Made in South Dakota: Springfield artist carves from Missouri River banks

Published: May. 3, 2017 at 12:32 PM CDT
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Ron Livingston says he's no artist, but his work says otherwise.

He carves creatures out of a special chalk like rock. This idea all came about because of one of his ancestors.

"My grandpa's sister, he took a picture of her in 1924 next to this old Lincoln head. That's been there forever, and we've seen it, as kids we've seen it. It was on my cousin's ground, but it finally caved off and fell down. This is the idea I had. I've never done a Lincoln head because it's been done. I do all my own original stuff. It turned into a little monster is what it did," Livingston said.

The Lincoln head was carved in chalk-like rock from the banks of the Missouri River.

This unique rock is only found in a few spots in the entire world. It's no longer legal to get from the river, so Ron actually uses remains from old houses that were built from the rock decades ago.

"As kids we used to shoot it, throw it, write on sidewalks with it, because it's just like chalk. Like I said, I had an idea, and I thought I would see what happens," Livingston said.

Now, he's been carving for years.

"Beings I live here, but I can't take it off the river, but there are still all these houses by Tabor and Tyndall made out of that, that's where I'm getting my rock. It's actually easier to get to now. Sooner or later I was going to have a bluff fall down on me or something, digging around by that river," he said.

Not only is this artwork made in South Dakota, from a part of South Dakota, it's also South Dakota inspired. Ron spends a lot of his spare time fishing out on the Missouri River, and he says that's where he thinks some of his best ideas.

"I got those fish mounts up top, I've had trophy stuff over the years. That's what I use for my detail. I can see where I have a fin in the wrong place. My first one didn't turn out pretty. There is a whole creek full of broken ones down here," he said.

Now, after carving hundreds, Ron has gotten his craft down. He doesn't paint the pieces either.

"I tried painting, that fills in too much detail and takes too long, so I got thinking why not chalk on chalk."

Ron says he heads to the shop whenever he can't sleep, carving up to 15 or 16 hours a day, unless it's a good fishing day.

A store in Yankton handles a majority of Ron's sales. It even takes personal requests. If you have a personal request or would like some of his artwork. Check out the attached links.