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New book looks back on Rushford artist Michael Sieve's career

With 43 years of work, 500 paintings under his belt, a gallery in the bluffs between Rushford and Houston and a book highlighting his life’s work, it appears Sieve made the right choice in pursuing art as a career.

07-29 04 sieve jw .jpg
Michael Sieve.
Post Bulletin file photo
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RUSHFORD, Minn. — Michael Sieve never considered art as a career option growing up in rural southwestern Minnesota.

The high school he attended in Wilmont, Minnesota, didn’t offer art classes. He started college at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, majoring in advertising.

“The idea of becoming an artist or going to college to become an artist was kind of weird to me at the time,” Sieve said.

Making art to be used in advertisements was the only way he envisioned making money from his passion.

In what Sieve jokes was an equal parts commentary on his painting abilities and math skills, an accounting professor suggested he switch majors to art.

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More than 50 years later, with more than 500 paintings under his belt, a gallery in the bluffs between Rushford and Houston and a book highlighting his life’s work, it appears Sieve made the right choice.

Stamp Art
Pheasant artwork by Michael Sieve selected for the 2023 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources habitat stamp art contest.
Contributed

The book, “An Artist’s Life,” published by Sporting Classics, contains nearly 300 of Sieve’s paintings. Sieve calls it a “legacy project.” He interviewed with authors for story excerpts of his life and then prepared and selected from 50 years worth of his work. He also created works he had been planning to paint. The book gave him reasons and motivation to create those paintings, he said.

“This is what I consider the frosting on my career,” Sieve said.

Although Sieve’s rural Minnesota home didn’t provide many opportunities for an aspiring artist, the area did give him inspiration for his wildlife art.

After graduating with an art degree, Sieve hitchhiked west in 1973 and found inspiration in art galleries he visited in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Sieve has been painting professionally since 1979. His work has appeared in wildlife books, print series and stamps.

His pheasant artwork was selected by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the 2023 fish and wildlife habitat stamp program. Pheasant hunters must purchase a stamp validation for their license each season. For an extra fee, they also receive a collectible stamp in the mail. Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to habitat management and protection.

It’s not the first time Sieve has been selected for the honor. His art was used for the DNR’s 2018 pheasant habitat stamp and the duck and turkey stamps in past years.

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Even with 50 years of work under his belt, Sieve said these selections still feel affirming.

“When you get the call from them that you’ve won, it’s a good day,” he said. “It gives credence — or credibility — to what I do.”

Seeing his art hanging at the Cape Town International Airport on a trip to South Africa was another affirming moment.

“That's always a nice surprise,” he said.

Although Sieve calls the book the “frosting” on his career, he said he isn’t done creating yet.

“I truly worried that, in the process of doing this book, that it was going to be a big letdown, ‘Now what am I going to do,’” he said.

Instead, at age 71, he came up with a list of paintings he wants to create and expects to add a chapter to “An Artist’s Life” when the second printing is made — whenever that happens.

He also wants to see his art selected for the habitat stamp contest at the federal level.

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“I’ve done well in those (state) contests and consistently place high, but haven’t quite gotten there,” he said.

If you go

What: "An Artist's Life" book release and signing.

When: 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8.

Where: Michael Sieve's studio, 22388 Daley Creek Road, Rushford.

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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