Friday, February 1, 2019

Get To Know The SAA Board & Staff

Insights Into Current SAA Leadership ~ Part I

~ Reneé Bemis ~

     Reneé Bemis lives in St. Charles, Illinois and has been an SAA Signature Member since 1991. She is the current SAA President and a Distinguished Signature Member. Reneé started working as a professional sculptor in the late 1980s.  Something important she has learned in her life is to "pivot" and that "change" is exciting. She started out with aspirations of being a professional golfer after having gone to college on a full golf scholarship, and for a few years after college stayed an amateur, but played in some professional events, including two U.S. Opens. Reneé was a member of the golf team representing the USA in Israel for the Maccabiah Games, where she won the gold medal! Her first pivot, was when she realized she wasn't going to turn professional and started playing in clay.  She began creating subjects she was extremely familiar with, and being an avid fisherman, her first sculpture was of a Marlin. Upon walking into a store that sold marine goods, she asked to speak to the owner and proceeded to sell her first piece while it was still in clay. Reneé never looked back, and over the last 30 years she has had the honor of working with some of the most amazing people, which have enriched her life and she cherishes all of those moments.  

She has proudly served on the SAA board since the mid 90s, having served as the Treasurer for a long time, until  being asked and humbly accepting to be the SAA President in 2014. She absolutely loves working with the diverse group of the most creative artists, which she has enjoyed getting to know, and for those which she has not had the pleasure of meeting, she looks forward to meeting you sometime in the near future!  Reneé’s second pivot was in 2012, when she and her husband started a distillery in Baraboo, Wisconsin in conjunction with their other occupations. They create hand crafted spirits, bourbon, rye, vodkas, gins, brandy and a few specialty barrels, having over 5000 barrels aging in their rick houses and are considered one of the top five craft distilleries outside of Kentucky. They are also very proud to be a sustainable distillery, grain to glass and back to farm, recycling 100% of the water and spent grains that go into making their spirits. Last year, their distillery was #316 on the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies in the country as well as #280 on Entrepreneur’s 360 best privately-owned businesses in America.

Reneé loves fishing with her husband Brian

~ Brent Langley ~

      Brent lives in Edwardsville, Illinois and has been an SAA Signature Member since 2008.  He currently serves as the SAA Secretary.  He grew up in Wichita, Kansas, part of the "Great American Desert" as it was called in the 19th century, when the fertile, biologically diverse prairie looked very unappealing to European and east coast migrants who were used to cooler, moist climates.  But as a young boy with interests in art and nature, the surviving prairie ecosystem, especially a nearby undeveloped flood-control canal with water for ducks and geese, grassland with meadowlarks and dickcissels, and cottonwood groves for woodpeckers and orioles, was very appealing.  

As Brent grew older, exposure to the works of Louis Fuertes and Walter Weber provided a level of excellence to strive for.  But art remained a hobby until he retired from a career with the U.S. Government and, assisted by seminars with John Seerey-Lester, Paco Young, and Robert Bateman, began a second career as a wildlife artist.  Now he and his wife/best friend/best art critic/birder par excellence Barbara Scott, travel to natural areas throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world where they gather reference material for paintings.  Brent is honored to be a member of one of the world's great art institutions, the Society of Animal Artists.  His goal is to produce works of art that remind us of the beauty and diversity of life on this planet, and that it will hopefully instill the desire to preserve it.  

Brent with his wife Barb, in Denali National Park

~ Bob Mason ~ 

     Bob Mason lives in Berthoud, Colorado and is a non-artist SAA Board Member, providing financial counsel to the Board as the SAA Chief Financial Officer. He has an MBA in Finance and worked for several corporations as a business manager, audit manager, technology manager and telecommunications director before retiring in 2001. Bob’s first exposure to the SAA was when his wife, Diane, became a signature member in 2002.  Bob went to his first annual exhibition opening weekend with Diane in 2003 at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, where he fell in love with the organization and its members. When Diane joined the board in 2004, Bob would accompany her to the board meetings at the Salmagundi Club in New York and occasionally provide support to the SAA Administrator during the meetings. 

