Published May 03, 2012, 07:24 AM

Quacky for ducks: Former Jamestown man is DU Montana artist of the year

A Jamestown College graduate who moved to Montana has been recognized by Ducks Unlimited as the state’s artist of the year. Bob Kercher, a 1965 JC graduate, has been living in Great Falls, Mont., ever since he left Jamestown. In his time out west Kercher was able to hone his watercolors of waterfowl.

A Jamestown College graduate who moved to Montana has been recognized by Ducks Unlimited as the state’s artist of the year.

Bob Kercher, a 1965 JC graduate, has been living in Great Falls, Mont., ever since he left Jamestown. In his time out west Kercher was able to hone his watercolors of waterfowl.

He taught high school in Great Falls until 1979 when he left to pursue wildlife art.

“I had a talent I felt I should try,” he said. “I didn’t want to look back on my life and say I spent all of it in that brick building,” he said of the high school in Great Falls.

The artist was influenced in his work by paging through copies of Field and Stream and Outdoor Life in the 1940s and 1950s at his grandfather’s house next to Klaus Park.

“There were stacks of them on the porch,” he said. “I remember as a kid poring through those magazines and at that time in the late 1940s and (early) 1950s there was a lot more art illustrations.”

Kercher honed his abilities at Jamestown College when professor John Dahl convinced him to stick to wildlife and not pursue his dream of being an illustrator for Disney.

“I was very impressed with Mr. Dahl as an instructor and that sort of led me to the art teaching side of things,” he said.

Thirty-three years later after leaving full-time teaching, some of Kercher’s memorable wildlife prints have a cartoonish side. One example is “Dive in Movie,” which was the Montana Ducks Unlimited print of the year for 2012.

The watercolor painting has 13 species of waterfowl in it, and with Daffy Duck there are about 130 total birds in the painting.

The birds are gathered to watch a Daffy Duck cartoon in the middle of a slough in what appears as a waterfowl fan’s paradise.

“There were two things I had to deal with, No. 1 was, where do I find a projection booth out in the middle of a slough? And the other was what do I use as a movie screen?” he said.

Ducks Unlimited wanted a more novel print for 2012 than a standard duck watercolor. Kercher thought of one of his earlier works called “Soup and Quackers,” which featured ducks coming out of a painting and landing in a bowl of soup.

“Once you have the idea you need to find the poses of the waterfowl you want to use when telling your story,” he said.

Kercher has stayed an avid outdoorsmen his entire life. He still saves time to observe wildlife for research. Though now he paints more birds than big game.

Prints of “Dive in Movie” are available starting Jan. 2013 by contacting Kercher at 406-452-3740. He currently can’t sell the print as Montana chapters of Ducks Unlimited are raffling prints off as fundraisers.

Other pieces of his work are available online at www.meadowlarkgallery.com/KercherRobert.htm.

Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at brodgers@jamestownsun.com

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