- Associated Press - Friday, January 15, 2016

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Jenny Prahl was a middle-aged homemaker who doted on her family when her marriage and economic security suddenly crumbled.

“That’s all I knew - wife and mom - and I was really happy,” said Prahl, 54, who was left scrambling to support herself with only her art hobby to rely on. “Instantly I found myself, at 52 at the time, not having a career and not having a good resume. My art seemed like the only graspable thing I could turn into a living.”

She began slowly doing charity work for area nonprofits like Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan and the animal rescue organization A.C. Paw. Eventually that started rolling into professional work and commissions, many of them pet portraits based on her longtime familiarity with animals, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( https://bit.ly/1J5foVH ).

“My mom had a federal license to rehabilitate injured animals and so I was raised with a myriad of animals,” said Prahl, who also kept and rode horses. “I have a picture of me next to a seal in the bathtub, and we had chimpanzees. From a very early age I was drawing the animals.”

West Branch taxidermist and entrepreneur John Goss hired Prahl to do label and logo design for two of his businesses after seeing a pet portrait she did for one of his friends. Then he recommended her to another friend, an officer for a Chicago-area chapter of conservation group Ducks Unlimited.

“Her wildlife work is unbelieveable,” Goss said. “You look at her duck heads. She took each feather and put it in where it belongs. That kind of detail is amazing.”

Prahl was invited to bring work to the 36th annual fundraising dinner of the national organization’s Illinois Northwest Suburban Chapter, an event that gave her career an enormous boost. One of her duck head paintings was selected at the banquet’s “pick of the litter,” in which ticket holders can choose one piece from a group of highlighted works. The other was purchased by the same collector.

“The folks who bought her duck heads said, ‘This is phenomenal work. This is national duck stamp quality work,’” Goss said.

Since then Prahl has done regular work for the chapter, as well as pieces for the Sierra Club, Friends of the NRA and Whitetails Unlimited. That group will feature her art in the September 2016 issue of its magazine.

“These are not your local clubs. These are national organizations,” said Goss, who is championing for Prahl to enter her work in the Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition.

Though most of her work now is wildlife and pets, Prahl also paints landscapes and people portraits in a variety of styles, using acrylics, oils and pastels. She creates contemporary multi-medium pieces from her Interlochen home studio, Jenny Prahl Fine Art. Next on her to-do list: art for wine and beer labels.

“I’m so eclectic in my style I don’t like to narrow it down to one,” she said. “I get bored really easily and I like to challenge myself.”

She paints from memory and experience, research and client photos, as well as photos she takes in the field while riding her horse, “Apollo,” a pinto Dutch Warmblood she boards at a nearby stable.

“Those are the two constants in my life: horses and art. One is going to kill me and the other isn’t going to make money until I’m dead,” she jokes.

She’ll exhibit her work in Grand Traverse Art Bomb 2016 through March 31 at Right Brain Brewery.

The Traverse City native studied commercial art and photography at Northwestern Michigan College and did a stint as a photographer. But she took a hiatus from art when she became a wife and mother. Her three adult children live in Buckley and Grand Rapids with her three grandchildren and another on the way. But after decades without working professionally, Prahl has made bold brushstrokes in just a few short years.

Now art is not only a living - “Knock on wood, so far I’m making a go of it,” said Prahl, who appeared on a “Today” show episode about getting back on track post-divorce - but also therapy.

“It’s practically medicine when I’m in the throes of a piece,” she said.


Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, https://www.record-eagle.com

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