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John Potter Nature Painter.jpg

Montana Artist Makes a Living Painting in Nature

Posted by L. Woodrow Ross on June 8, 2017

John Potter spends his time deep in the woods of Montana, painting nature scenes for a living.

Here are two other favorite artists Rethink:Rural has profiled:

John Potter always had an interest in drawing, from the age of 3 or 4 years old. One of his art teachers told him in those early years that he did not have the talent to succeed in art. He was determined to prove her wrong and, many years later, his work shows that he did.

Twenty years as an illustrator in Billings, Montana, helped to refine Potter’s skills before he decided to devote fulltime to his art. Most of his work is wildlife and landscape art, and he is inspired by the beautiful surroundings of Red Lodge and Yellowstone National Park.

On a recent visit to the 35th Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina, my wife, Margaret, and I were viewing the vast display of art exhibits and met this very colorful individual. Seeing that he was from Red Lodge, Montana, one of our favorite getaways, we had to stop to speak with him.

The first time we passed through Red Lodge, about 20 years ago, was Father's Day weekend. Our first time in Montana, we were traveling from Billings to Red Lodge and from there to West Yellowstone. Red Lodge is the "jumping off place" prior to traveling the famous Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone National Park.

We have since made this trip on a number of occasions and have spent a few nights in Red Lodge. Our normal schedule includes shooting a lot of photos, fly fishing and just enjoying the scenery, which includes some awe-inspiring vistas as well as a marvelous population of wildlife.

Potter Nature Artist.jpgI had an ulterior motive in talking to Potter, since we are planning to be in Red Lodge in October of this year. It was a chance to learn about some of the "secret" hot spots for fishing near his home.

Potter is a Native American of the Ojibwa tribe. He was dressed in casual attire, with a red bandana around his forehead. He had long hair and made a striking impression. And, sure enough, he has some favorite areas that he frequents, with subjects such as grizzly bears, elk, deer, antelope and other species. Early morning and late afternoon shadows help define the images and he is often found at work there.

My wife has warned me about the possibility of encountering a grizzly while fly fishing, so it was no surprise when she asked Potter if he had ever had any bad encounters. He said, "Once when I was painting, a grizzly approached. I backed away slowly. He sniffed my easel and paints for a few moments before swatting it into a mass of splintered wood. That seemed to satisfy him and he turned and moved casually away from the area."

Potter said he was inspired by the art of Carl Runguis and Clyde Aspervig. Runguis was a German wildlife artist (1869-1959) whose art was similar in nature to Frederic Remington. Aspervig lives in Bozeman, Montana, and had a great admiration for those who expressed "emotional intensity" in their work. This is a trait also reflected in Potter's art.

Potter has a great appreciation for nature and animals that shines through in his work. He strives to capture the personalities of the animals and recognizes their moods and needs, such as hunger, comfort and their relationship with the landscape.

John Potter's art is available at his gallery in Red Lodge, Montana as well as Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson, WY; Legacy Gallery in Bozeman, MT; and Mountain Trails Fine Art in Santa Fe, NM.

We felt a strong connection to Potter and believe that he speaks from his heart. He has a great appreciation for nature. His assurance and calm nature makes conversing with him a pleasure.

We hope to see him again soon in Red Lodge.

L. Woodrow Ross

L. Woodrow Ross lives in upstate South Carolina with his lovely wife Margaret. As a freelance writer and photographer, he has written more than 500 articles for local newspapers and contributed to South Carolina Sportsman and Traditional Archer magazines and a number of online resources. In addition, he has 16 books on Amazon Kindle on topics such as how-to outdoor books, a historical novel, a suspense novel, an Alaska travel guide and more. He is a primitive and survival skills instructor and enjoys most things involving outdoor sports.

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