Local Artist’s Rendering Featured
Inside the Outdoors, January
10, 2014

When I saw two bluegill on the January/February 2014 Pennsylvania Angler & Boater magazine, I was instantly attracted to the cover. After all, this was the species that have become my favorite not only for catching but eating as well.

Since I was an art dealer, I had to look to see who did the rendering as I have been a lover of wildlife art as well and only recently been somewhat of a critic. Was I tickled right to the bone that the artist was not only a long-time friend, but also a local one at that.

I have known Tom Duran, Jr. ever since I started selling artwork in my store known as Pee Vee’s maybe back in the early 80’s. Three of the purchased masterpieces came from the Stahlstown resident.

When I bought his artwork to mat and frame in my shop, little did I know then that our friendship would last 30-some years later. Included were paintings to perfection of a squirrel, cardinal and grouse.

Duran started out his career working eight years as an artist/taxidermist for Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and followed that up with 12 years as a staff artist for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

I telephoned Tom last week and we talked a bit about the past, present and a tad about the future. In discussing about his PFBC responsibilities, he said in reference to his renderings, “One of my jobs was to do a lot of critter series as a staff artist. I also had to build the exhibits in all the state hatcheries.”

It was interesting to hear him talk about some of his other job specifications as an employee of the PFBC.

“I had a badge,” he said, “and saw some weird stuff.” He then went on to give me an example.

“One day while driving down a windy back road, I came upon Farmer Brown unloading a refrigerator in a place that he shouldn’t have done so. I tried to be as polite as possible advising him there are legal places to take unwanted items such as the one you have there. I then took and showed him where to unload it.” He added, “I never made a serious arrest.”

Moving on, he eased out of law enforcement and took on other forms of pursuits, all very rewarding.

The cover featured on the recent state publication isn’t the only one he’s done. He has painted several for the Pennsylvania Game Commission Game News, as well.

I would receive its monthly issues. I recall seeing the front covers done by Duran and thinking, “There he goes again…” I didn’t ever think he had nor has a spare moment. It wasn’t long ago, I saw him walking with his wife and friend along the trail leading to the bog atop Laurel Mountain. I think it’s great how God will put people together at the times we least expect them to be.

Once again, thinking back, I have to mention Tom’s kindness, just to let others know a little bit about his giving nature, he took upon himself to build in his shop and erect with the help of another man, a sign that hung many years on my building which stated, “Pee Vee’s Lures and Tackle, displaying a big fish jumping out of the water. I never asked him or hinted that I needed a new sign. And yet, after expressing my appreciation again last week, he said, “I could have done so much better,” that says it all as his good heartedness.

Noted for his carving as well, Duran has won several International level awards in bird carving.Tom’s signature project is a collection of all of the extinct species of birds in North America. It is owned Carnegie Museum.

In briefly talking about the cover, Tom said, “I want everyone to know that I checked with the biologists of the PFBC, so all color is true to form for each fish. The front one may seem on the dark side, but that is how a male bluegill looks.” Concerning the other particulars, he stated, “I also asked several fishermen, even you, how the rest should be portrayed.”

Even though he has little spare time, Tom enjoys educating youth about taxidermy and building model airplanes. “If you walk through our living room, they can be seen hanging all over the place,” he said.

During 2014, the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art will be hosting a major exhibition of Tom’s artwork. The magazine illustration was originally published in the December 1983 Pennsylvania Angler’s “Profile.” For additional information, log onto the Center’s website at www.nedsmithcenter.org.

And talk about surprise, Tom said, “When I opened my mailbox, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I took a step into my past when I saw the front cover of the magazine!


Tom and his wife, Clydene, have lived in the Laurel Mountain area for over 35 years.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.