Art has always been a focus of Glendive man’s life

Sunday, May 12, 2019
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Jon Decker photo

Local artist John Wiseman displays the back of one of his hand crafted guitars. Wiseman likes to spend his spare time creating artwork.

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Jon Decker photo
            A few of Wiseman’s home made guitars rest next to a painting of a wizard. The Glendive local dabbles in just about any medium he can get his hands on.

(editor’s Note: This Is The Fifth In A Weekly Series About Area Artists.) By Jon Decker

John Wiseman has been an artist for as long as he can remember. His Glendive home is a shrine to his creations. Hand built guitars, paintings, staffs, knives and a whole variety of objects decorate the walls of his living room. His work can range from barbed wire roses to paintings of wizards to hand built black powder rifles.

Although he is an electrician for BNSF Railway by trade, at heart, Wiseman is an artist.

“I think I was born with a crayon in my hand,” Wiseman said, reflecting on his creative personality.

Wiseman, who was born and raised in Glendive, always had a compulsion to create, one that occupied his early years and failed to shake in his adulthood.

“When I could, I would stay in at recess and draw and do different stuff,” Wiseman said. “It’s been lifelong. I don’t remember not making things.”

Wiseman started out drawing what he knew, mostly animals that he’d see by the river or visiting the stockyards.

“That’s what I started in on when I was drawing in grade school that was just animals,” Wiseman said. As he grew older, his teachers saw his talent and decided to foster it.

“When I started high school, all I could get was C’s. Because I guess he was pushing and driving me, I gotta thank Floyd Smith for (pushing me to be a better student),” he said.

After getting pushed, Wiseman kept taking as many classes in art as he could.

“They ran out of art classes for me. My art teacher set up independent studies for me,” he added.

As a pupil in Smith’s class, Wiseman along with other select students worked on a variety of murals around town in an effort to beautify the community. Some are still standing, while others have been covered or are fading away.

Wiseman was quick to mention his contribution to the mural decorating the Frontier Gateway Museum.

He and Shaun Mitchell did one wall of the mural.

“The rest of the class did the rest of the building,” Wiseman said. “I also snuck one of those little ‘Kilroy was here’ guys behind a rock but I had to cover it up. I put that drool coming out of the oxen’s mouth. I was allowed to keep that.”

Over the years, Wiseman continued painting murals across town, decorating the inside of the BNSF roundhouse and even his son’s bedroom.

In 1999 when the Wisemans were expecting, he went to his son’s future room and painted a massive mural featuring Disney characters on the walls. 19 years later, Wiseman’s son is headed off to college, but the mural still stays.

“That was three to six hours every single night for six months,” Wiseman said of the mural in his son’s room, highlighting a spot in the mural with a plate of spaghetti from “Lady and the Tramp” that took him six hours to paint.

“I went in there one weekend for 21 hours,” he added

Although he has a large focus on painting and drawing, Wiseman proved to be far more than a one track artist.

In high school he discovered music, particularly the guitar. In addition to learning how to play, Wiseman became fascinated with building and modifying them. As the years went by, he learned other disciplines, such as wood working, jewelry making, and even taking a stab at taxidermy.

“As far as the inspiration goes, I think it’s ADD. I keep moving on to something else,” Wiseman said. He lifted up his hands and shook them. “I tell everyone I have to keep these things busy because if I don’t they’ll pick here (his nose) till it bleeds. It’s (art) a major portion of my life. Once I started doing it, it’s like I don’t get more satisfaction from anything else.”

For decades Wiseman has kept his hands as busy as possible, trying brand new mediums with no experience or prior training.

His work operates on more of a seasonal cycle.

“A lot of times it happens cos the snow starts flying and I get cooped up and I think, let’s get busy.” Wiseman said. “In the summer time I pretty much drop it and I go fishing.”

As for business, Wiseman doesn’t try to sell his work very often. Most of the time he makes items like guitars as gifts for friends and family with the occasional custom order.

Even though it’s not a fulltime business, Wiseman seems very satisfied with his artistic life. He’s been able to support himself, his family, and his creativity with his full-time job as an electrician for BNSF.

“When I was growing up I had a chronic fear of being a starving artist,” Wiseman said. “I thought get something you can eat off and then do the art stuff in your spare time.”

So far, it seems that Wiseman’s plans have worked out just fine, and if his flooded workshop is any indicator of the future, Wiseman’s hands will have plenty of projects to keep them busy over the coming years.

Reach Jon Decker at .