Les Brown–Advice for Wildlife Painters

What is your name? Any nicknames?
Leslie Morris Brown (aka, Les). Shortened to Les because I kept getting my mail addressed to “Miss,” “Mrs.”, “Ms.” I was once nominated for “Who’s Who among American (something or other) Women.”

What is your occupation? If retired, can you tell us from what?
Retired biology/geology professor, Gardner-Webb University. Now with the “you are over the hill” title of Professor Emeritus.

How old are you?
I’m proud to say I have lived 76 and 5/12 years. People say I don’t look that old, which I take to mean 39.

Where do you live?
I live with my beloved wife, Joyce, in the metropolitan one stop-light city of Troutman, NC, near Lake Norman and NASCAR stuff.

Do you have a website or a blog or a Twitter account or anything where people can learn more about you?
Only the seldom viewed: lesbrownsart.com

I’m very much impressed with your art, and thanks for permission to show this example.  Can you give us some advice for wildlife painters?
First and foremost, don’t try to paint “plein air,” that is, from life in the field. The critters run or fly away. Audubon shot his birds and stuffed them. Please don’t do that. I like birds. Loose sketching in the field is okay to then take to the studio for further work. However, if one is an abstract artist, go for it, in the field, with pen and ink in boring meetings, anywhere except while driving. Henry or I may be on the road.

Actually, bird paintings are an easy place to start. Unlike painting people who all look different, birds of each species look pretty much alike. If you can paint one male cardinal, you can paint all male cardinals. I try to find some interesting background for my wildlife paintings. I have lately been enamored with trying to paint water for my shorebirds. This is a true challenge.

I paint with acrylic, mostly for convenience. They don’t have the mineral spirit, maybe lung-rotting, odor and they clean up with water. The downside is that acrylics dry fast. There is a learning curve to dealing with the fast drying.

Don’t expect to earn a living painting. Everybody and all of their neighbors are painting and writing. Do expect to accumulate a large number of paintings, each of which you think is brilliant, but others may be harder to convince. Expect the question, “What am I going to do with all of these?” Your children will not want them and likely will have no interest in your soulful efforts. One solution is to paint over them again and again. You will still have all of your paintings in thin layers on your canvases.

Painting, drawing, writing or any other creative effort is a great stress reliever and time waster for anyone, especially retirees like me. And, who knows, you may become the next Jackson Pollock.

Thank you, Les! Can you tell us the most interesting place you’ve visited?
Long ago, we had the great privilege of going to Kenya and Tanzania. I thought it would be the Mecca for a biologist, and it was. But, the greatest part of it was interacting with the people, including the Masai. Also, the gentleman who led the trip was Dr. Jack Partain of the Religion Department of Gardner-Webb University who had lived in Kenya for many years as a Baptist missionary. He was venerated by the people we met as a great compassionate man. His mission was to bring Christianity to the people within their own culture, without trying to intimidate them with “hellfire and damnation” rhetoric. He believed in compassionate, Christ-like, assistance and love for the incredibly poor people of those nations. He was the embodiment of what I believe missions should be about.

Your favorite meal?
No contest; a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For a little more up-scale, I would go for grilled salmon with appropriate trimmings.

Pet peeve?
Mean people

Favorite television show?
Big Bang Theory for comedy and Chicago PD for drama, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for what-ever category it falls into.

Favorite book?
Whatever I’m reading when asked!

What would that be at the moment?
“Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told,” by Tom Phelan. I just finished it. It is a little totally Irish gem, character driven with humor and a mystery background.
“A Sand County Almanac,” by Aldo Leopold is among my all-time favorites because of its wonderful environmental message and lyrical passages. It, along with “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, made enormous impact on fueling the great environmental movement and national environmental consciousness that is now under attack.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…..?
I would prefer that people pray for those in greater need than I, and for the healing of our nation divided. I can always use prayers for helping me to be a decent person.

Are you married or have you been? Any kids? Grandkids?
Married to my beloved poet, Joyce Compton Brown. I give her credit for any success I have had in life. I was pretty much of a goof-off in high school and my first year in college. Then I met Joyce. I changed quickly and never looked back. We have two grown-and-gone daughters, Melissa and Michelle. And we have one granddaughter, Anna.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
I can turn my tongue over and roll it into a tube. Does that count? I play harmonica and fiddle so badly that the sound (not music) never leaves our house.

The world is the poorer for the loss of your music, sir. If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
All of my time now is spare. I keep up my weedy lawn, fix household things that are within my limited skill set, doctor my cats. I would like to take more art courses and travel more.

Can you tell us something about your cats?
We have two cats, but likely not for long. Our little rescue tabby, appropriately named Lovey, with one cauliflower ear and abbreviated tail from a previously hard life, now, after living the good life for about twelve years, is suffering from kidney failure. She was supposed to pass to kitty heaven about a month ago, but she is now on her fourteenth life. We were poised to have her euthanized, but on the way to the vet, she was on my lap, looking out the car window. Our hearts broken, we turned back. We hydrate her every other day, poke pills in her mouth and give her lots of love that she returns. She is holding her own, doing normal cat things. I found the little emaciated kitty with a skink hanging out of her mouth a couple of days ago. She didn’t want to give it up.

Our younger fur-baby weighs about fifteen pounds, eats like a pig and leaves a carpet of fur all over the house. She is also a rescue, likely part Maine Coon gray and white, named Gracie. Our cats are prone to attach themselves to me. I’m a cat magnet, but I’m trying to encourage Gracie to adopt Joyce. When Lovey is gone, we will have a problem. Gracie did not get the cover-it-up gene for litter box etiquette. Thus Lovey, the extremely tidy kitty, covers Gracie’s “gifts.”

Something to look forward to, I suppose. Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
I enjoy writing. I have had a few short stories and poems published. I had my DNA test done and found that I have absolutely no Cherokee genes (a family belief), but I’m one third British, one third Irish and about twenty some percent Viking (Scandinavian) and traces of other European. Somewhere along the line, I lost the urge to pillage. I am also a relative of the great American author, Thomas Wolfe.

On behalf of civilized society, we’re grateful that the pillaging urge has dissipated. Thanks much for letting us get to know you a little bit, and may the Lord guide your adventures. Take care!