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Wildlife, Kouba inspires Hutchinson artist

If you ask the people of Hutchinson who is the most famous wildlife artist who made his home here, they would probably say Les Kouba. In fact, there are signs around the city proclaiming Hutchinson as the birthplace of Les Kouba. However, there is another wildlife artist who makes Hutchinson his home and his name is Richard “Dick” Schiebel. He doesn’t want to be compared to or compete for the recognition that Kouba has captured in Hutchinson. He just considers Kouba as an inspiration to his art career. Schiebel got to meet Kouba for the first time after Schiebel finished his 4-year Navy stint in 1966. The meeting took place at Kouba’s gallery in downtown Minneapolis and they shared their experiences of growing up in the Hutchinson area. “I spent my life pursuing the things I love to do,” Schiebel said: Hunting ducks, painting ducks and sculpturing ducks. “I’ve done everything in my life with ducks except marry one.” From an early age, Schiebel was able to push a pencil around. “I started out drawing airplanes and tanks when I was about 10 years old,” he said. “My friends and classmates started paying me ten cents a picture. One time I got a quarter. I felt rich.” “One day I came home from school with a Bristol board and paint by number paints from art class. And then for years I followed the Sunday Picture magazine and came across illustrated pictures by Les Kouba. That was my first real exposure to a professional wildlife artist.” Schiebel became interested in wildlife when his father, Harlan, took him and his brother, William, duck hunting back in 1955. Dick was only 12 years old at the time and was taken along at first as an observer. When he was in the 7th grade he received a model 97 Winchester shotgun, and would be given one shell when he entered the blind. His first bird he remembers well, a drake mallard taken with a neat pivot from his shell-box seat. Hunting with his father and brother lasted only two years. It was in December of 1957 when his dad took ill and died unexpectedly at the Hutchinson hospital. His dad was 42 years old at the time of his death and Dick was only 14. Dick didn’t have too many hours with his father, but the interest he helped kindle was to grow to be a passion. “It was almost two years to the day after my father passed away that I started drawing wildfowl. My first legitimate painting of wildlife geese was Oct. 29, 1959. It was a crude painting. But it was a start. It was a picture of Canada geese done with leftover paint-by-number oils on a sheet of Bristol board I got from my art class in school,” he recalls. He finished high school in 1962 and enlisted in the Navy for four years. While in the Navy he took correspondence courses in the Famous Artist School in West Port, Connecticut. “I sailed through those first half dozen lessons with ease and I received a letter from the directors that my work showed a high degree of promise and they were going to keep an eye on me,” Schiebel said. “The progression of the course went from the fundamentals of commercial art to all of the things that I did not find interesting … so I quit.” That was the only formal training Schiebel had to become an artist. “I’ve never became accustomed to classroom instruction,” he said. In August of 1966, Schiebel finished his time with the Navy and came back home. “My carving career had its roots about a year after I got out of the service,” he said. “I was carving a duck with the idea of taking on the possibility of making my own decoys.” His work became known as masterful decoys and he won many awards. For 10 years he went to Maryland in the 70s and 80s to enter his carvings in the World Championship Decoy Carving Contest. In his second year of competition he took second place. Requests for his gunning decoys have come from as far away as Canada. Schiebel estimates he has carved hundreds of decoys of various grades from the gunning decoys all the way up to the highest level of carving. “We call them the ‘Full House Decoratives’,” Schiebel said. For a period of 15 or so years he worked at various jobs in the area, including time with an area telephone company. While working these various jobs he developed a customer base for his artistic work. In 1982 he came to the conclusion that he had developed a customer base and decided to go out on his own and start his own business. That marked the beginning of becoming a professional artist. “I never started the business with the idea of making a million dollars. For whatever reason its never been one of my priorities to make a million dollars. I have always been content with simply doing enough work to maintain my life, keep the bills paid and the walls around me. My driving passion my whole life is to just get from one waterfowling season to the next and the next. Some are of the opinion that I squandered my talent. In my opinion, I probably have. I didn’t want it cutting into my precious time in the outdoors with the ducks.” Schiebel has used his talent to help others as well. He contributes his work to organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Wild Turkey Federation, fishing clubs and many others. Ducks Unlimited gives out Golden Door Plaques to donors each year. Schiebel paints a duck picture on each of the plaques before they are given to the recipients. Last year he painted 40 plaques for DU. “Throughout my whole life, if I became interested in something I would excel in it. If I wasn’t interested … it just doesn’t exist. If I ever become famous it will be an accident,” he said.

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