Young nature artist brings wildlife art back to life

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Wildlife and nature artists are sometimes hard to find in today’s art scene. Then an artist like 25-year-old Joseph Koensgen emerges. With raw talent and passion, he is reviving the tradition of artists like Robert Bateman. Using acrylics, Koensgen paints highly realist nature and wildlife pieces, one of which won him the Manitoba Art Expo’s People’s Choice Award in 2009, making him the youngest ever recipient of the award.

Although people often mistake his style for photo realistic, he explained that, “If you [ . . . ] look closely at most of my paintings, what you would actually see [ . . . ] is a very loose style that is more about shape and lighting and texture than it is about high detail.” Indeed, Koensgen prefers to classify his artwork as “nature” art as opposed to “wildlife.”

“It is equally about wildlife and the natural settings around them, but I want to capture the whole thing,” said Koensgen.

Being out in nature and photographing animals in their natural habitat is what inspires Koensgen most.

“I know that sounds really cliché but [ . . . ] being out in the forest is actually what inspires me,” said Koensgen.

“He has a huge amount of talent. [ . . . ] It’s the detail and the life in the painting. You can have all the detail you like in a painting, but [ . . . ] if it doesn’t show some kind of exuberance then it’s not going to make it,” said Al Harris, Art Expo Manager, of Koensgen’s work.
“Well, his does both. He’s a very, very effective wildlife artist.”

About 10 years ago, Koensgen had the opportunity to meet his inspiration, Robert Bateman, and show him his work.

“He instantly enjoyed it,” said Koensgen. “He told me, [ . . . ] ‘Well I can see you have some real talent.’ That was a very inspirational moment. [ . . . ] To have your inspirational artist tell you that your artwork is good and he likes it. Man, that was just great.”

Koensgen’s painting of a blue jay, titled “Everblue,” is what won him the People’s Choice Award.
“That spruce tree was too realistic,” Harris laughs. “I mean it was really amazing. [ . . . ] I saw an image of his work and [ . . . ] thought the technique here is so good that I just could hardly believe that this is actually painted.”

Harris continued: “Most of our people who have won the show [ . . . ] have been painting [ . . . ] for 25 or 30 years and here’s a guy that comes along and he can come up with the calibre of this work. It’s absolutely outstanding.”

“I was quite humbled by the whole experience. [ . . . ] There was a really nice reception to my artwork,” said Koensgen.

Along with working on a piece he will be submitting to the Ducks Unlimited National Art Portfolio, Koensgen recently completed a painting of a peregrine falcon, which he had the opportunity to observe and photograph from a falconer who lives just outside the city.

Koensgen hopes to paint full-time and wants his work to contribute to organizations and causes that help support wildlife and sustain ecosystems. He plans to take part in an upcoming juried art show put on by the Red River Ex and also The Manitoba Society Art Show in the spring. He has also donated an original framed painting, titled “Chickadee” for a benefit concert and silent auction, “Healing Haiti,” to be held at The Academy, April 21.