Drawing upon experience

Artist and SMSU alum John Sterner has been drawing since the age of 3. His artwork includes sculpting and caricatures.

Local artist John Sterner recently showcased his caricature skills, drawing a sketch of Southwest Minnesota State University President Connie Gores.


John Sterner has contributed to Southwest Minnesota State University in many ways — as a student, an athlete, an artist and an alumnus.

This month he made his latest contribution. Within the span of 30 minutes, he drew a caricature likeness of SMSU President Connie Gores.

The finished product has lettering, shading, and many portrait features that compare closely to his subject.

The drawing took place in front of the SMSU Mustang horse located at the front of the campus near the intersection of highways 19 and 23.

He said caricature drawings start with a basic frame of the subject’s face.

“It begins with the eyes, nose and mouth,” Sterner said. “The eyes are especially important. They really define a person.”

Sterner also completed the sculpture of the Mustang horse and another sculpture that stands near the entrance to the SMSU Conference Center. He is currently an art teacher at Lakeview School in Cottonwood.

He said SMSU has given his family many good opportunities to develop professionally and as people. His parents, Mike and Karen Sterner, were both SMSU faculty members.

“Our tribe members felt we shouldn’t stay on the reservation,” Sterner said. “They wanted us to go out and to succeed. SMSU opened new doors for us.”

He has completed sketches for the general public upon request at events such as Belgian American Days in Ghent.

Although the sketches don’t take a large amount of time, he still puts a large amount of thought into them.

“I get nervous every time I do one,” Sterner said. “An artist is concerned about how people will react to his or her work. I always hope the person and family members will like it.”

His interest in art goes back to early childhood. At the age of 3, his grandmother encouraged him to draw. He drew a horse and then proceeded to draw several other animals.

Her interest reflected a Lakota tradition for art, which often runs in families.

“She told me I was destined to be an artist because I come from a family of artists,” he said. “I enjoyed it right from the start. It just kept going from there.”

Gores said she was pleased with the results of her sketch. She plans to keep it and enjoy it.

“I love it,” Gores said. “It’s really great work. John is a very valuable part of our campus community.” 


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