“Bob Shepherd has drawn ever since he can remember, although he never really intended to make a living with his art,” the Nebraska native said. “I wanted to be a chemical engineer, but my teachers told me to stick to drawing. They told me my reports were lousy, but they said the drawings accompanying the reports were great.”
He was born in 1926 in Lincoln, Nebraska and raised in Omaha.
As a youth in the 1930’s (the Depression days) he soon gained a real empathy for that part of our country and its inhabitants by roaming along the banks of the Missouri River searching for arrowheads and the buttons off Calvary uniforms, hitch-hiking and hopping freight trains heading farther and farther west, seeking out adventures and material he would use to do what he loved most–draw.
Bob first studied under neighborhood WPA artists in settlement houses in Omaha during the 1930’s. “Some very excellent artists taught me how to draw for two bits a week or less for supplies,” he said, “and after school and weekends I took courses that were open to youngsters at the Jocelyn Art Museum in Omaha.
He also took correspondence courses in art before joining the Navy in 1942 at the age of 16, serving four years, part of it in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
After World War II he attended the Omaha School of Art and held various jobs in Omaha doing advertising art for department stores, label designing, etc. He also illustrated brochures for a film distributor, doing a lot of action art with cowboy actors like Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Alan Ladd and Hoot Gibson.
His first art job paid thirty dollars a week before taxes, but it was a real learning experience for his art career.
After moving to Chicago in 1949, he furthered his art education by attending art schools, taking courses in life drawing, anatomy, illustrating and advertising design. He worked at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago illustrating book covers and museum pieces, often depicting a whole object from the evidence and remains of excavated fragments.
Bob served as staff artist and art director for various advertising agencies, art studios, printers and engravers as well as the Chicago Sun Times.
During this period he also had free lance studios in Chicago and its suburbs, working on top advertising accounts. It was a time when you had to do every type of art from illustrating chocolate candy to making a tire look good.
While Bob was attending art school and working as a free lance artist, his wife, Lorraine, also from Nebraska, was raising their four boys and giving him all the support possible as she still does.
The year 1959 marked a change in his lifestyle which continued for the next 20 years. He started publishing community newspapers along with his art, and the papers’ circulation successfully spread throughout the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. In June 1979, he sold the newspapers to a Chicago newspaper chain and returned to art as a full-time occupation.
Today Bob’s studio is located in Tucson, Arizona. You can look out his studio window and see the landscape of the desert working its way up into the mountain ranges; you can also spot deer, roadrunners, quail and many other birds along with lizards and other desert wildlife.
His studio is filled with art in all stages in oils, pencil and charcoal. Reference books on anatomy and history line his shelves and tubes of oils are neatly stacked.
After many years working in the advertising field and tight deadlines, his work now encompasses many different subjects and various media, oils, pastels, pencil, charcoal and graphite.
Bob uses photos for references only. He feels it is essential as an artist you must know how to draw long before you handle color. Drawing is the basis for good art; what marvelous craftsmen the old masters were, and drawing dominated their work.
Today, Bob’s paintings, drawings and prints may be found in private and corporate collections throughout the country.