Jeff Hoff knew since he was in the first grade that he could draw, but it wasn’t until his first semester in college that he learned how to paint.

Hoff, of Jamestown, is a wildlife artist whose main subjects are waterfowl and the occasional bear. He has worked for Otter Tail Power Co. for 21 years.

Hoff said he grew up and went to school in Devils Lake. When he was in first grade he drew a picture for his first-grade teacher. When he turned 18 and graduated high school, that first-grade teacher gave that drawing to his mother.

“Apparently she like my drawing that she kept it that long,” he said.

Hoff said he always wanted to try painting, but didn’t do so until his first semester at North Dakota State University. He said he went to NDSU to see if he could join the football team as a walk-on player, a kicker. As he was trying to fill out his schedule for that first semester, all the classes he wanted to take were full, so he signed up for a painting course that filled a time slot he needed.

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“Just taking that one class, I found I enjoyed it (painting),” he said.

Hoff didn’t make it onto the football team and transferred to Mayville State University, where he graduated three years later with a degree in business administration and computer information systems. After graduating college Hoff said he continued learning how to paint, focusing on wildlife by attending workshops offered by professional wildlife painters in Montana. He said he found he likes wildlife as a subject, specifically birds and waterfowl, because birds tend to have more color than other wildlife subjects.

“My mind is stimulated by color,” he said.

Hoff said he was mainly painting as a way to relax and get rid of stress. Back in the early 2000s a friend encouraged him to enter a duck stamp contest for the state of Nevada.

“I placed fifth the first time,” he said.

Eventually he won the Nevada duck stamp contest and later went on to win duck stamp contests in Oklahoma, Ohio and Iowa and for Michigan Ducks Unlimited.

Hoff said when he first started it would take him about a month to create a painting. Now if he is working on a waterfowl painting for a stamp, he said it takes him about a week to get it down. He said he starts a piece by taking photos of his subject, then creates the painting from those images. He said he mainly does waterfowl, but has done grizzly bears and is working on black bear painting.

Hoff said he tried doing portraits of people when he first started, but didn’t like the way the paintings would look because he thought the skin in his paintings looked “plasticy.”

To see examples of Hoff’s work go to He said he does have his work at Bev’s Fine Art in Raleigh, N.C., and will part of the show at Great Falls, Mont., later this year.

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"Just taking that one class, I found I enjoyed it.