of Corsicana is the 18th of the sponsor print series
reproduced in support of the Sponsor Member program of ducks
Unlimited by its Texas volunteers. Mr. Sparks has devoted his
life to working with wildlife assignments at the Ft. Worth
Zoo, The World Bird Sanctuary and The Wolf Sanctuary. His work
has been displayed at the St. Louis Artist Guild and in
galleries throughout the Midwest prior to his return to his
native Texas home. The 2002 sponsor print was underwritten by
First Southwest Company
for the eighth consecutive year
Link to: Ducks Unlimited
6/3/2002 Local man named
Texas Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year
By BARBARA FORMAN/Daily Sun Staff
His life was surrounded by animals and now
Justin Sparks, a Navarro County resident, has incorporated what he
loves about nature into a flourishing career.
It was only two years ago that Sparks made
the discovery he had a real talent for painting. Since that time, he
has been named as one of the Texas Ducks Unlimited Sponsor Artist's
of the Year for 2002-2003.
Before putting his artistic talents to work
in a professional capacity he worked with animals at the Fort Worth
Zoo. He also worked with the World Bird Sanctuary and the Wolf
Sanctuary which are both located in Eureka, Mo. A career with
animals was also possible on the U.S. Government grant studies where
he worked with native songbirds.
After his watercolor portrayal was selected
as a winning entry in "Texas Ducks Unlimited" he knew
there was an opportunity to seize and profit by.
"My brother, who has a master's degree
in fine arts, got me interested in painting," Sparks said.
"He pushed me toward it a little bit and here I am."
Sparks said he found a medium that was
right for him in the beginning with watercolors.
"I have never had any kind of formal
training," he said. "I am pretty much a self-taught
Although he has been drawing since he was a
child, he did not pursue his talents in a serious fashion until his
brother gave him the encouragement he needed.
Besides working with animals Sparks spent a
lot of time outdoors hiking and camping where he kept his eyes open
for wildlife subjects and inspiration.
Sparks said by teaching himself to paint it
has allowed him to develop his own style and technique. His skills
have not been influenced by anyone else.
After painting his second work of art he
knew there was something more than just interesting to his work.
"On my second painting, a sponsor
picked me up," Sparks said.
In addition to that his wife Jennifer said
she entered some of his works into an art show.
"He didn't want me to do it," she
said. "I sent them anyway and all three were accepted out of 80
spots that were sent nationwide."
After the gallery showing at the St. Louis
Artists' Guild and the interest other people showed in his work,
both Justin and Jennifer believed it could be a profitable business.
The 2000 national watercolor exhibition in
St. Louis brought Sparks the attention he needed to get his foot in
the door for a successful career in art.
The recognition brought the attention of
other sponsors and was the beginning of some of the financial
sponsorship he has obtained since.
Since that time he has started a small
business and travels to different areas showing his colorful
portrayals of wildlife.
This month the work that gained him a place
in "Texas Ducks Unlimited" will be unveiled in Beaumont.
He credits a lot of his success to working
with animals at an early age.
"My mother was the assisting curator
of education for the Fort Worth Zoo and that is how (my interest)
started," Sparks said.
He said growing up around animals helped to
develop his style. Although he paints from a variety of interests he
said at this point he is focusing primarily on North American
wildlife right now.
When there are buffalo, elk, moose, bears,
wolves, water birds and songbirds there is also Justin Sparks. He
has plans to widen his range of subjects, but for now painting the
wildlife close to home is where his interests can be found.
Sparks and his wife are learning how to
turn a passion for animals into creative business. Jennifer said
some of his work has been so colorful and precise some people have
mistaken it for photography. His canvas has been his proof.
He works out of his home in Navarro County
and plans to go as far as his art will take him.
Barbara Forman may be contacted via e-mail
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