Friday, March 13, 2020

Bob Timberlake. Artist and conservationist.

I was anticipating the morning. I had this planned for a couple of weeks. I was going to meet someone at the top of their field and get to have a one on one with the gentlemen.

The previous day, he was on a quail hunt. His granddaughter happens to be a crack shot herself. I had done some extra studying on his life to add to my already near-fanboy knowledge.
Bob Timberlake holds one of his paintings from the Keep America Beautiful campaign. (Bill Howard)

He owns a very successful studio/gallery and museum. His name is well known throughout the United States. He was instrumental in one of the most successful non-profit campaigns in advertising history.

I met him 30 minutes prior to the gallery opening, and he was sitting inside looking out of the window for when I drove up.

Bob Timberlake unlocked the door and welcomed me in like I was an old friend.

We had never met before, and I had only communicated with his granddaughter through email to arrange the meeting. But he was genuine and friendly. Or perhaps I should say he IS genuine and friendly. We discussed why I was there and what we would be doing.

He gave me a quick tour of the gallery and museum. If you do not recognize the Bob Timberlake name, he is an artist and furniture builder extraordinaire. His art greatly consists of rural style art in a realist approach but with a Norman Rockwell feel. So of course, we saw lots and lots of his paintings.

He was particularly proud of a chest he built when he was 14 years old that was on display, with a matching custom woven rug below, and a letter from Henry Ford congratulating him on an award.

We looked at several sizes and styles of decoys he made or designed. He carried me to a showcase with a teddy bear that he explained was responsible for over $2 million in donations for a non-profit. Another showcase displayed a rifle owned by Annie Oakley.

I was in awe.

Then we spoke about hunting and fishing. He showed me a recent article about him with some magnificent photos of him fly fishing. Then he showed me another pic with a catch that would make anyone envious.

Bob Timberlake is not just an artist. He is not just a furniture maker. He is not just a gallery owner. He is a spokesman and conservationist. He participates in the outdoors as well as capture the spirit of nature in his paintings and furniture. He has forwarded that passion to his family, including his granddaughter. In fact, she had just come back from a fishing trip in the mountains of North Carolina herself.

For those old enough, you may remember the Keep America Beautiful campaign featuring the ‘crying Indian.’ His art helped that campaign excel. He was already well regarded as an artist. To my generation, those that grew up in the 70s and 80s, it is how we learned his name.

We were in a pollution crisis during those days. While we still have pollution and debris, it is not nearly where we were headed. He made a difference. He continues to make a difference.

I can only hope to get a small fraction to help make a difference in my goal of expanding the numbers of those that enjoy the outdoors. His story gave me hope and inspiration.

Maybe, just maybe, we can get together in a cold-water stream for some casting for trout someday as well.

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