Helen Taylor and Bob Garrett, Archives of MichiganLook08
Oscar Warbach’s depiction of a hunting lodge, 1971.
The cartoon above provides a humorous look at a northern hunting camp. Oscar “Ozz” Warbach, an illustrator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, drew it in 1971. Like many of his drawings, it’s rich in detail. Just look at the myriad activities in which the characters are engaged!
Ozz’s appealing style gained him national reknown as a wildlife illustrator. A qualified biologist, he used cartoons to educate people about the habits of wildlife. Michigan Natural Resources Magazine, a Michigan DNR publication, regularly featured his work. The DNR still sells Ozz’s book of illustrations, entitled Mother Nature’s Michigan. Copies of both the original 1976 edition and the subsequent 1990 edition can also be found in many Michigan libraries. Click Mother Nature’s Michigan – Libraries to view the MELCat (Michigan Electronic Library Catalog) records.
Oscar “Ozz” Warbach was born on March 21, 1913 and grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He liked to draw, but received little formal art training. Instead, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Husbandry from Rutgers University in 1935 and a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Michigan State University in 1938. In 1941, the Michigan Department of Conservation hired him as a game biologist. Ozz worked at the Department’s Rose Lake Wildlife Research Center until the outbreak of World War II. He then joined the First Army Evacuation Hospital, where he became a Captain. During his training, he met his future wife, Laura, who was then an Army nurse. After the War, he worked for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Patuxeut Research Refuge in Maryland. In 1954, the Michigan Department of Conservation created a “conservation illustrator” position, and Ozz returned to Michigan. He stayed in this position until his retirement from the DNR in 1977 (The Department of Conservation was renamed the Department of Natural Resources in 1968.). Afterwards, he continued to draw on a free-lance basis.
By 1990, Ozz was living in Florida. Much of his original art now resided within the Archives of Michigan. Archivist Helen Taylor phoned him that year to ask about those illustrations and whether he held any copyright on them. He seemed surprised and noted that he drew them as a State of Michigan employee. “All my drawings,” he said, “belong to the people of Michigan.” The following summer, Ozz stopped by the Archives to introduce himself. He seemed pleased that his art was being preserved and appreciated.
Oscar Warbach passed away on March 3, 2002. To the people of Michigan, he left one lasting gift: Approximately five hundred of his original illustrations are permanently housed within the Archives of Michigan. They represent the legacy of one who used his talents to educate as well as entertain.