Al Agnew has always had twin passions for nature and art. Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, he spent his time exploring the rivers and rugged hills and bringing home birds, turtles, snakes, and other creatures to study and draw. Even though there were detours along the way, including a seven year stint of teaching art to elementary and high school students, he never stopped experiencing and studying the natural world and seeking to portray his experiences on paper and canvas. By 1983, he was ready to take the plunge into art as his career.
While he continues to live in his beloved Ozarks with his wife Mary, and still roams the mist-shrouded hollows and clear-running streams of the region, his artistic quest has taken him from Alaska to Mexico, from Maine to California, and from Canada to Africa. His experiences in the wild, with sketchbook (and often fishing rod) in hand, have been the basis for his award winning and highly sought after paintings.
Al says, “I love to travel, to see and experience all the variety that nature has to offer. My goal has always been to portray the beauty and wonder of nature, whether it be a remote wilderness area or the familiar wildlife and landscape of my own backyard. To do justice to any portrayal of wildlife, I feel it is imperative that I get to know the creature and the landscape in which it lives. If one has a basic understanding of an animal and has seen and studied its habitat, ideas for paintings of that animal are unlimited.”
“I obtain my reference material from many different sources, including animals in captive situations and even our own pets—one of our two cats is lean and lanky, a real huntress, and has been the inspiration for more than one of my big cat paintings. But only familiarity with the animal in the wild can tell you what the similarities and differences with captive animals are.”
Al is renowned for his portrayals of North American and African animals, and has a special affinity for predatory birds and mammals. He also is well known for his paintings of freshwater fish in dynamic action, a result of another related passion—fishing. “The only career that I think I could enjoy as much as I do art would be to make my living as a professional fisherman. On the other hand, I’d hate for my fishing to become like work!”
Al is an ardent conservationist whose work has raised millions of dollars for such organizations as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Black Bass Foundation, and the Wolf Recovery Project. Along the way, he has earned the honor of being designated as “Featured Artist” at such prestigious national art shows as the Southeast Wildlife Expo, Pacific Rim Wildlife Art Show, NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show, the Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation Art Show and was the Special Guest Artist for the National Zoo Wildlife Art Show in Washington, D.C.
Al has exhibited internationally for a number of years at exhibitions such as Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s “Birds in Art” and “Animals, The Artist View” as well as the Society of Animal Artists “Art and the Animal” annual exhibit. He was one of only a few American artists chosen by the Malilangwe Artist Trust to spend two weeks painting in the field in Zimbabwe. His work has been featured in Wildlife Art News, U.S. Art, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Sporting Classics, In-Fisherman and North American Fisherman magazines and he has been commissioned by Bass Pro Shops to create over 100 covers for their catalogs.