In the early stages of their careers, most artists long for the day they can design their own studio, a spacious room with the requisite north light that provides a platform for both medium and message. Wildlife sculptor Richard Loffler has a somewhat different concept of that all-important and very personal space in which art is created. “My studio is the outdoors,” he says. “I work from life, so it is essential for me to gather maximum information about the animal and its habitat.”
Loffler’s studio has no walls and no boundaries except, perhaps, a river of a mountain range. And, even when he travels from is native Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, to Scottsdale, Arizona, to share his knowledge with eager students, Loffler conducts those classes outdoors so his students can experience life in the same way he does.
“It’s far more intense than working indoors,” explains the artist, as he recalls an incident while teaching in Oklahoma City. “We were at the zoo on a day when it was 98 degrees with 96 percent humidity. Four went in separate directions and five stayed together, trying to find shade in the heat of the day. By three in the afternoon the area of shade was no larger than the size of a Volkswagen bug and the clay was melting.”
Richard Loffler, Center Fire, Bronze, 15" x 13"
"In the spirit of the Old West, this late 1800s broncobuster outfits himself with a pair of angora chaps, climbs into a center fire saddle and sets to manner this tempered mustang. The center fire saddle was a typical saddle of the time with only one forward cinch, making it easier and quicker to load and unload." - Richard Loffler
Loffler knows all about inclement weather. Winters on the Canadian prairies can be harsh, so 90 percent of his actual sculpting is accomplished between April and mid-October, the other 10 percent in an insulated shed mandated by 30-below temperatures. A wildlife artist who works outdoors has to be dedicated to and passionate about his artistic goals.
From boyhood, Loffler has been deeply involved with the world of nature and the creatures who inhabit it. “I was born and raised in Regina, an outdoors type of kid whose relatives had farms,” he says. “I took canoe trips in the bush, lived on the edge, wanted to know what was out there. I liked the outdoors but I loved the wildlife.” Loffler was especially curious about animals and their interaction with each other. He even raised baby skunks.
More interested in observing and studying animals than recreating them as art, Loffler never drew as a child. In fact, he didn’t work with his first ball of clay until he was 23 years old. His interest in animal behavior led him to consider a career as a wildlife technician and, after a trial semester in college, he was offered a job at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, a natural history museum that provided him the opportunity to study dioramas. Loffler ultimately became a taxidermist.
Photograph of Richard Loffler
“As a technician, my work was hands-on while the biologist organized the information into a formal report,” he says. “I literally trained on the spot, thinking that taxidermy was good for a few years. I always had a creative side and was good at working with my hands. This position helped me to understand biology and, more importantly, gave me my start in sculpture.”
A door was opened, the circumstances ideal for a man who liked to work and learn on his own. “After six years of slogging along by myself, I took a course with Ken Bunn in 1989,” Loffler says. “He told me I needed to study from life, so I visited zoos, ranches and corrals. I took the clay to the animal cages. It was a perfect fit for me.”
Richard Loffler, North of 49, Bronze, 14" x 14"
"In Saskatchewan we have a very large population of whitetail deer. The horn size, due to climatic conditions and nutrition found in the north, makes for some very large horns and, subsequently, because of the cold, some very large-bodied deer. Having seen thousands of such deer over the last 40 years both in the field and in zoos at close proximity, I wanted to depict not just any whitetail buck but a western Canadian whitetail buck. Everything that makes a large rutting buck typical within these prairie/parkland ecosystems is rendered into this piece. The gnarly hair masses, the overly compensated swelling of glands and the stoutness in statute, all held together within lines of beauty and grace." - Richard Loffler
Loffler set a specific goal in which he gave himself 10 years to do well. He sought opinions about his sculpture from various people, and while most were in awe of his work, for a while his income provided him with little more than enough gas money to get him to the zoo. In 2000, after nearly 23 years with the museum, Loffler resigned, intent on focusing his energy exclusively on his art. “I simply pulled away from my jobe there and into what I wanted to do,” he says.
The now well-established sculptor is constantly on the search for the wildlife about which he is so passionate and approaches each new subject by first doing studies. “They help me to get a feel for the animal and also tell me if I’m excited enough to take the project even further,” he says. “In some cases, the study is the end, in others the next step is to take it into plaster.”
Richard Loffler, Wings of Philadelphia, bronze, 3/4 life-size
"HIstory has witnessed many fals prophets, deceivers of what good and right, prostituting the truth. Because of this, people of the world have suffered. This eagle represents an angelic symbol, sent to betow on us the one greatest virtue: love. The inspiration for the title comes from Revelation 3:7, The Church of Philadelphia and, ironically, or maybe not, the city known as the City of Brotherly Love holds another important symbol, the Liberty Bell." - Richard Loffler
Although sculpture is and always will be Loffler’s primary medium, he also spends about 15 percent of his time drawing and painting. “I’m a mucker rather than a painter, but I am trying to branch out a little bit,” he says. “So I consider myself a student in oils, still at the learning stage. For me it’s both fun and therapy, not an endeavor that’s really going anywhere. When it comes to drawing, I really enjoy it but what I do is strictly for myself.”
Whether he’s sculpting, painting, drawing-or teaching- Loffler brings his own approach to each and every venture. In the classroom, or the great outdoors, he is certain that his Scottsdale students get their money’s worth. Classes are small, limited to 12, so that everyone not only gets personal attention, but a philosophy on which to build a career – and a life.
Richard Loffler, Mary, bronze, 22" x 16"
"A vignette in time, a story capsule. I designed this sculpture using ascendant diagonal lines, vertical steps rising upwards to accentuate the young girl's face. She is the heart of this piece; all othe elements become peripheral and aid in complementing her. It is my sincere hope that this piece will express warmth and special thoughts to many people." - Richard Loffler
“I think we live in a time where we’ve lost discipline,” Loffler says. “Those who are really into art, not a business and an industry, must understand the technical aspects and the proper protocol that will lead them to create good art. As a result, I hammer home this concept. It’s similar to a kindergartner’s introduction to the ABC’s, then the first grad where children become familiar with the entire alphabet. In second grade they learn to write these letters and by the eighth grade their writing has become proficient.”
In short, learning to make art is a process that starts with a solid foundation and progresses from that point. “If you understand this, then you see positive changes of the years of maturation,” Loffler says. “It reminds me of someone who spends 30 minutes looking for a TV remote instead of taking three steps to manually change the TV.”
Once Loffler decided to pursue his sculpture on a full time basis, the former taxidermist began to amass an impressive series of honors, including membership in the Society of Animal Artists and the National Sculpture Society. He was one of only four artists who exhibited at the 2002 Rendezvous Exhibition at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Gilcrease Museum and in 2004 participated in the Rendezvous’ 25th anniversary exhibition.
It’s clear that Loffler has earned the respect, not only of collectors, but of fellow artists as well. In the end, an artist can’t ask for more than that.
Return to Richard Loffler's Sculpture
Richard Loffler, Mousing, bronze, 41" x 50"
"Fifteen years ago, I sculpted a smaller piece of this idea, called Leaping Red Fox. My intentions at the time were to use this smaller piece as a maquette and create a larger, life-size sculpture. In doing so I realized (which is usually the case) that, when you scale up to a considerably larger version of the same piece, certain lines that work well with the smaller piece become invasive and disturbing and, ultimately, could change the effect I was going for in the life-size piece. So subtle alterations had to be made to compensate the scaling change and, therefore, retain the life and integrity of the subject. This gesture depicts a lot of action and is very typical of a hunting red fox." - Richard Loffler