Creating the ultimate sportsman’s lodge demands the ultimate in everything: location, materials, craftsmanship, and as a fantastic, final touch, one-of-a-kind artwork to bring it to life. That’s why, when I started production on my new series, Ultimate Sportsman’s Lodge — Colorado on the Great American Country (GAC) Network, I searched long and hard for my dream location, the best artisans, and the most unique and amazing artwork I could find.
When I met artist Lance Boen at a Safari Club International Show, I knew I’d found the man to create the crowning piece for my Ultimate Sportsman’s Lodge. Lance is a gifted painter and sculptor who has defined his own genre of outdoor artwork. He creates dramatic sculptures of gamefish and wildlife in leather, which sounds a bit out there until you see his work in person. Even online — www.lanceboen.com — his leather creations are amazing.
Each piece is stunning to behold; often larger-than-life and always anatomically accurate. Meticulously tooled with imagery from throughout each fish’s life cycle and ecosystem, the closer you get to Lance’s work, the more detailed and captivating the experience becomes.
“What makes my fish sculptures unique is the fact that they tell a story,” Lance says in his usual understated way. “In fishing, the most fulfilling part is what you see and experience when you’re on the water. So I incorporate the natural birds, plants, and animal life that you see. It’s all about capturing the story of the fishing experience and rendering it into a one-of-a-kind artwork.”
When Lance and I got together to plan his creation for my lodge, I noticed how he took in all the textures in the space itself — the wrought iron, the open-grained woods, the sweeping vistas out every window. I could see that he was already designing something that would be unique and reflective of the exact space where it would hang — the keystone wall right above the dining area.
“Chris and I decided I would create a larger-than-life brown trout — six feet long — with a whole textural mural scene of the life cycle of the brown trout in its underwater world. With a space selected, I worked off the materials in the room — lots of natural textures and iron work.
“I wanted to transform the space with my fish and help translate Chris’ passion for the outdoors into the work itself. Most importantly I want to give each viewer a personalized art experience to inspire, captivate, and challenge them with the artwork as well.”
One thing that comes across in Lance’s work is you can tell that he’s an avid fly fisherman. It’s obvious in his attention to detail and the fleeting nuances that he carefully tools into every square inch of every piece he creates.
And the fact that he’s working with leather — as surprising as it may sound — actually resonates with outdoorsmen and women because leather is such a ubiquitous material in our lives. Our boots and hats and belts are made from it. Our saddles, satchels, and favorite jackets are leather. We love the smell. The touch. Its natural origins. And those layers of familiarity add even more to the appeal of Lance Boen’s work.
“There’s something about leather that people respond to,” he says. “It’s a very tactile medium — the look, the smell. It gets more beautiful over time. It reminds you of your first baseball glove or letterman’s jacket. So it’s welcome and familiar. But it’s also a great medium for the artist. With leather, I’m not limited by size. I enjoy hand-tooling the textural detail work, and it’s a beautiful canvas to paint on as well. Leather is a one-of-a-kind medium and that’s fitting for my one-of-a-kind works of art.”
Another great aspect of Lance’s work: it’s obvious this is a man who simply loves what he does. He doesn’t cut corners. Not a single detail is overlooked. From concept through creation, he is an artist who is engrossed — and enthralled — with his art.
“It’s a lot of work and I’m at it every day,” Lance confesses unrepentantly. “It’s what I love to do. Creating and selling artwork allows me to make the next body of work so I can continue to push myself and my art to new heights.
“What’s great about leather is you can manipulate it and the sky’s the limit,” he says. “There isn’t a fish or animal that I couldn’t create through the medium.”
Despite relentless demand, Lance still makes each piece one-at-a-time, pouring his entire artistic being into each creation.
“Many of my pieces take more than a month to create. They’re very labor intensive. In the two-dimensional state, I hand-tool every square inch of the leather with a mural. Then they are wet-formed and turned into a three-dimensional shape, and from there I treat them like canvases by painting them with oil dyes or acrylics, depending on the experience I’m trying to create.”
For my Ultimate Sportsman’s Lodge, Lance created a truly monumental, head-turning piece that commands the room and conveys a sense of majesty that lovers of the outdoors can truly appreciate. His shimmering, soaring brown trout now flies effortlessly above my family and my guests — reminding each of us of our fascination for all things wild, our passion for discovery, and our appreciation for amazing art and the artists — like Lance Boen — who create it.
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