Winning the Federal Duck Stamp, however, changed everything overnight.
"I guess if I'm a success it's because I was too dumb to quit," Plasschaert told People Magazine in an interview in December 1979, not long after he'd been notified that he won the 1980-81 stamp.
Even today, Plasschaert retains a humble and self-deprecating view of his art and success.
Though his style is highly detailed and painfully meticulous, he disregards any fanciful observations about his precise and delicate brush strokes by characterizing his process as "starting with a bunch of chicken scratching and seeing where it goes."
And while his style of naturalism is masterfully applied, Plasschaert said "I only paint enough feathers to make it look like a duck."
To this day, the artist said he's only been satisfied with a small handful of his paintings. And even then, he said, "it's only because I couldn't find anything that I'd have done differently."
But that attitude, Plasschaert said, is what kept him driving forward.
Before winning the duck stamp, he painted in almost all of his free time outside of work. After his success, he said in interviews that he painted 60-80 hours a week and rarely took a full day off.
"If you're satisfied with what you do, then you won't improve any," he said. "My goal has always been to make my next painting better than my last."
If You Go What Dick Plasschaert retrospective exhibit Where Waseca Art Center, 200 State St. N. When On display through June 7. Opening reception 7-9 p.m. Friday at the gallery