By Scott Campbell
When queried about his training, wildlife artist Gerald Putt grins and replies, “I’m a correspondence-school dropout.”
Indeed, after graduating from high school, Putt enrolled in such a course while working at a Carlisle factory. Several years later, he decided to make his living with the artistic ability that was first apparent in elementary school.
“I remember drawing in perspective a V formation of flying swans,” says Putt.
Recounting an experience familiar to many artists, he adds, “When the other kids asked me how I did that, I couldn’t tell them. I just did it.”
The interest in natural subjects was no accident. He grew up in an old stone house in Boiling Springs. Its proximity to Children’s Lake exposed him to all manner of waterfowl. Later, fishing and hunting activities provided another visual reservoir that would help lay the foundation for his career.
Since embarking on this enterprise in 1979, he has “ridden the roller coaster of income.” But it is not for lack of effort or skill. Putt is a superb technician, the result of years of observation and practice. And it has paid off.
He has completed numerous covers for Pennsylvania Game News. “I’ve done about 40 of them,” says Putt. The subject is often birds. Since 2010, sporting dogs, like retrievers, have been included in the mix. Avian subjects, however, offer wildlife artists more opportunities for recognition and financial reward. Putt has established national repute through the Federal Duck Stamp program, which raises funds for habitat conservation. He has won the Pennsylvania competition 11 times, the most recent in 2011, 2013 and 2015, years in which he was eligible to submit entries. He has also been a winner in Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and North Carolina.
Although he began by doing small pen-and-ink drawings, the artist eventually chose acrylics for his color work. He prefers the Liquitex brand and a variety of Dick Blick red sable brushes. Airbrushed passages are evident in some of his work as well. He employs Paasche products to that end. Putt draws directly on clay board or rag matte board, often using digital photos for reference.
His knowledge allows him to modify the positions and appearance of his subjects for authenticity and compositional purposes.
“Except for details, I do not work from mounted specimens,” he explains. Given his experiences and clientele, one is not surprised at the fidelity in his work.
Doing shows established Putt as an artist of distinction. “My first one was in Mechanicsburg,” he recalls. “When someone stole one of my drawings, I knew that I had something.”
He still frequents such events. They include, among others, Boiling Springs Foundry Day, Pennsylvania Farm Show, the Great American Outdoor Show, Kutztown Folk Festival and the Fall into Fine Craft Show, sponsored by the Yellow Breeches Chapter, Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen.
In addition to those kinds of occasions, Putt offers work at his Boiling Springs studio, on his website (geraldputt.com) and through direct mail. Most acquisitions are giclée prints.
When not engaged in producing art, Putt enjoys shooting competition. His team was AAA Class Champion at the 2015 Ted Lick Memorial Sporting Clay Classic at the Blue Ridge Sportsman Club near Linglestown.