2013 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest
Midwest Region

Bob Hines: National Wildlife Artist

The 1946-1947 Federal Duck Stamp designed by wildlife artist and conservationist Bob Hines. Photo by USFWS.
The 1946-1947 Federal Duck Stamp designed by wildlife artist and conservationist Bob Hines. Photo by USFWS.

The Federal Duck Stamp Contest will this year honor 1946 Duck Stamp artist and conservation leader Bob Hines. Biographer John D. Juriga is author of the book Bob Hines: National Wildlife Artist. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will honor Hines by hosting a public dedication ceremony for the Bob Hines Refuge Ranger Station at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday, September 26, 2013. Below is an interview with Juriga about his interest in wildlife artist and conservationist Bob Hines.  

Can you tell me why you have such an interest in Hines? 

When I first became acquainted with Hines’s remarkable career arc, I was inspired by the story of this untrained, self-educated artist who became the vehicle by which millions of people learned about their natural heritage. I felt that it was time to acquaint a new generation to Hines’s work and his legacy in the art of conservation. 

Many Americans may not know of Hines. Describe his artistic style. 

Hines had a realistic style to his artwork. He strived for accuracy in part to satisfy the wildlife experts with whom he interacted. Bob had an appreciation for the individuality of animals and imbued each of his subjects with that spark of life. Former Interior Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton noted that Hines “paints wildlife in the act of being alive.” Hines also was able to distill the drama into a freeze-frame image with his compositions. Even in his line drawings, with a few strokes, Bob’s deft hand sometimes depicts motion. 

In your book, you detail Hines’s Alaskan trek. Why did Hines want to journey to Alaska?

In 1946, Hines made his debut as a book illustrator with Frank Dufresne’s  Alaska’s Animals and Fishes.  Despite Bob’s considerable knowledge of outdoor lore, never having visited Alaska, he could not summon details of the Alaskan wildlife from his personal memory as many of the species were new to him. Nonetheless, after the book’s release, one reviewer commented on Hines’s “genuine originality and unerring color sense.” The following year, Bob joined Dufresne, who led an Outdoor Writers Association of America sponsored trek to Alaska. The grandeur of the territory’s landscape and its wildlife made an indelible impression on Hines. Alaska would become one of his favorite destinations to which he would return three more times.   During that first Alaskan trek, Bob’s experiences, printed in the Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch, reveal his flair for writing and his use of vivid imagery. 

How did Hines become involved with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Duck Stamp Contest? 

Bob began his career as the staff artist for the Ohio Division of Conservation and Natural Resources in 1939. As an outdoorsman, he hunted and fished along the Sandusky River as well as the marshes and shores of Lake Erie in northwest Ohio. Like other waterfowl hunters, he purchased a Federal Duck Stamp each year. With some encouragement, he submitted his design of red head ducks that graces the 1946 FDS. After Dufresne became the chief of the information office for the Fish and Wildlife Service, he persuaded Bob to leave Ohio and join the Service as a federal employee in 1948. Already a Duck Stamp artist himself, Hines was eager to observe the selection of the annual Federal Duck Stamp design. He was appalled at the casual subjective nature of the process. Bob conceived the format of an open contest with objective judging, which remains in use today. He then shepherded the annual contest, managing the event for over thirty years until his retirement from the Service in 1981.

Why was art important to him? 

During the darkness of the Great Depression, Hines gravitated to wildlife art so that he could educate the public about the richness of Ohio’s natural beauty. His weekly feature, “Under Ohio Skies,” appeared in some 300 Ohio newspapers. He also illustrated the Ohio Conservation Bulletin, sometimes writing an article for the monthly periodical. Bob’s work there sowed the seeds of environmental stewardship a generation before the concept penetrated the national consciousness. As a federal employee, Hines assumed a larger platform to promote the tenets of the Fish and Wildlife Service. In the mid-1950s, Bob designed the first four U.S. postage stamps that feature American wildlife. The press run of some 500 million stamps introduced the term conservation a full decade before it entered the public lexicon.

Describe Hines’s relationship with Rachel Carson. 

When Bob accepted Dufresne’s offer to join the Service, Hines was less than enthusiastic to learn that his immediate supervisor would be a woman, a biologist named Rachel Carson. Nevertheless, Carson and Hines developed a cordial working relationship that evolved into a warm friendship and productive professional collaboration. After the financial success of The Sea Around Us, Carson resigned from the Service so that she could write full time. Rachel asked Bob to illustrate her third book, The Edge of the Seareleased in 1955. The partnership of Carson and Hines became the intersection of two remarkable talents. As evidence of their closeness, Rachel’s family asked Bob to act as an honorary pall bearer during Carson’s funeral service in 1964. Hines’s last major commission was to illustrate a fiftieth anniversary edition of Carson’s first book, Under the Sea-wind, rereleased in 1991.

Bob Hines: National Wildlife Artist is available in bookstores and online.

Last updated: August 22, 2013