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Capital City to Lonesome Prairie
August 2002

Bill Hosko (39) is an architectural illustrator and painter who lives a life among the tall buildings of downtown Saint Paul and another under the immense sky of northeast Montana. Almost weekly he travels fifteen hours overnight by train between two different worlds.

Leaving the train behind in northeast Montana, he drives his old Ford pickup an hour north to Lonesome Prairie, an 1800's era homestead he built for himself and his 'family'; a ragtag band of adopted/rescued animals. They include eight goats, five chickens, three cats, two horses and two dogs. They live atop a windswept ridge overlooking the Canadian Border.

Those high northern grasslands are his favorite landscapes. He never tires of the winds, the early and late season snows. This year’s was May 25th! Fantastic summer afternoon storms can be seen hours in advance and hours after they have passed in the clear evening twilight. Ethereal and beautiful the Northern Lights are a frequent and welcome occurrence. When people believe there is nothing to see or do there Bill will smile, for ways to pass the time are plentiful and visions of beauty are everywhere.

In Montana, Bill carries the handle 'Bill on the Hill'. A name bestowed upon him by some of his friendly, yet distant neighbors. Few people live in that quiet corner of America. Folks consider themselves neighbors though they may live five to ten miles apart. Lonesome Prairie is 180 acres in size. Bill doesn't think of it as a ranch. In this part of the world his amount of land is considered smallholdings. Another reason is because he is a vegetarian living in the heart of cattle country. Bill smiles when he recalls that he knew he was considered 'okay' by a rancher/farmer a couple of years ago. While at the local cafe this rancher said to the owner, “Darlene, why don’t you get Bill some vegetarian hamburgers?” She never did, but the man's friendly gesture was appreciated.

Lonesome Prairie has five small buildings in a tight formation for protection against strong winter storms. The house has three rooms and no electricity or plumbing. Bill will tell you he does have running water - he runs and gets it. Cooking and bathing water are heated on a small wood stove and when nature calls, it is off to an outhouse with a grand view of Canada. Two structures house feed for the animals, tools and six thirty gallon water barrels. The last small building, a barn, is a happy 'cooperative' for the animals.

Eight miles away is a little town, population 120. Like so many other Great Plains towns, it gets a little sleepier with each passing year. Bill has helped with a number of improvement projects there. The nearest town to the south or east is fifty miles. Given this remote location and having a paved highway coming in from the east and another passing through from the south up to Canada, Bill believes that with strong leadership the town can survive.

Click for larger image In an artistic sense, Bill doesn’t care to work when out at Lonesome Prairie - too many outdoors distractions. However, when he returns to Saint Paul by another train ride (over 375 of them to date) he hits the ground running and makes up for it.

He is passionate about his hometown and since the age of nineteen he has amassed a large collection of articles particularly about the ongoing development of downtown Saint Paul and its riverfront. For years, he has envisioned ways to improve its place in the world and used his abilities to put those ideas on paper for others to see, as well as hear. A few of those ideas have become reality or are now part of city planning. With a smile, Bill feels a few of his best ideas have been overlooked - victims of lackluster city planning and political shortsightedness perhaps. His concern for Minnesota’s capital city is long-term and he continues to share thoughts and ideas with the leaders of Saint Paul.

At twenty three Bill attended the downtown Minneapolis Technical Institute to study architecture and commercial art. Here he was introduced to the technical pen and the skills needed to create true perspective illustrations - two defining experiences in his life. He was offered a job with a home planning firm six months before graduation. He took it with no regrets over not having graduated.

In 1989, he began branching away from doing only architectural presentation art for Twin City home builders and architects. His very much enjoys illustrating city skylines and great architecture. It was during this time he made his first 'prints' available to the public. In more recent years he has begun doing works in color.

'Bill on the Hill' has now been a self-employed architectural artist for twelve years and an owner of Hosko Gallery in downtown Saint Paul for nearly nine.