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A conversation with Salado artist Ronnie Wells

Ronnie Wells’ reputation in the genre of wildlife sculpture and painting is unchallenged. He switched from a job as a medical illustrator to full-time independence as a working artist after Southwest Art magazine discovered him four decades ago. He has been honored by Ducks Unlimited and the State of Texas. He and his wife Patricia have operated their gallery in Salado more than 20 years.

Why do you work in your gallery?

People seem to enjoy coming in and seeing the artist at work either at the easel or sculpting table. At home, I probably could get more accomplished, but I like interacting with the public.

Why Salado?

The quaintness of Salado can’t be duplicated anywhere else. When the kids went to college, we decided we would live where we wanted and we checked out Salado. It was love at first sight.

Why wildlife as subjects?

I suppose it was growing up in a rural setting in northern Louisiana. We had a 280-acre homestead, and I had access to another 500 or 600 acres adjoining us. I just roamed, hunted, and fished all the property. Everything I love to paint and sculpt, I grew up with.

How do you attempt to distinguish your depictions of wildlife from others in the genre?

I try to describe their habitat—cattails, lily pads and, if it is South Texas, I try to incorporate prickly pear and logs, cedar stumps. For waterfowl, I try to incorporate water, even if it is a suggestive splash. I’ve spent so much time observing the way they fly and move.

Talk about your career as an artist.

For years, I was known as a painter who sculpted a little, and now I’m known as a sculptor who paints a little. Everyone wants to know which I love the most. I tell them it’s like having two children, which I have. You love them both the same; they are totally different, which they are.

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From the March 2015 issue.

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