LESLIE C. KOUBA
Hutchinson, Minnesota is about
50 miles due west of Minneapolis. A few miles north of that
is the small farm where Leslie C. Kouba was born on February
3, 1917. He was the middle one of three boys, and naturally
was expected to do his share of the work around the farm.
All boys prefer running around outdoors to doing chores, and
the evasive tactics they adopt are many and varied. Les, being
typical, had a scheme that worked admirably. At milking time
he would trot out to the barn, get the pail and stool, sit
down with his forehead against a warm flank . . . and fall
asleep. In no time at all, his father realized that Les wasn't
cut out to be a farmer.
The elimination of farming as
a career for this particular boy was far from a disaster,
however - quite the contrary. He liked to draw wildlife, and
being brought up in the Minnesota Countryside with its abundance
of birds and animals to watch gave him a head start. When
he was only fourteen he began taking art courses by correspondence
from Art Instruction, Inc., in Minneapolis, and this professional
guidance helped him develop his own style early. This was
the only formal art training he had, but it sufficed: the
other half of the battle is long hours of hard work, and schools
can't supply them.
While he was still taking the
courses he had occasion to visit the school in Minneapolis,
and there he first met the famous Minnesota animal artist,
Walter Wilwerding, (now deceased), who was to be a source
of much inspiration and encouragement to the younger man.
All during his school years in Hutchinson his favorite subject
was drawing, with manual training running a close second.
Mr. Kouba met his wife, the
former Orial Thiem of Gibbon, Minnesota, at a Thanksgiving
Dance in 1937 and says he's been thankful ever since that
he did. They were married on September 9, 1939 in Gibbon and
settled in Marshall, Minnesota until World War 11 when they
moved to their present home in Minneapolis. There are two
daughters, both married. Bonnie, (Mrs. William Gavin), is
a professional model and mother of three. Pamela, the younger,
now Mrs. John Kausel, is an art teacher. Both girls are talented
Mr. Kouba was enthusiastic member
of Ducks Unlimited, Inc., belonged to the Izaak Walton League
of America, and is a member of many other conservation groups.
Hunting and fishing were his main hobbies, but he also spent
some time photographing wildlife. Mrs. Kouba and he collect
Indian artifacts and hunted for surface-findings all over
the country, constantly adding to an already large collection.
They traveled a great deal, not only for pleasure, but also
in a search for new ideas and scenes for painting.
At one time early in his professional
life, Mr. Kouba had an advertising art studio that happened
to have large peg-board walls. There he hung his own paintings
and those of some of his close friends. The work sold at an
ever-increasing rate, and in 1956 he moved into larger quarters
where he could show the work of more artists. Under his direction
the business continued to grow, and five years later he expanded
again. Now he has one of the largest and finest galleries
of its type in the country, American Wildlife Art Galleries,
with literally hundreds of Items on display. There are watercolors,
oil paintings, etchings, Sculptures, wood carvings, ceramics,
leathercraft, and stone lithographs, representing many top
He designed the well known Migratory
Bird Stamp framing set which displays the entire collection
of duck stamps and has been very popular with stamp collectors.
Mr. Kouba had some excellent
color photographs of the gallery made up in post card form,
they were free for the asking. Each one was worth a thousand
words of mine, and once having seen one, a visit to the gallery
became irresistible to an art lover. A quote from one of the
cards: "Any connoisseur of wildlife and western art will
recognize and appreciate the many distinctive creations by
these internationally famous artists. It is a pleasure for
us to extend an invitation to art lovers and sportsmen alike
to come in and browse."