Ken Nelson - Life-long Alaskan - Alaskan Sourdough
In the Alaskan vernacular a newcomer to Alaska is a Cheechako. After the Cheechako survives one winter they earn the title of Sourdough. I was born in Alaska in the winter of 1952. Other than a handful of years of military service, and a couple of winters 'RVing' around the Lower 48 with my closest friends, I have survived nearly 65 winters here in the Great Land. Some of those years in a cabin I built myself, heated with a wood stove and lacking electricity or running water. The bathroom facilities were an unheated outhouse 40 feet from the back door. Those trips to the outhouse are particularly memorable for the many encounters with the resident moose population. Consequently I claim the title of Alaskan Sourdough with confidence.
I have been drawing and painting for my entire life. Back in the 1970's, to supplement my income while serving in the Army, at Fort Greely, Alaska, I began painting Alaskan landscapes on gold-pans to sell to the summer tourists. I was a Staff Sargent, (actually a Specialist 6 Medic,) and assigned as the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the Health Clinic. About 70 miles away, at Eielson Air force base, the Master Sargent in charge of the Health clinic there, was doing the same thing. His name was Bob Ross, of The Joy of Painting fame. We were unaware of each other, unfortunately for me. I gave up painting during my career as a corporate illustrator, cartographer and drafter.
When I retired my son sent me a YouTube video of The Joy of Painting, a show I had not seen in decades. I became hooked immediately and a couple hundred painting later, here I am. If your familiar with Bob Ross's painting you may see his influence, particularly in my early work.