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Orr C. Fisher

“Born on a farm in south central Iowa, Orr Fisher’s interest in art was kindled at an early age. From a biographic article he authored in 1930, I quote:

“At an early age, yet in the primary department of a country school, I exhibited a talent for drawing by making pictures on my slate during the study period and on the blackboard at recesses and the noon hour. The barn doors, granary walls and every place on the old homestead where a smooth surface appeared was a temptation too strong to resist the markings of my pencil or chalk. Hence everything on the old farm was either decorated with comics or carved with knife in crude designs and initials. I use to draw with my finger in the plow furrow where the over-turned sod presented a smooth surface. On the way to school I would dig from the clay hills red and yellow soft rocks to color my pictures at school. This was before I knew what a crayola was.”

“I might put it this way – everywhere I have gone I have drawn. I have drawn almost everything imaginable up to the modern art era except a salary.”

Orr’s formal art education was limited to correspondence courses in drawing, cartooning, design and illustrating – plus two periods of instruction at the Cumming School of Art, Des Moines, Iowa in 1913 and again in 1921.

He also attended Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa and drew cartoons for the Drake DELPHIC and in 1909 illustrated the college annual, QUAX. As a side line at this time, Mr. Fisher hand painted sofa pillows for college students and had the privilege of working with J. N. “Ding” Darling, cartoonist for the Des Moines, Iowa REGISTER.

Orr was an inventor as well as artist and cartoonist and obtained a US, Canadian and British patent on an automatic whistle for a locomotive. For a time he was a Signal Maintainer for the Chicago Rock Island Railroad, Allerton, Iowa and contributed articles and cartoons to the Signal Engineers Magazine and Signalmen’s almanac.

For a couple of years, Orr drove a six-horse freight wagon as an Overland Teamster between Rock Springs and Boulder, Wyoming.

Another job which utilized his talents was drawing cartoons, illustrations and answering correspondence for the William Galloway Co., Waterloo, Iowa.

During WPA days, Orr Fisher painted murals in US Post Offices in Mount Ayr and Forest City, Iowa. He also submitted suggestions for several other post offices but was not commissioned for any further work.

Orr’s paintings are national in scope, since he painted wherever he lived and wherever he traveled – from New England to the Pacific Coast to the Grand Canyon to the Jackson Hole country and most areas in between. He exhibited in shows wherever he lived and usually joined the local art societies. He won prizes and ribbons all over the country. The last was for his portrait of J. N. “Ding” Darling which won a blue ribbon at a Society

Of Western Artists Show at Fashion Fair, Fresno, California. This painting has since been donated to The University Museums, Brunnier Gallery, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa by his niece, Donna L. Howard.

He was a man of many interests and many talents – but his first love was always painting with oils – particularly with palette knife and much of his later work was done in this medium.

He was living in Fresno, California at the time of his death. Before moving to California in the 1960′s, he built a studio in Woodstock, New York and lived in that artist’s colony for several years.”

Copyright 1999 Donna L. Howard

Biographical information originally prepared by his niece Donna L. Howard 2-10-78 and updated 3-26-99.

For further information contact:

Donna L. Howard, PO Box 990, Depoe Bay, OR 97341-0990, (541) 765-2473, Email: donnahoward@centurytel.net