When Diane was asked to run for the SAA President in 2008, one of her requirements was the New York office be closed and the business operations moved to Colorado. This was when Bob became immersed into the running of the SAA. He took over the duties of the Administrator and began the process of computerizing most of the operations. He also started to take on more duties previously performed by the President so, after two years, Diane was able to get back to her art. Prior to that the SAA President pretty much gave up their career during their tenure. At that time, the Administrator’s position was retitled to Executive Director to better represent the functions being performed. When Reneé Bemis agreed to take over the top job from Diane, her only stipulation was Bob continue as Executive Director so there would be a smooth transition of leadership. After 10 years of serving as Executive Director, Bob was ready to retire for the second time and turned the reins over to Wes Siegrist, who made the conversion seamless.  Bob says he has truly enjoyed all of his experiences with the SAA and as a result has made so many life-long friends all over the world, and he hopes to meet and add more friends in the coming years.  Bob now has more time to read, mostly historical fiction or just plain fiction for fun, and take afternoon naps with his furry kids Herschel, Lucy and Ace. He also enjoys wildlife photography, with plenty of subjects right around their home.

Bob hiking south of Lake Tahoe in California

~ Diane Mason ~

     Diane Mason lives in Berthoud, CO and has been an SAA Signature Member since 2003.  She has served the SAA in a variety of roles including past President.  She is currently one of the SAA’s Vice-Presidents and serves as the SAA Treasurer. Diane grew up in the country, in the Chain-of-Lakes region of northern Illinois, where her family always had animals including ducks, chickens, dogs, a lamb, etc. as pets. They raised baby birds that had fallen out of trees, baby squirrels, and even a raccoon!  Diane didn’t like dolls, and when people would give her one as a gift, she'd take off the doll clothes and put them on her chickens, that were very tolerant. Her father was an avid hunter and fisherman, and she'd sit with him while he cleaned the ducks and pheasants, and he'd hand her the heads, feet, and wings to study.  Her sister and she would also dissect things like fish and mud puppies on the picnic table in the back yard, just to see what they looked like inside.  Diane loved to draw and would draw the animals around her and the boats out on the lake. They had a stable across the road, which for a few years was owned by a little traveling circus.  When the circus wasn't on the road, they'd go across the street and watch the Asian Elephants get their baths in the afternoons. They’d also hitch up the zebras to a circus cart and drive them up and down the road. 

With no available art instruction in school, Diane never had that opportunity to improve her skills, but was certainly immersed in the world of animals from her earliest years.  She feels that’s what ignited her desire to study animal behavior (ethology) in college, and to explore the medium of scratchboard on her own, in her late 20’s, as well as seeing a lion by Sally Maxwell at an art show.  After discovering sculpture in the mid-1990’s, Diane’s life really took another dramatic turn.  She discovered Loveland, CO and once she and husband Bob moved there from Minnesota, she really immersed herself in taking workshops with sculptors she admired, with most of them being SAA members, although she didn’t know it at the time. Once Diane started casting her work and participating in art shows, her world started to expand in ways she never dreamed.  She joined the SAA in 2002, becoming a Board Member in 2004, and since then she and Bob’s lives become richer, with their ‘extended family’ expanding with each passing year.  Their home is filled with the work of many of their SAA friends, and the connection continues to bring daily inspiration. Diane LOVES her fellow members and wakes up every morning grateful for the chance to create, live in their Colorado wonderland, and to have her art connections to such a wonderful group of talented artists who are also passionate about animals.

Diane atop Mt. Evans in Colorado 
 ~ Jan Martin McGuire ~ 

     Jan Martin McGuire lives in Tanzania, Africa and has been an SAA Signature Member since 1994.  Jan has served on the SAA Board in the past and is a Distinguished Signature Member.  She currently serves on the SAA staff as the Social Media Chair for Facebook. Most everyone knows of her love affair with Africa. It captured her heart and soul immediately when she first went in 1997. She has tried to go back every year since then, however that just fueled her desire to be there, instead of quenching it. 

