The first time I met Les Kouba I stood there in awe. Not only was Les a giant in the field of wildlife art…but his personality and appearance quickly let you know this was no ordinary outdoor character (or “dude” as he called everyone). In fact, long before today’s popular wildlife artists gained their notoriety…Kouba was making an impression on the wildlife art world like no other artist has been able to duplicate since.
I worked with Les and got to know him personally before his death in 1998. At the time I was producing sportsman’s calendars and Les’ unique artwork was a logical choice for featuring in those calendars. His unique artistic style often showed a throw-back in time to an Americana filled with innocence and loads of nostalgia.
What’s amazing is Kouba was a self-taught artist who at the age of 14 took a correspondence course and started to hone his artistic craft quite early in life. Of course, as with many highly flamboyant sportsman characters, Kouba was such a big BSer that you hardly knew what to believe when he spoke to you. If he could get you believing some far-fetched story…he would eventually reel you in like a big lunker fish. He enjoyed life that way and I believe this same fun clearly shows in his art.
I won’t go into much more of Kouba’s fascinating life story today(you can read much of that here), but there is something interesting about Kouba’s art that not everyone knows. It started years ago quite by accident when an admirer of his art asked him about the significance of always incorporating the number 13 into his drawings. Truth is, Kouba was unaware that the print in question even contained 13 elements of some kind in it. But true to his BS form…from that point forward you could almost always locate something in Kouba’s prints that were featured in a quantity of 13.
Most times it was ducks or geese wingin’ through the sky with 13 birds featured. Other times it would be something more subtle such as seeing 13 rabbit tracks in the snow or 13 trees in the skyline. The point is most, but not all, of Kouba’s prints had something “fun” incorporated into them to make you look a bit closer. Soon, Kouba fans were beginning to look at his artwork not solely for the gorgeous image it contained…but also for the “Where’s Waldo” aspect ala Kouba. Indeed, his talents were truly genius.
Here’s a few popular prints from the Kouba collection that are still available on the market. See if you can find anything in the images with the significance of “13” in them. Good luck!
“August In Minnesota”
“Walleyes Feedin’ on the Flat”
“Surveying His Domain”
“Northern Ala Frog Legs”
“Corn For Lunch”
“Dark House Action”
“New Year’s Day”
“Northern Feedin’On Perch”
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.