By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Where does an artist find his or her inspiration? For some, it may be a vast mountain view or a scenic ocean. Today we’ll meet a rural Kansas artist who finds her inspiration close to home, in her farm and family – in fact, in her own backyard.
Sue Krehbiel is a sculptor and graphite artist who sculpts and sketches items of a western flavor. She loves her kids and horses, and enjoys depicting them in her art.
Sue is originally from Ohio where her family had horses and she was active in 4-H as a youth. Sue’s mother was quite creative and Sue took lots of art classes during high school.
In 1983, Sue’s brother came west to work in the wheat harvest. He joined a custom harvest crew based at Inman, Kansas. That summer his girlfriend and his sister Sue came out to visit.
“They eventually married and moved back to Ohio,” Sue said. “I married and I’m not moving.” Sue met Kevin Krehbiel while visiting Kansas, and they tied the knot and settled near Inman.
“There are a lot of Krehbhiels around Inman,” Sue said with a smile. “My husband had to go clear to Ohio to find someone he wasn’t related to.”
In addition to her husband, Sue fell in love with the western lifestyle. Her father-in-law, Kevin’s dad, was an active horseman who had several teams of horses and had trained mules for the Army.
Kevin and Sue settled in to rural life near Inman, a community with a population of 1,139 people. Now, that’s rural.
Sue painted as a way to utilize her creative side, and then they started a family. Their two daughters, Sarah, age 16, and Katie, age 11, are active in 4-H. Kevin is an auctioneer and real estate broker with Triple K Auctioneering. He also sells Loomix cattle supplement.
The Krehbiels have lots of animals: Horses, mules, cattle, pigs, and goats.
Sue’s kids and the western lifestyle provided ample sources of inspiration for Sue’s creativity. She turned to sculpting and pencil sketches as a way to capture and depict the scenes that she observed.
As her artistic career developed, she took art classes at Hutchinson Community College. She also studied under noted sculptor Mehl Lawson and pencil artist Carrie Ballantyne.
Today, Sue has a studio in a building in her backyard. She depicts the things she loves: Kids, horses, and the western lifestyle. She exhibits at the Prairie Fire Gallery in Buhler and does various art shows in the region.
Meanwhile, she and Kevin continue the family tradition of horses. They have a team of Belgian draft horses which they use for wagon rides. If you attend the Symphony in the Flint Hills, you just might have a wagon ride provided with horsepower – and I mean that literally – from Kevin and Sue Krehbiel’s team of horses.
“We’ve always done our church hay rack rides,” Sue said. “We bring them in for the church nativity scene and we used to plow with them.”
A mule team provided the material for her original print Rose and Jess. Some of her other original pencil drawings are Birds Eye View, Buck, Shur’nuf a Cowboy, and Amish Boys. She has also created some striking Indian masks. These are of fired clay and acrylic paint, decorated with turkey and pheasant feathers and horsehair braids.
In addition, Sue makes jewelry. “My dad’s a rockhound,” Sue said. He goes to Arizona for the winters and gathers stones which he shapes and polishes for Sue to use in necklaces.
When asked which, out of all the things that she has created, is her favorite work of art, she replied, “Usually it’s the last thing I’ve done. I try to get a little better each time.” Her favorite subjects are children in a western setting, and she has to look no further than her own family. For more information, go to Sue Krehbiel.
Where does an artist find his or her inspiration? For Sue Krehbiel, it is found in the western family lifestyle which she lives, loves, and enjoys every day.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available. Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are also available. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development.