Douglas Van Howd
● By Wendy Sipple
Photo by Dante Fontana.
Writer Christopher Morley once said, “There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.” Douglas Van Howd, who describes himself as a “simple person” is very successful in art, business and life.
Whether it is living off the land in Kenya and facing off with “Ahmed” (an African Bush elephant and largest living land mammal at the time), designing one-of-a-kind gifts for kings and dignitaries for the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush White Houses, painting John Wayne’s portrait while living on movie sets...twice, sculpting and hanging out with aviation legend Chuck Yeager, crafting a 13.5-foot tall elephant sculpture for the Cultural Heritage Center in Tanzania or running his Van Howd Wildlife Federation...Van Howd has been and continues to be a busy guy. “I sold my first painting when I was eight years old,” Van Howd says, “I knew then I wanted to be a wildlife artist.”
With a career spanning seven decades...you would think he would want to slow down. Not a chance. He manages a magnificent art gallery and foundry, creates new art pieces for venues around the world, is planning his 42nd trip to Africa, writing and painting for his upcoming book on wildlife and his art, completing a film of his wildlife adventures, and getting ready to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Nancy. “I’ve been blessed to make a living doing what I love,” Van Howd explains. “I’ve been playing in a sandbox my whole life.”
He started working professionally as a painter, then was commissioned to do a sculpture for the Mzuri Wildlife Foundation in the early ‘70s. “I had never done sculpture before,” Van Howd says, “I did a little lion and they loved it.” These bronze lion figures were presented as gifts to the guest speakers...one, then California Governor Ronald Reagan. With the success of that first series, he started doing limited editions of wildlife sculptures each year. “I do 50 pieces,” Van Howd explains. “I have many customers whom buy the same edition number for their collections.”
Although his sculpture work is commanding lots of attention worldwide, he continues to paint. He works closely with Sierra Hills Framing in Lincoln. Framer Tom Jones is responsible for the beautiful complementary frames surrounding Van Howd’s original canvases and limited edition Giclee prints. Jones has known Van Howd for years, and is impressed by his work and the time he spends researching his subjects to make the paintings look so authentic. “His work has an expert lifelike realism,” Jones says, “with an incredible attention to detail and rich appearance.”
You don’t need to travel the world to see Van Howd’s work. His gallery grounds, near the Auburn Airport, are alive with modern and ancient animals in bronze. As well, Van Howd has many other art installations throughout his native Nevada and Northern California. •
For more information about Douglas Van Howd and his work, call 530-887-1581.