Gin clear streams are hard to come by this time of year with run off coming down the hills to give the rivers their annual flush. This year is exceptional with the impressive amount of snow but the yearning for summer is satiated with the only a few weeks left of high waters.
Quickly becoming one of my favorite fish to paint is the markings on the back of a Brook Trout. The lines take on a nice interlocking movement with the negative positive space. A subtle move on this piece is the highlight on the back of the trout to help establish more of a light source that grounds the shadow of the trout with the shadow on the rocks. The complementary colors scheme of the trout’s predominant green color coming off the red rocks pops the fish into a definite space that does not rest with the river bed, but catapults the trout towards the viewer in its own space. The stone fly set in the resin is black so the the contrast with the dark color stands out against the river bottom that is void of a shade that dark. The aerial view looking directly down on the top takes away the lower jaw and makes a more complacent mood of the trout in a debating state of taking the fly. Looking down on the tail section is effective, due to a heavy highlight on the top of the tail fin and the receding layers below push the tail down into the work.
This piece exemplifies the subtleties of the resin work and the trout become more of an effective representation with each painting.
12″x 26″ Oil/Acrylic/Resin/Refurbished Wood
In Montana there are a couple ideas I have about the houses these paintings can go into. With the rustic appeal of the great outdoors where old boards from fences structures don’t rot for a long time due to the dry climate, or the knots and weathered patina have seen harsh winters for many years, sets the stage for borders framing the past-time of fly fishing that is considered by some to be the finest in the world. With the appeal to fly fishing and the branding of old timbers (that is a staple of Montana) these paintings could go in any home in Montana.
Another dream is to have the paintings be a part of a house that sits right on the fabled waters of Montana. That dream has come home and this piece sits right on the banks of the Yellowstone River. When the work was set on the wall the soft palette of the rocks just played off color of the room and when the sun shines through in the early morning it seems there is no other place in the world the painting could be. It fit in there absolutely perfect!!
The rainbow trout resting in the water is one of the more placid resin paintings that have been created. The decision to use a small Griffith’s Gnat on the surface is due to trying to keep that sense of calm within the work. The work looks best from a distance and really captures the image a fisherman would see when sitting on the shore and a big cruiser is waiting in the shallows. The fish sits more closely on top of the rock shadow and helps push the trout towards the surface of the painting. The fins are created with the most delicate nature and the spots are placed on the outside of the fins to frame the straight lines that go its length towards the body of the fish. The rock shadow has been outlined with a softer line than the hard lines of the trout that sit on top allows the trout to maintain its shape throughout the piece and has an incredible contrast against the stream bottom.
Things that have been learned from this piece is to create a higher contrast within the work and realize that most of our world that has light is opaque. The rock shadow plays when a viewer looks long enough at the piece and to realize that the rocks are just darker rocks that act as the fish’s shadow. The idea to have a placid surface is a a different idea as well when tailwater fisheries would offer the image attempting to be captured with this image.
As far as native trout go there are the fond memories of being back home and catching the larger trout that were always the cutthroat species. Except one time as JP can attest to…
we never landed the fish but as it went skyward, the fishing hole opened up for a split second as the biggest rainbow trout we had ever seen in that small creek snapped off the fly as if it were being attached to the fly line by a cob web. It was so violent of a take that the water splashed up and hit me in the face. With shaking hands I tied on another fly and wouldn’t you know, there was a repeat performance and the leader had parted again. By the time I tie on the third fly it was time to begin the hell-bent-for-home sprint so as to not get in trouble, racing over slippery moss covered rocks.
Very rarely could a rainbow trout in a small creek reach the size of the cutts that would stretch the tape to the 12″ mark. Those were the prize for sure. In an even smaller creek JP hauled out a cutthroat creature that dwarfed the water it was in. One of the most miraculous fish ever taken in that stretch of water.
Montana has the same folklore surrounding the cutthroat trout. Yellowstone Park has the fishery off the bridge from back in the day where 4lb. and larger cutthroat were not uncommon. Even looking off the bridge (that doesn’t allow fishing anymore) there was a large cutt making their way along the outflow of the lake. The true native trout of the PNW is the cutthroat trout and there can’t be enough good things said about it.
This painting is a part of the oil and acrylic series as the stream bed is created with oil colors and the fish is painted with acrylic paint layered over the top in the resin. The reddish hue is seen throughout the painting to create a warm tone and a sunny day. In looking at the final piece it looks like the water is so gin clear it could be a very cold snowmelt as the trout waits for the next meal to come floating by.
