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What automotive illustrator mentored Harry Antis and helped him hone his painting craft?
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Harry Antis Artist Bio or Biography
A detailed Harry Antis artist bio can be found on Harry Antis' biography page at Christ-Centered Art.
Click portrait for an artist introduction
Born in October of 1942, Harry Antis
knew for a certainty, by the time he reached his teens, about two things he wanted for his life. First, was to be an artist; and second, to be a "wildlife" artist. These two specifics grew out of his love of the white-tailed deer. "I have yet to find in the natural world, any other of God's creatures that quite holds the same fascination for me as this incredibly graceful animal."
From that beginning in his early teens, his interests and horizons have spread. His fascination with all wild things has taken him not only to the fields, forests, and marshes of his native Michigan, but to the mountains and plains of our American west, and even to the great game parks of East Africa. However, it was not a direct route from "dream to reality" for this young, budding artist. "When I graduated from high school in 1961, I didn't go on to the 'Halls of Higher Learning'; I couldn't afford it financially. I knew that I wanted to be an artist and that I wanted to paint wildlife, but in those days, wildlife art of any kinds, especially as we know it today, was virtually non-existent."
For nearly 2 years, Harry "bumped around from pillar to post," looking for some kind of job in an art-related field with very limited success. In 1963, he married his high school sweetheart, Sandi Brown, and two weeks later landed his first job in an art studio. With this job, came Harry's opportunity of a lifetime. "I really began to learn how to draw and to paint from a top automotive illustrator by the name of Bob Pivitt. In the four years of working with him, I probably learned more than I could have in ten years of art school. Not only was Pivitt a master of his craft, he revealed to be techniques and 'shortcuts' that most artists only acquire through years of experimenting and experience. My gratitude to this man and his willingness to share his knowledge and skill with me will never come to an end."
"Although I was working as an automotive-type illustrator, that deep-down desire to paint wildlife was still there, and I did pursue it. Many an evening and weekend, as well as lunch hours at work, were spent drawing and painting wildlife and nature subjects, but the prospects of doing it full-time were still very, very dim."
In 1967, Harry and Sandi moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan; and he began working as an artist-illustrator for the Bendix Aerospace Division doing some work for the Apollo space program. In less than a year, though, he had quit his job and began a freelancing operation for local advertising companies, the purpose of which was to earn a little money to pay bills; but more for the purpose of having more time to work on painting his wildlife subjects.
"Finally, in March 1969. Sandi and I made a foray to Kentucky for a small vacation. Low and behold, there in the bluegrass, I happened upon wildlife prints by Ray Harm and Gene Gray (Kentucky, incidentally, is the birthplace of the limited edition wildlife print). It didn't take long (about eight months to be exact) before the first Harry Antis wildlife print was published. Needless to say, it was on my favorite subject — the white-tailed deer. But now what do I do with them. I stopped into galleries and frame shops everywhere I went, trying to sell my prints; but it was tough. At times, I think I gave away more than I sold, just to get them out in front of the public. People didn't even know what a limited edition print was. But over the next six years, the wildlife print market developed; and the business of limited edition prints did very well. Wildlife art, in particular, really came into its own."
Things have changed a lot since those early years, but Harry's attitude about his work is still the same. "As an artist, I have always strived to outdo my last painting with better design, better drawing, better use of color and technique; hoping, of course, that the end result would be a better painting, artistically."
From his viewpoint though, producing a really good painting is not accomplished by just putting into the painting lots of minute detail; neither does a painting become a good piece of art because 'it looks just like a photograph.' A truly successful piece of art, from Harry's perspective, is one that touches the viewer's heart and communicates or stirs something within the viewer.
Many hundreds of paintings by Harry Antis grace the walls of homes, corporate offices, wildlife organizations, and museums, not to mention the more than 125 different limited edition print subjects that have been released over the years. His paintings have also appeared in many publications such as Audubon
, National Wildlife
, Sports Afield
, Outdoor Life
, Wildlife Art News
, Field and Stream
, and Michigan Out-of-Doors
, just to name a few. Articles about his work and his interests have also appeared in newspapers and periodicals around the country.