Jan's husband James, a nature photographer, and she finally decided that they weren't getting any younger, and if they wanted to live in Africa, it was time to make that decision. So, they put their house on the market, had an estate sale and moved to Tanzania. They chose Tanzania because they have friends there, and James speaks Swahili, not fluently but enough to get by. So they moved, and currently live on the slopes of Mount Meru, which is a close neighbor of Mount Kilimanjaro. Jan has a saying... "When writing the story of your life, don't let someone else hold the pen".

Painting in the field in Tanzania

~ Terry Miller ~

     Terry Miller lives in Takoma Park, Maryland and has been a Signature Member of the SAA since 1993.  He is also a Distinguished Signature Member and currently serves the SAA as the head of the Exhibition Committee. Terry attended art school after High School, thinking maybe he’d become the next Picasso, while splashing paint on canvas or trying his hand at clay. Neither seemed to be fulfilling, so after graduating from art school, he worked as an architectural draftsman in New York City, with no plans of becoming a professional artist.  Then one day in 1972, while standing on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania, contemplating what excitement was about to unfold during the descent into the crater, a spark ignited that took another six months to fully flare up. Six months after returning from the first of seven subsequent trips to the African continent, he picked up a pencil and made a few scratches on a sheet of drawing paper, and the rest is history.

Twenty years later, Terry returned to school, got a teaching degree and spent a decade working in Special Education, while also selling ladies shoes at Macy’s.  Then he drew a few pictures, which received a positive response at his first large-scale group, animal-themed art show, and he became a member of the SAA.  Over the nearly three decades which Terry has been a professional artist, he continues to spend time in the field, studying, learning and attempting to hone his skills with pencil and paper. When Terry's not in the studio sitting at the drawing board, he's thinking about being in the studio and sitting at the drawing board! On the ever increasingly rare occasions when he's not doing or thinking about art, he enjoys listening to good music of all kinds from a CD library of currently over 3500 discs.  He also enjoys puttering in the yard, while stopping to watch birds at the feeders, visiting museum exhibitions to study works by favorite masters, and feeling like he's making a positive contribution to decisions that will benefit the membership of the SAA by being a Board Member.

Terry in Yellowstone National Park

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 ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Monday, January 7, 2019

Meet The New SAA Board Members

Introducing the 2019 Incoming Board Members

~ Greg Beecham ~

     Greg Beecham who resides in Dubois, Wyoming, has been an SAA Signature Member since 1992, and has been an artist for over forty years. His favorite part of the creative process is being out there in nature with the critters, letting them tell him what to paint. Spending time outdoors, while simply watching and listening, serves as inspiration for new ideas. The painting process itself for Greg is very difficult, and to call it fun would be deceptive, he says. Not being able to accomplish what he had envisioned to do, often makes the painting process discouraging for him. 
He believes the question, "What is your favorite subject to paint?" is really the wrong question. For Greg, a new exciting encounter while exploring in the wild, regardless of species, is often the impetus for a new painting. New experiences for him usually trump old ideas. When asked about hobbies, he states that the process, beginning with critter time, then designing and executing the paintings is his passion. He hikes, hunts, snowshoes, rides horses and photographs, but feels there is little need in his life for another hobby.  Greg enjoys teaching and has taught both art workshops and adult Sunday School for many years. He and his wife, Lu, are proud of their two grown children and love to spoil their granddaughter, Aspen.

Greg with friends Manny & Manuel in Yellowstone National Park after watching  Bison

~ Cathy Sheeter ~ 

     Cathy Sheeter who currently resides in Aurora, CO has been an SAA Signature Member since 2008. She was NOT one of those people who knew from an early age that they wanted to be an artist when they grew up. With no formal training in art, but rather a B.S. in animal sciences, she always thought she’d go into a scientific field. Seeing an SAA show at The Wildlife Experience in 2007, prompted her to try and join the organization and played a role in her eventually becoming a fulltime wildlife artist. Growing up in a rural area of Eastern Oregon and showing numerous animals through the 4-H program over the course of her childhood, certainly played a part in creating this animal fanatic. 

