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Osage man builds career from passion for art

Osage artist Boyd Sharp spends many hours in his art studio, working on paintings and drawings using a variety of media, from oils to acrylics to watercolor. VICKI GERDES/TRIBUNE

Boyd Sharp’s love of art is a lifelong passion.

The 74-year-old Osage artist can remember his father taking him and his siblings to art museums in Chicago during the 1940s — and just leaving him in the art gallery until the rest of them were finished looking at the other exhibits.

“We didn’t have TV in those days — that (visiting museums) was our only entertainment, and it was free,” he explained.

But young Boyd was content to spend the day studying the various works of art that he found.

Soon, he found himself drawing and coloring and painting with whatever materials he could find.

“My whole life was nothing but art,” he said, adding, “My brother and sister were good artists too, but they never really pursued it like I did.”

After moving to Detroit Lakes with his family when he was just 11 years old, Sharp continued to pursue his love of art — and his high school art teacher encouraged him to go to art school.

Instead, he ended up marrying his high school sweetheart, Ruby Somdahl, and raising a family of seven kids — a decision he has never regretted.

“We’ve been married 54 years,” he said, jokingly adding that he’s surprised Ruby has put up with him for that long.

Putting his dreams of becoming a famous artist aside, Sharp started a sandblasting and painting business that he successfully operated for about 30 years.

He also tried his hand at photography, starting a business called Artist Services that saw him traveling all over the U.S., taking photographs at various events.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said, “but it was a financial disaster.”

He gave up the photography business after a couple of years, but never forgot the things he learned from it.

“I learned an unbelievable amount, and it got me all over the country,” he said.

But that was about 25 years ago. Sharp once again set aside his artistic dreams, until his 30-year Detroit Lakes High School class reunion in 1988 inspired him to take up painting again.

He set up a makeshift art studio in his garage, and began experimenting with a lot of different paints and pigments, visiting museums and art galleries, taking workshops and studying books and magazines.

Then, in 2001, Sharp was inspired by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to create a painting called “Don’t Tread On Me,” which brought him considerable attention from both local and national media.

Creating that painting further inspired Sharp to pursue his love of art full-time, and he sold his antique business in Osage to do so.

“I burned my bridges,” he said. “I just had to paint.”

Though he has exhibited in several galleries in the Fargo-Moorhead and Detroit Lakes area over the past 12 years, Sharp says, “I sell most of my work on the Internet now.” He has also exhibited at several area art shows, but does so only rarely these days.

At age 74, he says, hauling all those canvases back and forth from his shop in Osage is “too much work.”

“What I mainly do now is contemporary paintings, for interior designers,” Sharp said, but added, “I still do some portraits once in a while too. I never quite know what I’m going to paint next.”

While the original 2001 “Don’t Tread On Me” painting has gone through a few revisions since it was first created, the central image of Sharp’s creation is still a large American eagle.

Earlier this year, his painting caught the attention of the Performing Arts Collective Alliance, a Pennsylvania-based arts organization that was in the midst of putting together an exhibit titled, “The Art of the American Eagle.”

The exhibit was being organized in conjunction with the War of 1812 200th anniversary commemoration — and Sharp was chosen as the featured artist.

“This show is huge,” he said, noting that organizers of the War of 1812 commemoration are expecting upwards of 100,000 people to attend the celebration festivities, including this exhibit.

The painting that will be on display at the exhibit is actually a replica, Sharp says — while he has sold several prints of his work, the original remains at his home in Osage.

An opening reception for “The Art of the American Eagle” is planned to take place this Friday, May 24, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the PACA Gallery in Erie, Pa. For more information, visit the website at

For more information about Sharp’s work, please visit his website at, or call 218-573-3412.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454