“Golden Hour,” a 36- by 24-inch oil on canvas painting of flying doves is one of the original paintings that will be featured at SEWE.
Kim, Rhett, Brooklyn and Ryan Kirby live in Boone, where Ryan gets inspiration for his wildlife paintings.
Kirby’s “Turn and Burn,” a sold 24- by 20-inch oil on canvas painting of deer, is available in prints.
Kirby’s “Bound and Determined,” a sold 24- by 18-inch oil on canvas painting of a fox in snow, is available in prints.

BOONE — Boone’s Ryan Kirby is the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition’s featured artist of the year for 2023.
Each year, about 100 wildlife artists from all over the world exhibit in the juried show at the Charleston Place Hotel Ballroom in a “celebration of the outdoors culture.” Taking place Feb. 17 through 19, the art show is the “main draw” of the weekend, but the event spans over the city with vendors, foods and nightlife brining in crowds of wildlife lovers, conservationists and hunters.
Kirby has participated in the show for eight years and says SEWE “takes care of their patrons and VIPs.” He said many people come back year after year, especially couples that double the occasion as a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Kirby said he has “made a lot of friends” through the exposition.
Kirby is primarily known for his painting of turkey and deer. He said he particularly loves to paint animals in action as it “adds a lot of interesting and dynamic movement to a painting.” He said that he has traveled to places like Alaska and Montana to paint, but also draws inspiration from his current hometown of Boone and his childhood in the midwest.
Kirby’s “Turn and Burn,” a sold 24- by 20-inch oil on canvas painting of deer, is available in prints.
Kirby said he grew up on a family farm in Illinois where is father raised livestock in addition to harvesting corn and soybeans. He fished farm ponds with earthworm baited bobbers and hunted deer turkey and small game.
Kirby said he did his first oil painting when he was 11. He visited the local art supply store with his mother and bought black, white and red paint to create an image of his grandmother’s black lab who wore a red collar. Though he now “looks back on it and think it’s pretty garbage,” at the time, “everybody thought it was pretty good,” so he decided to keep learning.
Under the mentorship of his middle and high school art teacher Steve Mullins, Kirby said he entered the Junior Duck Stamp Contest and won the national competition at the age of 16 with a pair of Wood Ducks. Kirby said this “opened his eyes” to the idea of art as a career and, as his work was noticed more, he began to earn commission to paint fellow hunters’ bird dogs while baling hay at the local hunting club.
To find more ways to connect his love for hunting, wildlife and art, Kirby studied Graphic Design and Multimedia at Bradley University. Following graduation, he accepted a position at the National Wild Life Federation’s headquarters in South Carolina and began networking with professional wildlife artists.
In 2012, Kirby said he started a “new challenge” by starting his solo career out of his spare bedroom. He said his list of clients and opportunities grew quickly. He began exhibiting at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, South Carolina as well as getting features in magazines, which led him to become a recognizable name in the industry.
After marrying his wife, Kim, the pair moved to Boone in 2013 to raise a family and continue their careers. Kim works at App State and the pair have two children, Brooklyn and Rhett. Kirby said he wants his children to experience beauty in nature the same way he has. Kirby said he can find inspiration with a mile of his home.
Kim, Rhett, Brooklyn and Ryan Kirby live in Boone, where Ryan gets inspiration for his wildlife paintings.
“I’m a bit unique in that I’m straight wildlife. I don’t do a lot of landscapes. I don’t do a lot of scenics or anything like that. The main support I get from the area is how the landscape inspires me more than anything else,” Kirby said. “Within a mile of the house, you’ve got mountaintops, pastures and mountains and creeks and rivers and all kinds of inspiration as an artist.”
Kirby said much of his work helps raise money for conservation of wildlife habitat and endangered species of waterfowl. Sportsmen and women are his primary audience both in purchasing pieces directly and through auctions that raise money for wildlife conservation.
“Golden Hour,” a 36- by 24-inch oil on canvas painting of flying doves is one of the original paintings that will be featured at SEWE.
“One thing I try to do in my art is pair habitat with wildlife. Healthy environment, health habitats, native plant species and thing like that are always going to be what’s best for the wildlife,” Kirby said. “Not only do I try to paint those, but I have become more observant of those things. When I’m out in the woods, if I can improve that property to support more wildlife, I’m going to every time.”
Kirby’s “Bound and Determined,” a sold 24- by 18-inch oil on canvas painting of a fox in snow, is available in prints.
For more information about the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, visit www.sewe.com. For more information on Ryan Kirby and his art, visit www.ryankirby.com.
Dear reader,
Thanks to modern technologies, you and more people are reading the Watauga Democrat than ever before. Freedom of the press is essential to preserving democracy: But a free press isn’t free. It takes significant resources for Mountain Times Publications’ 8 full-time reporters and editors to provide credible, fact-based and ethical journalism in the High Country. So, we are asking you to join our advertisers and print subscribers in supporting local journalism with your dollar. Your financial support will help sustain these services that you use to inform your decisions and engage with your community.
Your comment has been submitted.

Reported
There was a problem reporting this.
Log In
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.
We’re always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what’s going on!
Thanks to modern technologies, you and more people are reading the Watauga Democrat than ever before. Freedom of the press is essential to preserving democracy: But a free press isn’t free. It takes significant resources for Mountain Times Publications’ 8 full-time journalists and editors to provide credible, fact-based and ethical journalism in the High Country. So, we are asking you to join our advertisers and print subscribers in supporting local journalism with your dollar. Your financial support will help sustain these services that you use to inform your decisions and engage with your community.
Sorry, an error occurred.

A weekday morning newsletter with a list of local news, sports and community headlines.
Sign up with

Thank you .
Your account has been registered, and you are now logged in.
Check your email for details.
Invalid password or account does not exist
Sign in with
Submitting this form below will send a message to your email with a link to change your password.
An email message containing instructions on how to reset your password has been sent to the e-mail address listed on your account.

Secure & Encrypted
Secure transaction. Cancel anytime.

Thank you.
Your purchase was successful, and you are now logged in.
A receipt was sent to your email.

source

Shop Sephari