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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Where The Wild Things Roam

Author Henry David Thoreau observed, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." Local artist Linda Budge champions the preservation of the wild world in her skillfully rendered wildlife paintings and now in a delightful and insightful children’s book series.

Linda began her creative journey growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah. She says, "My family spent the warm months at a cabin in the Wasatch Mountains in Brighton every summer. That's where I developed a love of Nature, living with the Pinion Pines, Aspens, the lakes, streams, and an abundance of wildlife as my inspiration." During the long summer days, Linda and her brother took off into the wild. He favored fishing, and Linda loved hiking with her sketchbook and drawing tools in tow. Returning home in the fall, Linda nourished her curiosity for Nature by biking the East Bench and visiting the local zoo, where she could experience the diversity of wildlife. She remembers her favorite was Alice, the Asian elephant. "I filled my sketchbooks with drawings of Alice; I considered her my best friend."

By the time Linda reached her early 20s, she had married her husband, John. She recalls, "While he was in medical school, in the Air Force, and gone much of the time, I signed up for the Famous Artist School’s correspondence art courses. The experience provided me with a solid foundation in the basics of art." Once John completed his medical training and was discharged from the Air Force, the couple moved to Laramie, Wyoming, where Linda was introduced to Plein air painting and began to move her work back into Nature. Linda spent hours wandering outdoors and exploring the local wildlife in their natural habitat. Soon, Linda put together a small dark room to develop countless photos of her wild subjects to use as references in her images.

"Logic can take us from point A to point B. However, imagination can take you anywhere.”

Now, she was firmly on the path to becoming a wildlife artist. Linda continued to hone her skills through workshops and classes, visiting museums, joining arts organizations, and communicating with other artists. Painter David Leffel was Linda's first artistic influencer with his paintings of light. She loved the drama he achieved through his use of dynamic lighting effects. Artist Carl Rungius, a game hunter and wildlife painter, became an inspiration through his books. Linda recalls, "I saw a large collection of his paintings and bronzes in a private home outside Cheyenne. At that point, I concentrated on being more accurate in rendering wildlife drawings." Once she encountered wildlife painter Bob Kuhns during a workshop in Jackson, Hole, Wyoming, Linda learned to focus on the expression and capture the gestures of her wildlife subjects. Finally, Linda credits Author Richard Schmidt with getting her to think about edges and using fewer brush strokes to describe an object—all grist for the mill in Linda's journey as a wildlife artist.

Today, with 50 years of award-winning success, Linda is off on another journey with her wildlife illustrations to reach the smallest imaginations in our community, our children. The venture began during the lockdown of the pandemic. Linda discussed getting a second dog for Lacey, the couple's standard poodle. John commented, "Why don't you get a mouse?" What? "A few days later, I thought I would go to PetSmart and research. I ended up with a mouse and about $200. in mouse habitat paraphernalia." Walter the Mouse was about to scamper on the pages of Linda's sketchbooks.

Walter began life as a mouse, walking on all four paws and actively exploring his new playground; however, it was not long before Walter appeared on the pages of Linda's sketches, walking upright dressed in Levi jeans, a red shirt, and dancing into various life predicaments such as moving a house...uhh a nest. Walter made his debut in 2023 in the pages of Moving. Soon after, Linda entered him into the Purple Dragonfly Children's books awards where Moving won an honorable mention for illustrations and poetry. Walla, Linda is now officially launched into an author-illustrator career!

Walter has caught the attention of his friends; the crew decided to check this performance in a poetry and portraits project, resulting in two more books, Fiona, the Dancing Flamingo, and Lost and Found with the Unlikely Three. Now, Fiona Flamingo, Dottie Dog, Bartholomew Turtle, and Walter Mouse are looking for further escapades to become involved in. However, adventure seems to find them first! In the meantime, Walter is publishing a newsletter for his readers, Assorted Nuts, to catch a glance into the workings of a mouse mind. Linda is watching this little fellow closely, ensuring he's scampering in his lane while she's working on her next book.

Author/Illustrator Linda Budge is a member of the Society of Animal Artists, the Artists for Conservation, and the Sonoran Arts League. She participates in book readings with local libraries, exhibits with local book fairs and teaches in her community in Scottsdale, Arizona. She said, "Logic can take us from point A to point B. However, imagination can take you anywhere. Combined with my experience and abilities to draw and paint, having an imagination has made it possible to create Walter and all his friends, who now occupy my studio.”


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