BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Like an experienced sailor knows the nuances of the sea, artist Ken Bucklew knows the natural beauty of his native Indiana. Since he was a boy, Bucklew has painted the landscapes and wildlife of the Hoosier state, primarily in Owen County where he has always lived.
“Indiana nature is so diverse—the seasons, the atmospheric conditions—I’m never at a loss for subject matter. I try to capture Indiana natural heritage in the most authentic way,” Bucklew says.
Even after a 1975 diving accident left Bucklew paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 18, he was determined to pursue his art. After a long rehabilitation, he gradually recovered some dexterity and devised a technique of controlling his paintbrush by precise shoulder and upper- arm movement.
Bucklew’s art has graced calendars and greeting cards, and his detailed paintings of ducks and other game birds have garnered 19 first place awards in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ nationwide art competition; one of his paintings was selected for the Indiana duck stamp.
Bucklew lives and works in a home located directly across from the entrance to McCormick’s Creek State Park. The house, which he designed, has many windows that provide natural light and views of his many birdfeeders and densely wooded property. “I consider bird feed a business expense,” he jokes.
In recent years, Bucklew has concentrated on painting landscapes from photographs he takes himself. “I can paint plein air, but it is a struggle since I got injured. I do it about once a year just to prove I can,” he says.
Bucklew sees himself as a landscape painter in the tradition of the early Hoosier Salon artists, such as T.C. Steele. He estimates that he has sold more than 2,000 paintings and has built a following by word-of-mouth.
“I paint what I know, and what I know will sell,” he says. “A lot of my clientele are people with ties to Indiana but who no longer live here—former Hoosiers who want to take a piece of Indiana home with them.”