This is but a brief summation of some highlights from Harry's career:
Life Takes a 180° Turn
"In 1976, after attending church with my wife and our four children, I finally came to the realization of who Jesus really is as my Savior and Lord. That realization changed my life forever. I had, what is commonly called the "born again" experience. Because of this tremendous life-changing experience, I realized that my real knowledge of God's Word, the Bible, was very near 'ignorance' level. I bought the Bible on tape and listened to it being read to me while I was painting all day in the studio. The knowledge and even a sprinkling of wisdom that I began to receive from this began to have a significant effect upon my life."A Brush with Death — A Lion's Den Experience
"Then, in the summer of 1985, I did a very unusual painting for me. It is entitled Daniel in the Lion's Den. Needless to say, I was totally unaware of my own lion's den that I would be passing through before that year's end.
"On November 19, 1985, I awoke in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Sandi rushed me to the hospital; and in the emergency room, we learned that I was having congestive heart failure. What a shock, at only 43 years of age. That same morning, they turned me over to the heart specialist, and a heart catheterization was done to find out the extent of the damage and what treatment could be given to help me. It was a long day waiting for the results; but finally, at 6:30 in the evening, the doctor appeared. Sandi had left to get some dinner and afterward I was glad that she was not present. 'Mr. Antis,' he said, and I could hear his voice quiver as he spoke, 'I have very bad news for you. You have had a very massive and damaging heart attack. Approximately 1/3 of your heart muscle has died, and there is nothing we can do to help you. Your heart is so weak that we cannot even attempt coronary bypass surgery on you. You could never survive the surgery'.
"'Mr. Antis,' he said, and I could see the tears in his eyes and how difficult it was for him to speak, 'you probably won't survive more than a few days in your weakened condition, so I would suggest that you get your personal affairs in order quickly; because you undoubtedly will not be able to survive the next heart attack.' We talked together for a few minutes and then he left. I guess I was emotionally numb as I laid there in that Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Sandi returned shortly after the doctor had left. I told her what he had said. We didn't cry; we just talked and made plans. Our pastor came that evening, and final arrangements were made.
"About 10:00, I convinced Sandi to go home, for she hadn't slept in two days. Shortly after midnight, I awoke with the pain of another attack; and I guessed that this would be it. They called Sandi at home, and she came back to the hospital in a flash. We prayed. Amazingly, the attack passed; and everything settled back down, so I encouraged Sandi to go back home. The kids were up and worrying; and they needed some encouragement too. The next morning, she returned about 7:00 AM. She said that while praying that morning, she felt that the Lord had given her a passage from the Bible for the both of us. 'Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Psalm 50:15). Because we both are Christians, and we believe the Bible is God's word, and it is true, we claimed that promise for our situation. We called upon the Lord for help, believing He could and He would help.
"We talked a lot that morning, and we both decided that I should go home. There was nothing they could do for me at the hospital anyway, so we planned for me to go home the following day where I could be with our three teenage sons: Andy, Joe, and Aaron, and our eight-year-old daughter, Holly Marie. That evening, the head cardiology surgeon came by my room. He sat down and explained in great detail what my problem was. (Perhaps it needs a little better explanation here.) Two of my four coronary arteries that feed blood to the heart muscle were completely closed. That is what had caused 1/3 of the heart muscle to die because it had no blood supply. The other arteries were nearly closed off as well. Now, the heart's ability to pump blood to the body is measured in percentages by what is called an ejection factor. The average person's ejection factor is 50 to 55%. When the factor drops into the 40 to 50% range,
- Listed in Who's Who in American Art.
- Commissioned by the prestigious Danbury Mint to design the first set of Damascene plaques ever made. This suite of 5 plaques became a "day of issue" instant sell-out.
- An exhibitor in the prestigious Leigh Yawkey Woodson, "Birds in Art" exhibition.
- First place winner in the inaugural National Wildlife Foundation exhibit in Scottsdale, Arizona, 1978.
- Commissioned by the Boone and Crockett Club to paint the portrait of the world famous Chadwick Ram. The painting appeared as the frontal piece in the Eighth Edition 1981 Records of North American Big Game. The painting was also reproduced in a limited edition print as a fundraiser for the Boone and Crockett organization. The original painting is part of the permanent collection of the Winchester/Western collection at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.
- Winner of the 1983 Ohio Duck Stamp competition.
- Commissioned to design the 1984 Deer Unlimited Stamp Print.
- Commissioned to design the 1985 North Carolina Conservation Stamp and print featuring the white-tailed deer.