Cathy with fellow artist, Paul Rhymer, demonstrating to the public at the 50th Annual SAA Exhibition in San Diego, CA

Fortunate to have a supportive family for her artistic skills and other interests, Cathy who loved drawing since early childhood, was introduced to scratchboard in high school art classes, and her passion for the medium remains strong today, even though she has dabbled in other two-dimensional mediums. Most of her hobbies revolve around animals and being out in nature. She trains and shows her Belgian Sheepdog, Devon, in conformation, obedience, agility and scent detection. As Cathy became more serious as an artist, she wanted to collect her own wildlife reference. This created a passion for photography which remains strong today. She loves spending time out in nature, learning to appreciate the extraordinary within the ordinary. A recently added interest for her, is becoming a serious birder, with this new passion also making its way into her art.

Cathy isn't always serious!

~ Rachelle Siegrist ~

     I currently live in Townsend, TN and have been an SAA Signature Member since 2001, excitedly becoming a Distinguished Signature Member in 2018.  Being surrounded by animals while growing up in Okeechobee, FL, where cows outnumbered people by ten to one, played a big part in me being a major critter lover!  I loved drawing and coloring throughout my childhood and attended college for a year with aspirations of becoming a commercial artist.  During that time, my mom introduced me to Wes, who was an art teacher at a museum nearby, and I started taking classes from him.  After dating several months we laughingly say that he told me he’d teach me how to paint if I would marry him, and the rest was history. 

In my happy place!

My favorite part of the creative process, as well as life in general, is being immersed in nature and surrounded by critters!  I also enjoy writing a weekly blog about our outdoor adventures, and love kayaking, hiking, biking, camping, snorkeling, boogie boarding, whitewater tubing and generally anything that involves being outdoors!  Nothing is more inspirational than encounters like sitting in my kayak and watching a ten-point buck swim mere feet from me, close enough that I can hear his breath and see it forming mist in the cool air, and I create art with hopes that my paintings convey a feeling of excitement while touching the viewer, allowing them to share in my personal experiences in some way.

In my other happy place!
Be sure to follow the blog to receive the monthly updates.  The rest of the current SAA Board, the Executive Officers and the SAA staff will be featured in February and March.

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Cheers ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Monday, December 3, 2018

Meet the Tour Director for the Society of Animal Artists

David J. Wagner, Ph.D.

The Society of Animal Artists is pleased to present this post highlighting our Tour Director, David J. Wagner.  Dr. Wagner began working as the SAA Tour Director in 1988 and has taken the SAA all over the United States to a list of museum venues that would make any organization proud.  He has achieved a remarkable career thus far and holds a particular fondness for the SAA and its artists.

Dr. Wagner at the Allentown Art Museum for the Premiere of his exhibition, American Wildlife Art
Presented to David J. Wagner in 2002 at the 42nd Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists at the Grand Opening of the Wildlife Experience in Denver, CO

In 1975, David's career was re-directed from the world of concerts to museums. After earning a bachelors degree in applied piano with a minor in voice, and being accepted into the Indiana University Music School as a Graduate Student, he took an elective course in Museum Studies as part of the curriculum for a Masters degree in Arts Administration from the Graduate School of Business, which he intended at the time, to lead to a career in concert management.

David J. Wagner, book signing at release of American Wildlife Art, Charleston , SC, February 2008

David was a museum director for 20 years and his career has been multifaceted.  In the visual arts, he has focused much of his time and energy on the production of traveling museum exhibitions, which edify the public about wildlife, but also domesticated animals, ecology, and the environment.  In 1998, he formed a limited liability corporation for the principle purpose of producing and managing traveling exhibitions for display at museums and related art, cultural and scientific institutions in North America and abroad.

David J. Wagner with artist, Robert Bateman

In addition to serving as President of that company for the past 20 years, David has spent a portion of that time as author (most notably, American Wildlife Art), lecturer, occasional guest curator, and adjunct faculty at colleges and universities.

Dr. Wagner directed an expedition of artists and naturalists to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico in 2011

David sometimes coordinates guest appearances by artists at venues hosting his company’s exhibitions, in addition to occasionally serving as guest speaker himself.  He also serves as principle copy writer and editor of his exhibitions’ texts.  But mostly, truth be known, he spends most of his time marketing and managing his traveling museum exhibitions.

