Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Del Pettigrew attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he studied journalism and political science. Although his first sculpture, a bas-relief of mallards in a marsh setting, was done at the early age of 12, many years passed before he began sculpting in earnest.
Del's art education consists of workshops and studying the masters. From the study of works by Rodin and Bugatti, he learned that surface textures, left unfettered, provide an aesthetic appeal unattainable by laborious and meticulous manipulation. From Rungius he observed the power of expression and its effect on overall mood. He has studied with contemporary sculptors Chapel, Lincoln Fox, Peter Rubino, and Floyd Tennyson Dewitt. Hours spent in the solitude of museums here and abroad have left indelible visions of composition. Del's wife, Martha, a renowned sculptor, is his most trusted critic.
Pettigrew's subject matter is drawn from life experiences, a bear seen while fly fishing in Wyoming, birds seen along the Platte River in Nebraska, and his constant fascination with horses, which he has owned and bred since the age of 14. About his inspiration and style Pettigrew says, "I still prefer to sculpt from actual experiences. I want my sculptures to portray the excitement I felt when I encountered an animal in the wild, or perhaps a memory from observing a mare and foal in the paddock. I'm not interested in creating a model; rather, I want to express myself artistically in an impressionistic manor."