QF 2015 Print of the Year: “Fenceline Quail” by Rosemary Millette

Inspiration can strike at any moment. Just ask renowned wildlife artist Rosemary Millette, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  
A case in point: Millette’s 2015 Quail Forever Print of the Year, dubbed “Fenceline Quail.” The natural setting that inspired the painting was conceived while Millette and her husband, Dave, were walking their two yellow Labs on a hiking trail at the state-run Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls. 
“I knew coming up with an idea for bobwhite quail would be a challenge, but thankfully something caught my eye that day when we were walking,” said Millette. “We don’t see a lot of quail around here anymore, but there was just something about how the branches were curved and how the dead leaves were draped that seemed like the perfect setting for a covey of quail. I think it worked out pretty well, and I’m happy with how the painting turned out.”
Millette, 61, has been a fulltime professional wildlife artist since 1980, fashioning hundreds of animals, birds and mammals, in their natural habitat. A native of Owatonna, Minnesota, Millette said she was smitten by nature as a very young child and her desire to paint soon followed, thanks to the encouragement of her parents and her older sister, Theresa, who also painted wildlife. 
“My sister has been a real inspiration and a supporter of my work,” said Millette, who started painting at the tender age of five. 
Though Millette over the years has been influenced by many wildlife artists, her hometown hero, the accomplished painter David Maas, stands a cut above the rest, particularly his widely acclaimed Misty Morning series. “I first saw the series at an art show at a public library in Owatonna and I was blown away by it,” she said. “I’ve been exposed to many artists, but David Maass is special.” 
Before her career took off, Millette attended a vocational school in Mankato, Minnesota, where she was formally trained in commercial art. She then worked seven years as a graphic designer, before moving to Sioux Falls to begin her fulltime career. 
Over the years, Millette, whose work has been chosen for more than a dozen state wildlife conservation stamps, has painted numerous North American wildlife species in their natural habitat—realistic renderings that have drawn her high praise and many awards. She said she loves painting elk and chickadees, though, she admits, “any species of wildlife is important to me.” 
“I like to flower-garden, so I really love to paint song birds because I see them so readily,” she said. “And you can’t live in South Dakota and not paint pheasants; they are so important to the state.” 
“Rosemary’s new works are always greatly anticipated and the diversity of her subjects is truly remarkable,” said Randy Eggenberger, president of Wild Wings in Lake City, Minnesota. “Her perfection of capturing upland game in their native habitat is remarkable and inspiring.” 
Eggerberger said that Millette’s paintings “are done with conservation in mind” and that “she’s especially proud to create work that can be used in fundraising efforts” for Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, among other conservation organizations. 
“In more than 30 years, Rosemary has assembled an impressive body of work that will be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Eggenberger.
While some artists lead a solitary existence, Millette’s career is shared equally with her family. In fact, she considers her husband, who is an avid outdoorsman, an instrumental partner in her work. Her son, Tony, has also shown an interest in the family business. “I rely on David a lot; his knowledge of the outdoors and habitat is second to none. We travel the countryside a lot photographing both subjects and backgrounds to be used for future paintings. I couldn’t imagine not having the support I get from my husband.”
Millette is all business when comes to her painting schedule. She’s highly disciplined and keeps a regular morning-to-afternoon routine—all the better, she said, to meet those pesky deadlines. While she’s dabbled in oil and watercolors, she prefers and almost always uses acrylic. The photographs her and her husband take, she said, provide invaluable reference material for her paintings.  
“I use the photographs as a reference and after that I draw various idea sketches in pencil,” she said, which helps her capture, and realistically portray, each animal’s physical structure and tone. “The reference material is critical in getting the natural look I want.”
Millette, who claims to rarely work weekends, said she’s blessed to be still working regularly, which, she concedes, doesn’t allow her to practice the art of yesterday—procrastination. “I learned early on to stay ahead of the game,” she said of meeting deadlines. “I’m lucky, because I have the concentration to paint hard for four or five hours straight every day.”
Asked to reflect on her career, Millette said she hopes her wildlife art will endure over time and inform generations to come, though, she admits, her legacy is something she rarely contemplates. 
“I’m just happy to be painting and contributing to the cause of conservation,” she said. “I’m pretty content with that. We’re pretty content with that. I’ve been very fortunate to make a living at something I love and can share with my family. That’s all I really need.” 
Story by Tori J. McCormick

“Fenceline Quail,” Quail Forever’s 2015-2016 Print of the Year, will be available at Quail Forever chapter banquets to help raise funds for upland conservation efforts. Hand signed & numbered “Fenceline Quail” prints (16”x24”) are also available in limited quantity (call toll free to order – 1-877-209-9916).