CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 7, 2016 — Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Al Agnew, of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and Livingston, Montana, couldn’t let go of his passion for art, wildlife and nature, so he bundled them into a successful career as one of the top wildlife and nature artists in America.
Al is a fulltime professional wildlife artist and has enjoyed doing this work since 1983. His art career has taken him all over the world.
“My art career has taken me on many adventures to visit almost every state in America, along with many travels abroad to places like Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe,” He says. “Being an artist has also provided me the opportunity to contribute artwork and expertise to various national and international conservation organizations, which I’m extremely passionate about.”
Al previously served as an art teacher in Advance, Missouri, where he taught K-12 for seven years. As an artist he has raised millions of dollars for such organizations as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Black Bass Foundation and the Wolf Recovery Project. Along the way, he has earned the honor of being designated as “Featured Artist” at such prestigious national art shows as the Southeast Wildlife Expo, Pacific Rim Wildlife Art Show, NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show, the Michigan Wildlife Habitat Foundation Art Show and was the Special Guest Artist for the National Zoo Wildlife Art Show in Washington, D.C.
Al has exhibited internationally for a number of years at exhibitions such as Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s “Birds in Art” and “Animals, The Artist View” as well as the Society of Animal Artists “Art and the Animal” annual exhibit. He was one of only a few American artists chosen by the Malilangwe Artist Trust to spend two weeks painting in the field in Zimbabwe. His work has been featured in Wildlife Art News, U.S. Art, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Sporting Classics, In-Fisherman and North American Fisherman magazines and he has been commissioned by Bass Pro Shops to create over 125 covers for their catalogs.
While attending Southeast, Al earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education with and emphasis in art and a minor in English.
“Originally, to be honest, I wanted to teach because I liked the idea of having the summers free! However, I found that there were both rewards and frustrations in teaching,” he said. “I had always wanted to have some sort of art-related career, and finally with the encouragement of my wife, Southeast alumna, Mary Wolk Agnew, I took the chance and followed a dream to make it as a wildlife artist, since wildlife and nature had always been such a huge part of my life.”
Al credits his Southeast instructors for steering him on his career path.
“I had very good instructors in art at Southeast who gave me a lot of encouragement to continue to grow as an artist outside of being a teacher, which made a significant impact on making the decision to stray away from teaching to pursue a career as a professional artist,” he said. “Since I was a young child, creating art was more than just a hobby; it defined who I am. I cannot imagine living my life not creating.”
He chose Southeast because it was close to home and he had friends here.
“It was the first time I had lived away from home and had been exposed to people outside of my usual bubble, so it was a great growing experience,” Al said.
His memories here show his passion for art.
“Most of my memories of Southeast consist of the things I learned in watercolor classes with the late Jake Wells, as well as the experiences I had in college life outside of class,” Al said. “I lived off-campus, sharing an apartment with two friends, but spent plenty of time attending campus events, as well as the library. Always an avid reader with a variety of interests, I loved browsing the library for books that intrigued me.”
When Al is not working, he can be found taking in the nature and wildlife that he loves so much. He’s also still quite the athlete.
“Outside of painting, I love fishing, running rivers in canoes, kayaks, and rafts, bow hunting, hiking and wildlife photography,” he said. “Lucky for me, my hobbies and work are extensions of one another, so even when I’m on the river, I may come across inspiration for a new painting. I am known as an expert on Ozark streams and stream fishing and often give programs on those subjects, as well as being an amateur geologist. In addition to the outdoors, at age 63, I still play basketball three times a week.”
To Southeast students he offers this advice:
“Get the most from the entire college experience. Take advantage of the learning opportunities in class, but also the life experiences you will gain through your social life on and off campus. It can not only be a springboard to your career and future life enjoyment, but also a wonderful experience in itself. Other than that, be brave. Take the foundation you acquire at Southeast and dive in and chase your dreams. Never doubt where doing what you are passionate about can take you,” Al says.