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Thomas J. Madden shares a dream with many outdoorsmen.

He wants his outdoor world to be a part of his working life.He wants his autumn days free for spending time in the outdoors.

And he wants to speak eloquently in some form or another about the outdoors he loves so much.

Madden found the path to his dreams through sculpting wildlife art.

"I'm a fanatic hunter and sportsman, and I always wanted to do something in my work that was in line with the things I love to do," he said. "I found this was one way I could incorporate my work with my play and bring them together."

Madden, 33, has been doing that for the past four years, spending his evenings creating wax images of such things as grizzly bears, foxes, eagles, elk and bison.

"It all started when I was working in Alaska during the summer and I was going to school at Eastern Montana College," Madden said. "I started in broadcast journalism and started working on sculptures down in the art department."

From there, Madden began working with Billings artist Mike Capser, helping him with a half-dozen pieces including the Harlowton centennial sculpture.

Finally, he went to work with Billings Bronze where he is the chief moldmaker as part of the intricate process that turns an artist's wax into a finished bronze.

"I've been their chief moldmaker for the past two years. It has allowed me to explore and see the techniques that other people use as well as talking to artists that are doing well," he said.

Madden's own talent and the interaction with other artists has helped produce images poured in bronze that represent a unique look at the outdoor world.

"I like to do all kinds of wildlife," he said. "Most of the early work I did had a lot of violent interaction. My `Hydrotension' piece had two scuba divers and a shark and the potential for disaster.

"I did `Challenge at Red Rocks,' which was two buffalo fighting. There was `Red Raider,' a fox in hot pursuit of a fleeing rabbit. And I did `Running of the Reds,' which has a bald eagle that had just picked up a red salmon.

"I still like to show emotion, but my more recent works show a softer side of wildlife that shows good things can happen, too. My `Springtime Butterfly,' for example, is the interaction of grizzly bears, a strong, powerful animal, with a gentle butterfly."

Madden said that the detail work in wildlife pieces has to be exact, especially in an area like Montana and Wyoming where people are used to seeing wildlife in a natural setting.

"People are real picky, especially people who are hunters or outdoorsmen who spend a lot of time with animals. They know how the animals are supposed to look," he said.

"The problem you have to deal with is not being so exact that you take the artform out of the piece. Sometimes, you have to be able to work looser to get across the emotion of the piece."

So far, Madden's sales have all pretty much come through direct contacts with him through his studio in Billings. But he knows that if his following is to grow, he is going to have to begin branching out into galleries in other parts of the country.

He realizes that gaining those new contacts is going to take time, but he doesn't want it to take too much time in the fall. After all, it's that time off in fall that made the job of wildlife sculptor so appealing in the first place.