Dick Bonkoski was born during the tail end of railroading in the late 50’s. By the time he was able to realize his love for trains and pursue them on his own, they were all but vanished from the landscape. Always a fan of passenger trains, Dick’s favorite was the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha’s that would glide through the suburbs of Wauwatosa where he grew up. Dick would often ride his bicycle from his house to the main line traversing Hoyt Park in order to get a glimpse of the passing streamliners. Over the years of modeling and watching trains, a true appreciation of the local railroads grew.
In the mid 1990’s, after being inspired by the works of Gil Reid, Mike Danneman and Russ Porter, Dick attempted to put his brush to the canvas for the first time. Although crude buy today’s comparison and certainly not worthy of the scrutiny of “rivet counters”, his first painting was that of a Chicago & North Western 2 car Bi-level in the piney woods near Lake Tomahawk Wisconsin. That painting sold to a private collector & little by little, with no formal art training to his credit, Dick began practicing on painting various trains he remembered seeing and some he had only viewed in books.
In the late 1990’s, while vacationing in Eagle River Wisconsin, Dick painted a rendering of the still standing Chicago and North Western railroad station entitled “Farewell to the Fisherman” which featured the C & NW Fisherman’s Special leaving the depot. A number of these prints were sold through Wisconsin Trails Magazine and inside the depot with proceeds going to help maintain that historic structure. After selling some of his original pieces to private collectors, Dick continued to paint and with each new painting, more detail, accuracy and realism developed. Today, his paintings reflect his own style. Each is an improvement from its previous and some say that his style resembles that of the late Russ Porter who Dick had the pleasure of meeting several times before his passing to talk about trains and art techniques.
Today, Dick resides in Mequon Wisconsin, where after a decade and a half career in law enforcement he currently is a private business owner who still enjoys trips to Northern Wisconsin to visit family and retracing the railroads of years gone by.
Now, for the first time, Dick is making available a number of his pieces so that others may enjoy a memory from the past. Perhaps you know of someone who has worked for the railroad or just likes trains. Please take a few moments to look over the latest selection of original canvas and print artwork by Dick.Bonkoski. Many of the prints offered are limited editions with low number issues. All are signed & numbered by the artist.
One last item of interest: Appearing either underneath his signature or hidden within the landscape of every picture is a small gnarled tree that appears to have a vine wrapped around itself. This “strangle tree” as it has come to be called, was discovered while honeymooning in Northern Wisconsin. Dick and his wife found this natural creation so fascinating that they cut the thumb-sized sapling down and kept it as a conversation piece all of these years. Today, it hangs in his office and appears ever so discretely in every painting as a reminder of his love for his wife who lets him spend hours tucked away painting the trains he so loves.