- Commissioned in 1986 by the Wyoming Outfitters Association to paint the Teton elk.
- Winner of more than a dozen awards by the Printing Industries of America for outstanding excellence in the reproduction of his limited edition collector prints.
- Has over 125 sold-out limited edition prints.
- Has donated and supported many conservation organizations with donations of prints as well as originals.
- The 1993 "Artist of the Year" print for the National "Whitetails Unlimited" Organization.
- The 1994 "Artist of the Year" for the National "Quality Deer Management" Organization.
- The 1994 artist for Michigan Ducks Unlimited Annual Sponsor Print.
- A suite of paintings of the four North American Wild Sheep — The Rocky Mountain Bighorn, The Desert Bighorn, The Dall Sheep, and The Stone Sheep — which are in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Natural History.
- Painting of timber wolves in the permanent collection of the Booth Museum of Western Art in Cartersville, Georgia.
- Painting of eagles entitled "Courtship Flight" in the permanent collection of Ducks Unlimited National Headquarters.
the heart condition is treated with medication. When it falls into the 30 to 40% range, people undergo coronary bypass surgery. This has become a very common practice today. When it drops below 30%, they can no longer do the surgery because the heart is too weak to survive the trauma. Somewhere around 15%, the heart just stops. My ejection factor was 16 to 18%. Even with rest and medication, the best improvement that could be hoped for would only be a 1 to 2% improvement. The cardiologist said the only thing that could help me would be if I could get a heart transplant. He asked me if I would be interested. He said my possibilities for success with a transplant were excellent because I had no other medical problems which are what oftentimes plagues transplant patients. He said he would call the head of staff of the transplant team and see what they could do. In four days time, I became a candidate and my name was on the donor/recipient computer list.
"I was glad to be at home, to be in familiar surroundings and especially to be with Sandi and the children all day. Many people were praying for us, not only those from our church, but other churches as well. Even Bible study groups from other denominations were praying for us. In the seven weeks that followed, I had four more heart attacks and everyone, the doctors included, was amazed that I was still alive. On the 26th of January, a Friday night, I suffered the sixth heart attack. The transplant cardiologist who was overseeing my case came in to see me the next morning and his comment to me was, 'I simply don't understand, with the damaged and weakened condition of your heart, how you are staying alive'.
"That same morning, about 10:30, two men came to see me, Charles and Louis. They said, 'Harry, we have come to lay hands on you and pray for you, that God would heal you.' For an hour they prayed, and I prayed too (I later learned that they had agreed on two scriptures from the New Testament that they would claim on my behalf. The first is Jesus' own words as recorded in Mark 16:17-18. Jesus is speaking, 'And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.' The other scripture was I Peter 2:24: 'Who (that's Jesus) his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed'.)
"When they were gone, I laid there in that Intensive Care Unit alone; listening to the beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor. I didn't feel any pain physically, but my inner person, my spirit, felt very peaceful. The hours passed and about 4:30 that afternoon, the cardiologist stopped by to see how I was doing. After a few moments he said to me, 'You are certainly looking a lot better than you did last night. You actually seem to have some color to your face now'.
"The following day, he stopped in again to see how I was doing. 'Harry, he said, 'you're looking so much better'. On the third day, 'Harry,' he said, 'you're looking so much better, I can hardly believe it; and I do believe that something has changed.' He was so impressed with the color in my skin he was convinced something had happened. Several other members of the transplant team came in and took a look at me too; then they all left the room and conferred together. The cardiologist came back and said, 'Harry, we're convinced something has changed, and we don't have any other way to find out what has happened except by doing another heart catheterization. We know it's very risky for you, but would you consent to have it?' God had protected me through so much already; I knew He would protect me through this too. So with my confidence totally in Him I said, 'Yes'.
"It was done early the next morning. They promised they would have the results for me by noon. 1:00 and 2:00 and 3:00 and 4:00 went by, and then finally in came the cardiologist. 'I'm sorry,' he said, 'I'm very sorry it has taken so long to get back to you, but there has been some sort of mix-up with your test results. Someone may have mixed up your test results with another patient because we're getting an ejection factor reading on you of 47% which is almost normal, and that is impossible for you. That just can't happen.' The long and short of it was, they did another test and got the very same results, only this time it was a 48% ejection factor. There wasn't any mix-up this time. They were referring to it as an 'unexplainable phenomenon'.
