When Bob White was a young boy, he spent all of his time outside pretending he was Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, and leafing through the pages of hunting, fishing, and trapping books.
“Everything I read was related to the outdoors,” White recalls. “The words of those stories captured my imagination, but it was the artwork that illustrated them that compelled me. I always wanted to be the guy who painted and illustrated those stories.” After selling his first painting at age 12, studying art in high school and college, and honing in on his talents as a significant part of his livelihood by 1985, he has indeed become that guy.
If you’ve ever picked up Gray’s Sporting Journal, Pheasants Forever magazine, or Shooting Sportsman, you’ve likely seen White’s realistic wildlife creations. His paintings are also featured in the closing columns in Ducks Unlimited and Fly Rod & Reel magazines. In 2009, White was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of fame for his art. But he’s not just a painter—he has also written descriptive essays, including the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer and American Waterfowler. With all of these artistic accolades under his belt, The Growler reeled him in as the cover artist for the October sporting life issue.
Though his legal name is John Robert White, he has gone by Bob for as long as he can remember. As an artist, he dropped the space between “Bob” and “White” when signing his works. “I grew up the son of a bird hunter, and where we lived that meant bobwhite quail,” says White. “My father’s crowning glory in life was having a son named BobWhite. I sign it this way to honor those memories.”
On occasion, he’ll paint plein air to capture the scenes. Most paintings, however, are completed in the studio, based on the notes, sketches, and photographs he takes. No matter what, the sportsman nurtures and respects the experiences he has outside, by committing the fleeting moments to canvas.
“The images I create tend to be reflective in nature,” says the Marine on St. Croix-based artist. “I endeavor to create images that reflect the small events that make up the day—floating on a river as dusk falls or putting out decoys on a foggy morning.”
When he’s not painting or writing full time, White enjoys hanging out with his family, bottling cider, and traveling. In fact, over the past three decades, he’s guided fly fishermen and bird hunters to Alaska and Patagonia, as well as hosting yearly muskie fishing trips to northern Wisconsin and an annual fishing week in Argentina with his wife, Lisa.
As for the future, White and his wife plan on publishing the first of several illustrated books on the collections of his essays and artworks, as well as continuing to host many fishing trips. But no matter what’s next in store for White, the outdoors will always be at the core.
“I didn’t really choose a sporting life, as much as it chose me,” says White. “I’ve never really had a plan for my life. I try to embrace those things I love and feel passionate about. I find that when I’m doing this, and living in the moment, good things happen.”