An Inspired Artist
Don Houseman just needed a little mentoring to open up as an artist.
The 1968 Kasson-Mantorville High School graduate was first inspired by longtime visual arts instructor Marilyn Fredrickson, who saw more in Houseman than his athletic ability.
“I was pretty desperate to get into art,” he said. “I used to fight for the one easel we had in kindergarten. I was pretty much a ‘jock’ through high school, when Marilyn Fredrickson came along and showed me I could have a different way of expressing myself. She wrote comments on your paper. She told you pluses and minuses on your work. It’s just like a good coach.”
With that, the Mantorville native was on his way.
Houseman, 67, taught visual arts for 34 years at Blackduck High School in northern Minnesota, retired in 2006, and is busy writing, illustrating and self-publishing children’s books, featuring characters mostly inspired by family members.
He has been honored for his work at the Hackensack Book Festival and Willmar’s “Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee!” events, and his collection of about 60 art works will be on display this spring in the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead.
He also has received acclaim for his woodcut prints and acrylic paintings. He especially enjoys painting old barns.
A series of his paintings, “Barnes Are Noble,” will be part of the display in Moorhead.
Houseman’s books include “How Harvey And His Friends Saved the Barn,”; “Harvey And His Friends’ Great Fishing Adventure” (based on the days he spent fishing with his sister Jenne on the Zumbro River); “Christmas Comes to Harvey and His Friends,”’ and “Grandma … How Should I Eat a Pickle?” (inspired by a granddaughter).
He donated an autographed copy of “How Harvey and His Friends Saved the Barn” to this year’s K-M Silent Art Scholarship Auction, coordinated by Fredrickson.
“He was what you would consider one of those movie stars, in which he was the All-American boy,” she said. “He was the quarterback and he was a golfer and he was president of the student council and president of the French club. Just one of those leaders. You wish every one of them had that skill and the drive to succeed.”
Houseman did need another career push while attending Concordia College in Moorhead.
He was a walk-on with the Cobbers’ basketball team and was planning to study political science when he met a no-nonsense design instructor named Elizabeth Strand.
“She said to me, ‘You know, are you really going to be a professional basketball player?’” Houseman said. “You had to produce a lot of work. I pouted like a little kid – and then I realized she was right. I took one art class in college, and I flip-flopped really quick. It was something I always loved.”
Houseman lives in Tenstrike, near Bemidji. But his art was shaped by his upbringing in southeast Minnesota.
“I kind of had a ‘Little Rascals,’ ‘Tom Sawyer’ idyllic childhood,” he said. “We used to sneak into the old brewery in Mantorville. We had a treehouse on somebody’s property on the Zumbro, like the Little Rascals. We had great Little League games (in Kasson). I remember all that stuff. I just really have an attachment to those two communities and the people. It was a good life.”
In 2010 he was considering names for his new art business. His oldest son said, ‘Well, Dad, you never take many things too seriously. You mostly just put stuff on paper.”
Thus, “Stuff on Paper” was launched.
“When someone buys one of my original works, they see the same thing I see. They’ll say, ‘My grandpa had a barn like that,’” Houseman said. “It’s a real rush, I tell you what. It’s more than just the money. If you can pay it forward, that’s kind of the thing.”