gallery exhibits hundreds of vividly exciting water color and oil paintings by famous American wildlife artists.
Leslie C. Kouba, dean of Minnesota's wildlife artists, is a self-made man who describes himself as 52 percent businessman and 48 percent artist.
"I've made my way in this world by following three principles: First, pick the thing you like to do best; then, learn everything you can about it; and finally, be willing to work harder than anyone else in that field.
secret to success: work.
It's that simple."
Les Kouba is a celebrity who loves the public.
If you happen by the American Wildlife Galleries in the Plymouth Building on Sixth Street in downtown Minneapolis, there is a good chance you will meet him.
the guy who wears confidence like a second set of clothes.
gray hair is slicked straight back off the forehead.
trifocal glasses perch on his
nose above a mustache waxed to a razor sharp point.
bolo tie is looped around his
shirt collar and his
customary plaid sports jacket hangs on a rack in the corner.
blue eyes flash and sparkle as he
spins yarns and dispenses bits and pieces of homespun wisdom to anyone within earshot.
At 71, Kouba
Comfortably sitting in his
favorite chair, Kouba
leans back and with a twinkle in his
says: "You know, this rooster was hatched during a big snow storm.
Those were the days," says Kouba
, " when you had a handful of chickens, a patch of dirt for a vegetable garden, a few pigs and a dozen milk cows.
You tried to scratch out a living any way you could.
My Grandpa Philipi, my mother's father, had 120 colonies of bees, and, as you well know," says Kouba
with a hearty laugh, "that's a pretty sweet business selling that honey stuff."
The farm not only provided the Kouba family with a means to earn a living, but it also served as a never-ending playground for three active boys.
, with brothers Harry and Ernie in tow, often roamed the surrounding fields and woods absorbing the lessons of nature as they went along.
was just a mutt, nothing fancy, but I loved him all the same," says Kouba
"My father," continues Kouba
, "contributed to my early appreciation of nature.
decided early in life that farming wasn't for him.
"I knew I could draw when I was about 8 years old.
I think I made up my mind about then that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.
In fact," says Kouba
, "many of the buildings on the farm still show traces of my early enthusiastic attempts at painting.
And I was quite convinced I was on the right track when I sold my first painting at age 11 to a prosperous German farmer who lived near Hutchinson.
"That first painting was of a deer at the water's edge with some pine trees in the background," remembers Kouba
"I sold that painting for eight dollars, a king's ransom in those days," says Kouba
"It doesn't seem like much by today's standards, but keep in mind that was in 1928, 'when a dime was as big as a wagon wheel.' To put it into perspective, my father's total income from his
dairy business was $22 for the month."
That early sale went a long way in convincing Kouba's parents that his
artistic skills were worth developing.
Art talent, however, was nothing new to Kouba's father, Tony.
had the gift to draw and his
father-in-law, Grandpa Philipi, was quite a penman "beautiful Spencerian script and calligraphy.
was also a master cabinet maker and carpenter," remembers Kouba
"My brother Ernie was a real good artist, too.
I asked him once why he
hadn't stayed with it.
said: 'I'll tell you why.
I'd do a painting and then I'd look at yours and I figured, forget it.
I'd never catch up with that dude."' Delores Saar, a childhood friend of Kouba's
, remembers visiting one day and being greeted with a bed sheet stretched across the wall.
and his brother Harry were always into one thing or another," says Saar.
drew pictures of an airplane in different positions on a piece of glass.
The strip of glass was inserted into the 'projector,' a device made from a flashlight and a handful of other odds-and-ends.
By moving the glass strip, the image of the airplane was projected onto the 'screen' giving the illusion that the airplane was moving across the wall.
It was really something."
Kouba's parents supported Les's interest in art by enrolling him at age 14 in a correspondence course sponsored by the Federal Schools
"The name has been changed since I went there," says Kouba
"It's now known as Art Instruction, the 'Draw-Me' school.
It offers all the basics but it doesn't overly influence technique.
You don't end up painting like your instructor.
I really learned a lot from that school.
I will always be thankful that I had the opportunity to take the course.
"Many artists I've found today," says Kouba
, "could benefit from some of those early lessons."
adds, "this correspondence course was a wonderful opportunity for me.
Book - The Legacy Of Les Kouba
Fog Blocks And Bills Trilogy By Les Kouba
Redheads Battle Snow Trilogy By Les Kouba
1940 Armistice Day Storm by Les C Kouba
1958 - 59 Federal Duck Stamp (original vintage print ) by Les Kouba
1967-1968 Federal Duck Stamp Print by Les C. Kouba Framed
1981 Bass Research Foundation Stamp Print by Les C Kouba
1991 Halloween Mega Storm by Les Kouba
A Blaze Of Glory By Les C Kouba
A Century Of Redheads Over Lake Titloe By Les C. Kouba
A Century Of Redheads Over Lake Titloe By Les Kouba Framed
A Man Outstanding In His Field By Les Kouba
A Saga Of Duck & Goose Hunting Clothbound Book By Les C Kouba