In the organized clutter that fills the basement of Walters Custom Sign in Creston, the walls are plastered with old bits of artwork, partially completed projects, newspaper clippings and pictures.
Owner Harry Walters spends most of his days in the basement piecing together his artwork to the sound of old westerns playing on a small television in the corner of the makeshift studio.
But most of the artwork lining the walls in Harry’s basement is not his own. Most of it would preferably be in a dumpster if the original artist had his way.
“There are some old pictures he threw in the trash and I dug them out,” Harry said. “They were in the dumpster behind my house. I think they are great. So I hung them up, but he always says to get them off the wall.”
Chancy Walters, 29, has traveled all over the United States — mostly throughout the Midwest and Alaska — selling his artwork while living a free-spirited lifestyle to gain inspiration for his next project.
He has used his talent with acrylic paints to fuel his passion for life in the outdoors — hunting, fishing and constantly searching for another rush of adrenaline.
“My life has been so 100 miles per hour with different things I have been doing,” Chancy said.
Harry said as parents, he and his wife Jennifer have always encouraged Chancy and his sister to pursue what they love to do. While a daily eight-hour job would be more conventional, Harry is happy his kids haven’t settled on a job they are not passionate about.
“I’ve been getting by, but I want to get more than by,” Chancy said. “I’m building myself to where I can maybe do this for a living. You’ve got to just get by to make it happen sometimes.”
A 2003 graduate of Creston High School, Chancy was not immediately drawn to a career as an artist.
“I’ve always drew my whole life, but I got my art talent from my dad, it’s all genetic,” Chancy said.
But Chancy feared that signing up for art meant he would be restricted to drawing what the teacher wanted, not what inspired him.
“When you are teaching visual arts, you get to know the students and what their passions are,” said Chancy’s CHS art teacher Jacque Stephens. “He needed to get this wildlife out. It was really, truly a part of what he was.”
Stephens said Chancy excelled at two-dimensional artwork and enjoyed working with color. She also said his sense of humor and dependability made him a joy to have in the classroom.
“Wildlife is 100 percent what I love to paint,” Chancy said. “If I am going to paint something that isn’t a commission piece, I am going to paint deer, ducks and turkeys.”
Art class also fit in with Chancy’s free spirit. While Stephens required her students to follow a schedule, they were allowed to work at their own pace so projects were not rushed. She also allowed students to stay late after school to work.
What stood out most about Chancy’s character to Stephens was when her son needed to catch a frog for a contest.
“I didn’t have time to go get a frog and was busy with school,” Stephens said. “When we came home, there was a big five-gallon bucket on our patio with a screen on top of it.”
Chancy had gone out after class and captured a bullfrog for Stephen’s son.
“I don’t think he has an enemy in the world,” Stephens said. “He is what he is; just a really good person. I am so glad I had a chance to know him.”
Stephens still uses a mousepad with a print of Chancy’s artwork he gave her as a gift in high school.
Since Chancy’s artwork typically involves a wildlife theme, it is no surprise his most popular pieces have involved whitetail deer and turkeys.
But thanks to a tip from Creston-native and family friend John Harper, wildlife is not only Chancy’s main theme, it is also the main medium he paints on.
“He called me out to his house one day and he is like, ‘you know what, I’ve got a good idea for you Chancy,’” Chancy said. “He collects a lot of turkey hunting stuff. He was painting on the feathers just messing around.”
Chancy has traveled all over the Midwest promoting his feather artwork. He said he has been asked to paint everything from wildlife and aquatic animals to football logos and water towers.
“My favorite is when he is doing his turkeys,” Harry said. “He makes the colors shine just like when a turkey walks.”
He can turn out a complete feather in an hour. If he is drawing several feathers of the same subject — like a rooster pheasant — Chancy creates a solo assembly line so he already has the correct color of paints ready to use.
“I have to clear coat them,” Chancy said. “If you paint a feather and you don’t clear coat it, it just spreads apart and you can’t get the paint to stick.”
Most of Chancy’s feathers are $125 with glass and frame. Over the years, Chancy has donated feathers and prints to various organizations for auction items at fundraisers. Two of his favorite programs are Kenai Sports in Alaska and High Lakes Outdoor Alliance (HLOA) in Creston.
“There are people that come to the banquet and ask what we have from Chancy this year,” Southwestern Community College Vice President of Economic Development Tom Lesan said. “Since he is a local artist, there is a lot of interest in his work.”
Chancy has sold more than 5,000 turkey feather paintings. He said he is also working on larger pieces on canvas.
“It’s funny how it works sometimes,” Chancy said. “I’ve been blessed to run into a lot of different things in my life. It is because of my artwork. I am getting better at taking advantage of the opportunity when it comes to me.”
As he begins to focus his career and build partnerships, Chancy said he doesn’t regret or dwell on his past and has enjoyed each experience because he has gotten to grow through trial and error.
“I love what I am doing, but I am not living the dream,” Chancy said. “Living the dream is doing what I’m doing and having a lot of money. Money is not everything, but to do the things I love to do, I have to have a certain amount of money.”
To learn more about Chancy’s artwork, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.