The Art of Tractors

| August 2001

Drawings by Dennis Almquist

In the fall of 1989, Dennis Almquist attended a craft show in Thurman, Iowa, that gave him an idea. ' I noticed that there were people there selling drawings and paintings and thought, 'Maybe I could do that, '' he remembers.

Not everyone could just decide to make art and sell it, but Dennis had reasons to believe he could. Trained as an architect and engineer, Dennis had been drawing ever since he could remember. In 1989, he had been one of 11 people chosen from over 400 to receive an honorable mention in the Small Business Administration's Business Week Poster Contest. Even at the age of 4, his mother tells him, he would spread out grocery bags, their bottoms torn off, and draw pictures of his father's farm equipment. 'When I was between the ages of 1 to 6,' Dennis recalls, 'we lived on an 80-acre farm that dad farmed with antique machinery. He had two Farmalls, - an H and, maybe, an M - a corn picker, a two-bottom plow, a feed grinder and other things.'

Despite moving away from the farm at a young age, Dennis never quit drawing. The farm equipment ceased to be his subject, however. He took drafting and art courses in high school in Red Oak, Iowa, and completed his bachelor's degree in architecture at Iowa State University in 1978. 'There was no CAD (Computer-Aided Design) back then. We took a year of freehand drawing classes and watercolor courses,' he says.

After college, he went to work for an Omaha, Neb., architectural firm, where he began to move up from mechanical draftsman to mechanical technician and then to his current position, mechanical engineer. Along the way, there were two major tests he had to take to gain certification as an engineer. Those tests - or, at least, their completion - led Dennis to his current avocation, drawing antique tractors. 'In 1988, I took my second exam for engineering. I spent months studying, from June to October, for hours every night. Then when the test was done, I had nothing to do with my free time,' Dennis says. It was then that he began drawing for the poster contest. He was still on the lookout for a way to spend his free time when he attended the Thurman craft fair and decided to make some drawings to sell at the next year's fair.

'I tried to kind of anticipate what would sell,' he reminisces.