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Celebrating the spirit of the landscape he loves

Doug Pederson enjoys the quiet time of creating art in his shop. His works celebrating the beauty of the Upper Minnesota River Valley region have served to inspire many to explore its rivers, woodlands and open prairie. (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)1 / 6
Doug Pederson and his son Brook "recycle'' the trees they fell into wood, from which they create furniture featuring their carved images of the natural world. (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)2 / 6
A small sawmill allows Doug Pederson to "recycle'' many of the trees he and his son Brook fell as part of their business "Doug's Trimming.'' (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)3 / 6
Doug Pederson holds one of his popular, hand-carved canoe paddles. (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)4 / 6
Doug Pederson has been carving scrimshaw since he was introduced to the art in 1975. His intricate works are found on deer antlers and, in more recent years, the tusks of ancient mastodons. (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)5 / 6
A shed deer antler with Pederson's depiction of a Minnesota River Valley deer is the handle for this knife. (Tom Cherveny / Tribune)6 / 6

Doug Pederson still loves to paddle to his favorite fishing holes and hike the trails where he hunts shed deer antlers and captures the images on his camera that inspire much of his art.

But there's a difference today.

His fishing holes aren't so secret anymore. He's not surprised to find the footprints of other hikers on many of the quiet woodland and prairie haunts he favors.

He knows he's partly responsible for this turn of events. For more than four decades his art has celebrated and introduced many to the beauty of the of the Upper Minnesota River Valley region, a landscape he prefers to any other.

"I always kind of liked this area,'' said Pederson. "I am kind of a prairie guy, I guess.''

There is no guesswork for those who know his art. His scrimshaw art — which he carved originally on deer antlers, but more often today on the tusks of ancient mastodons — recreates in fine detail the wildlife he encounters on his excursions close to home in Montevideo.

Pederson employs a broader brush to show life here too. He carves images on the locally harvested wood he and his son Brook craft into furniture. He also carves his own canoe paddles and sculpts the images of wildlife on their blades as well.

He works on canvas and paper too, creating drawings and paintings that feature the outdoors.

The artists who comprise the Upper Minnesota River Valley Arts Crawl are recognizing Pederson as the featured artist for this year's Meander. Naturally enough, he turned to the outdoors and created an image featuring the pelicans of the upper valley to represent this year's event.

Pederson and his son operate "Doug's Trimming," a tree-cutting service in the Montevideo area. They use a small sawmill to "recycle'' many of the trees they remove. They sell some of the boards to carpenters and other artists, but use a portion to create a variety of furniture.

A native of Montevideo, Pederson, 66, said he had an interest in art at an early age. He studied art for a short time at Southwest State University before serving in the U.S. Air Force (1969- 1972), which included a stint in Vietnam.

He continued in his love for art and passion for the outdoors when he returned home from the service. Bow hunting was one of his early passions, and remains so today. He carves his own bows and loves the challenge of the hunt with these primitive weapons, but enjoys most the opportunity to watch the natural world around him.

In younger years, he said he could climb up into a deer stand before daylight and stay put until dark.

He used to keep a camera in hand to record some of what he saw from his invisible perch in the trees, but he eventually learned better. "It cost me some really nice deer,'' said Pederson, laughing.

Fellow artist and Montevideo native Art Norby had introduced Pederson to the art of scrimshaw in 1975. Pederson sharpened a nail and taught himself how to place his mind's eye images of the natural world on the antlers.

The tiny, intricate work can be demanding, said Pederson. Today he likes the freedom to set aside the scrimshaw for periods of time and focus on wood carving or drawing.

The business he operates with his son demands much of his time. Yet some things remain unchanged. He still makes time to enjoy the outdoors. He never fails to come back inspired to create new work.

And, as always, he loves most of all those quiet hours at the shop table. It's where he transforms the spirit of the place he loves into images for others to appreciate. He can't imagine his life without the special time he spends creating art.

"There is still lots of satisfaction you get from it,'' he said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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