Robert Bateman, Carel Pieter Brest Van Kempen, Kent Ullbergand Dr. David J. Wagner

February 27, 2003: Interview of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen and David J. Wagner on The Nature of Things, FM 90 Utah Public Radio, Salt Lake City

February 2008: Interview of David Wagner by Dan Small on Outdoor Wisconsin, Wisconsin Public Television

August 28, 2008: Partial Interview Without Listener Phone Calls of David Wagner by Larry Meiller on Wisconsin Public Radio

August 28, 2008: Complete Interview including Listener Phone Calls of David Wagner by Larry Meiller on Wisconsin Public Radio

November 12, 2008: Interview of Kent Ullberg and David Wagner by Larry Meiller on Wisconsin Public Radio

November 17, 2008: Interview of Robert Bateman and David Wagner on KPBS, San Diego

September 14, 2010: Interview of Robert Bateman, Kent Ullberg, and David Wagner on KHOL 89.01 Jackson Hole Community Radio

THE SEA OF CORTEZ, Field Trip Documentary Produced by Molly Moore Fine Art for David J. Wagner, L.L.C. for the 2013 museum exhibition, THE SEA OF CORTEZ (Richard C. Brusca, Ph.D., Field Trip Leader, to San Carlos, Mexico from March 19-26, 2011)

February 1, 2016: Environmental Ideology in Art by David Wagner on TEDxMHK, Kansas State University, Manhattan

July 12, 2018: Interview of David J. Wagner by Bonnie North on Lake Effect at WUWM 89.7 Milwaukee's NPR Station

Among exhibitions produced or toured by David J. Wagner, L.L.C. are the following: America's Parks, American Birds, American Still Lifes, American Studio Glass, American Wildlife Art, Andrew Denman: The Modern Wild, Animals in Art, Art and the Animal (from the Society of Animal Artists), Art of the Dive / Portraits of the Deep, Art of the Rainforest, Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, Blossom ~ Art of Flowers, Brian Jarvi's African Menagerie, Cory Trépanier's Into The Arctic, Crocodilian Scratchboards by John Agnew, Endangered Species, Flora and Fauna in Peril, Environmental Impact, Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist, Feline Fine: Art of Cats, John James Audubon, Kent Ullberg: A Retrospective, LeRoy Neiman, On Safari, LeRoy Neiman: A Retrospective, Masters of American Photography, Masterworks from The International Guild of Realism, Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines, Robert Bateman - A Retrospective, Sandy Scott: A Retrospective, Sayaka Ganz: Reclaimed Creations, Society of Animal Artists National Geographic Society Outdoor Sculpture Garden, The Horse In Fine Art (annual exhibition of the American Academy of Equine Art), The Sea of Cortez, The Art of Robert Bateman, Thomas D. Mangelsen: A Life in the Wild.  These exhibitions and others have toured and continue to tour to venues nationwide and in Canada under the auspices of David J. Wagner, L.L.C.

... and recent news as this blog goes to post: David is being honored in 2019 by The Dancing Star Foundation in Los Angeles, CA for his work!  In 2010, he was the recipient of the SKBF Black-Parkman Award for Art Industry Leadership.

For more information about Dr. Wagner visit his website:
For a synopsis of David's complete career, visit: Synopsis
Additional videos are posted here: YouTube

~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Video Highlights from the SAA's 58th Annual Exhibition!

Highlights from the 
Society of Animal Artists
58th Annual Exhibition Opening 
at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art

The Opening Week for the Society of Animal Artists 58th Annual Exhibition at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art took place October 3rd thru the 7th, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida, and what a fantastic week it was!!!  Memories were made as we enjoyed spending time with peers, while seeing the show as well as other places of interest nearby.  We talked and laughed our way through a week of fun and excitement, and wish to sincerely thank the James Museum staff once again for making this such a wonderful show and time for us all!  From the moment the artists walked through the doors of the museum, we were constantly wowed!  Programs and demonstrations by SAA members proved to be informative, entertaining and enlightening, receiving compliments from the attending public as well.