"I think it probably took the doctors a day to recover from the shock, but the following day, the transplant team did a coronary bypass on my heart. Seven days later, I was home and I hadn't felt that good in a number of years. What had happened? I believe God is always faithful to His word, and He did the miraculous. So do a whole lot of others, and interestingly enough, when I went back for a checkup several months later, they gave me the routine 'stress test' to see how my heart was doing. The net result in the physician's own words, 'Well, Mr. Antis, we know you've had a heart attack, and you've had surgery, but the bottom line is this. Your ejection factor is an unbelievable 56% and all, yes I said all of your heart is functioning just fine'.
"The only thing I can say to that is, 'Praise God!' As God had protected and saw Daniel through his lion's den experience and its certain death outcome, I believe God was also faithful to His Word and promise of Psalm 50:15 for Sandi and me. There really is not other explanation, is there?"
"In the spring of 1989, I had a totally unexpected vision from God as the result of personal study of a verse from the Bible. That verse was from the Apostle Paul: II Corinthians 5:18: 'God has reconciled us unto himself by Jesus Christ.' I had been meditating on this verse for several weeks. As I kept turning over and over in my mind and spirit these words, the Holy Spirit began to make real for me depths of understanding in the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus Christ that I had never recognized before. Then, one Sunday morning, as I was standing in the narthex of our church, the verse came to my mind again, and instantly the image of Christ's hand, strapped and nailed to the cross, appeared before me. The impact of seeing that right hand extended out toward me was so powerful and profound that it seemed to open floodgates of emotion and insight within me of the glorious love of God's very own heart for all mankind.
"This vision lasted from 11:00 until 1:30 in the afternoon. In the days and the weeks and the months following this experience, I felt something deep within urging me to do a painting of what I saw. But, I argued with that notion. I was a wildlife and nature painter, not a portrait painter. I had never studied human anatomy or portraiture. Finally, during the Holly Week of Easter 1991, I began to paint what I had seen in the vision. At the time, my thoughts were more inclined toward proving that I couldn't paint such an awesome scene rather than proving I could. When I finished the painting on Labor Day weekend of 1991, I was astonished at the end result. Many of my professional artist friends, a few of which are portrait painters, were also amazed at the finished painting.
"Several months later, on December 19, 1991, I received a second vision. This vision was of the Nativity of Jesus. For several weeks after the vision, which only lasted about 20 minutes, I prayed most earnestly, asking the Lord God what this was all about. I personally had never known anyone who ever had a vision, let alone, two of them. Then one morning during prayer time, I brought this issue before Him again. At the end of this prayer time that morning, I became very quiet, not praying anymore and seemingly, not even thinking. After several minutes went by, I heard these words. They seemed almost audible to my natural ears: ' I have shown you the death of My Son and the birth of My Son. Now I want you to show the purpose for
both.' The subsequent results have been ten additional paintings which have taken nearly ten years of full-time effort to complete. Each painting depicts a major revelation of spiritual truth about mankind's relationship to the Father — Creator God, each of which has been related by God's Holy Spirit and the prophets in the Old and New Testament biblical record."
Another Lion's Den Experience
"In October, 1994, the second major killer of mankind was discovered in my body. After a routine medical exam, I was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. I was halfway through the painting of 'The First Communion' (or the last supper) at the time. The cancer surgeon and the cardiologist said my chances of surviving the operating table were 50/50. What my chances were regarding the cancer and it spreading to other areas was an unknown. Again, I chose to stand on God's promises of protection. I tried to finish 'The First Communion' painting before submitting to surgery but finally in April, 1996, I did have the surgery even though the painting was still not completed. It is quite obvious to say I survived the operation; but blessing upon blessing, the cancer was eliminated and I never had to endure even the follow-up chemotherapy. The cancer was totally and completely gone.
"The series of paintings on the life and purpose of Jesus was completed on October 3, 2000. The premiere exhibit of the entire series of paintings occurred on November 3, 2000 at our church, St. Luke's here in Ann Arbor, Michigan."
"As an artist, I truly feel that my work is beginning to reach maturity. As a person, I am continually in awe of our God, His creation, and His personal involvement in the lives of us all. My hope, and my prayer too, is that maybe, in at least one of my paintings whether it be a wildlife piece or a biblical piece, that it speaks to your heart about God's beautiful creation and His love for each and every one of us personally."