I have put together this video featuring highlights from the amazing week and hope you will enjoy it! May it bring back memories for those who were in attendance and help those of you who weren't able to come, in some way feel like you were there enjoying the experiences right along side the rest of  us!

~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

SAA’s 58th Annual At The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art

SAA’s 58th Annual At The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art!

The beautiful James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
The exciting opening for the Society of Animal Artists’ 58th Annual Art & The Animal Exhibition at the gorgeous James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art took place this past weekend in sunny St. Petersburg, FL, and had attending artists saying "Wow!" Wes and I manned the check-in for arriving artists Wednesday afternoon, and it was great seeing everyone's smiling faces once again! That evening we all enjoyed a meet and greet party, filling the air with lots of conversation and laughter as we ate.

Artists and guest hanging out and having fun

A favorite of the meal was the potato bar, where one filled a large martini glass with mashed potatoes and topped them from an assortment of delicious toppings, and it was as much fun to look at and make, as it was to eat!

Sharon and John are quite pleased with their creations!

Artists love to create, even when it comes to making a spuds martini!

Lots to catch up on!
The next morning everyone headed in different directions to enjoy some sightseeing, kayaking, birding and the likes, with some of us taking advantage of the big pool located on a portion of the 7th floor roof, enjoying our personal oasis amidst the palm trees! That evening the group enjoyed an assortment of delicious desserts while participating in a trivia game, where questions about the SAA were asked by Wes, granting points to the groups with the correct answer. The team that won received a great prize of having their jury fees waived for next year's exhibition!
A wonderful bronze with a water feature in the permanent collection
Friday afternoon several artist including myself, took part in an SAA presentation about artists in residency programs. Afterwards the audience enjoyed seeing another SAA presentation called “How I Got My Start” featuring photos of a group of artists from childhood throughout their career, which was enjoyed very much by all. That evening we were all in for a royal treat at the James Museum and were completely blown away by this fabulous museum and their southern hospitality! Emily and the staff were all so friendly, making the artists feel very special and so welcomed from the moment we stepped in the door!
A gorgeous setting for our artist reception
Everywhere we turned we saw amazing art and stunning architecture, with large stone-lined rooms and hallways, making you feel as if you were walking through canyons. Not only was it a breath-taking building and exhibition venue housing a delightful staff, but the food we enjoyed during the artist reception was fabulous as well!

After dinner, we headed upstairs to the gallery where the SAA exhibition was beautifully arranged! The docents were extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the museum and its art, including our show as well, making our experience even more memorable.

Saturday morning started with the members meeting and was followed by the jury game, which was a big success last year. It's a great way to show attending artists how the show is juried each year and what a difficult and impartial task it is.

Saturday afternoon was filled with fascinating demonstrations by several different SAA artists and the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve graciously treated us with being able to sketch and photograph two of their gorgeous resident owls, which they brought to the museum and were a big hit!

That evening we attended the awards banquet at the museum, and upon walking in were greeted by tables covered in gold linens topped with an arrangements of bright yellow flowers and sand-filled glass containers, holding an assortment of paint brushes. As we talked and laughed, our taste buds enjoyed scrumptious fare once again!

Then came the moment several of us had been waiting quite sometime for, as long-time member Janet Heaton, thought she had been asked to attend the dinner to announce Wes as the new executive director for the SAA, not knowing that the real reason was to present her with the SAA’s coveted Bott-Borghi-Bransom Animal Artist “Legacy Award, which is indeed a great honor! As you can imagine she was totally surprised and speechless!

Janet is obviously very delighted!
Then came time to present the award winners for this years show, making for several delighted artist! Following the awards presentation, came the “Little Gems” swap, where each artist brings a small piece of art and draws a number corresponding to another piece of art, so that everyone goes home with a new addition for their personal collection.
This year's attending artists . . . a great looking crowd!
This year's happy award winners!

On behalf of the SAA artists, guests and patrons, I would like to extend a BIG heartfelt Thank You to the James Museum as well as to Emily and the rest of the delightful staff for making this such an amazing weekend for the SAA!

Cheers! ~ Rachelle Siegrist