Cold water Cutty
25″ x 13″ Oil/Acrlyic/Resin
Refurbished Barn Wood
Humble, not seeking praises, when told about putting up the art about her she said, “I just hope someone falls in love with it!”
At the Orvis Down The Hatch Festival, held in Missoula, a gal was yelled at if she had ever fly fished before, as she sat at the top of the steps overlooking the festivities down below. The fly cast painting had been set right above the band that was keeping the energy going with their crazed drum beat and sound system broke on the high volume mark. Her reply, “I have been out a few times.” A few minutes later she proceeds to challenge the rest of the fly fishing guide participants in competitions of ‘who is the greatest fly fishing guide in the world? It was an awakening to Montana and myself having never seen a gal in the industry of fly fishing guides. There were a few other women in the competition as it was still gender specific. Once you peel back the layer of the pioneering steps Kelly is carving into the state of Montana, that she loves, and doing what she loves by being on the rivers. She gets others, as well as herself, hooking one monster trout after another on a fly, it is a wonder anyone would want to fish with another person.
This artwork as far as composition and the the practices within the craft of her trade show a sort of gracious culture between the captor and her prey. It could be seen as a respect and understanding behind the act of being caught that has just happened. The fish is being set back into the water with the the gentlest of ease and Kelly isn’t camera hungry to be all about the kicking ass that just took place. Her focus is on the fish and safe returns.
18″x24″ India Ink, Watercolor
with flycast frame
In the depths of my mind there are the adventures of growing up carefree in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. During the summer almost everyday that I could get out of the house I would pedal my bike a mile down the road to a creek and fly fish for trout. Testing out flies I had just tied, Yellow Caddis Bucktail, Ants, Royal Coachmans, Marty’s Ghost, Adams, and Black Gnat. Cutthroat, rainbows, dollies were the majority of the catch, and would take a fly with relative ease if the stream’s runoff was cooperating.
One of these excursions found me down at the Sauk River with a hit of opaque snowmelt coming off the mountains that are the backdrop of what I call home. My good friend and fishing partner JP wanted us to test the waters behind his house where his older brother was casting a line. As we approached his brother he had just landed a small trout and released it using a Black Gnat pattern. I asked, “Why are you fishing a Black Gnat pattern?” His response (that I can remember) “The darker pattern shows up better against the blue milk colored water, therefore the trout can see it better and are more apt to strike.” Almost thirty years later lets revisit this dream with a work of art and a challenge for its creation.
I was heading through Helena, Montana when the message came through about a resin piece that I had on my site. It was the art patron I had grown up with and had that conversation about the Black Gnat, so many years ago. Always looking forward to the next work of art I wanted to push the next idea. Little did I know he had ideas of his own about what he wanted with the art that had been in my repertoire up to this point. “I want a fly cast painting and a resin painting that can be separate but go together as one piece”. Holding the phone away from my face like “what I am experiencing here” the intervention of wherever these ideas come from started to flow into the creative imagination that is the foundation for this adventure. A fire was lit and momentum gained. A resin piece that is separate from any foundation had only been accomplished on a very small scale. I had dreamt about a larger scale piece and this would be that moment. Having it be a separate piece but the same would lie in the creation of the frame. The fly cast painting scales are set to the inch and the only other problem to overcome would be making the resin frame to approximately the same dimensions. From previous works being routered slots on old rustic barn wood, this frame would take on the same utilitarian purpose to hold a picture with a “cross” shape with two conjoining pieces. There are two different slots for the fly cast painting to be over the top of the resin or the resin to be over the top of the fly cast. The river painting was watered down to capture the colors of the river and attempt a translucent approach to the Lexan surface.
In the end, at this artwork’s completion, it can be turned and hung on the wall and shown 32 different ways. I have yet to see a painting that can do that until this happened. The possibilities are endless with this format as other works are guaranteed to follow.
A Black Gnat is embedded into the work, the fly cast takes part on the same river from thirty years ago and a senior in high school that would challenge his underclassmen is still posing situations to overcome and changing the world.
When it comes to the fly cast painting idea, paired up with resin, and a signature word or phrase smuggled into its creation, there are few people that would see such advancements in the artistic process through. A benefactor perhaps that puts forth the effort to create a scenario that will be remembered for the ages. To have something that is representative in the house that will commemorate the moment forever and be a reminder of that one moment when two people became a couple. One of the most captivating, nested places in the cascades where the proposal took place eight years ago. The instance of the proposal happened on the edge of a precipice coated in ice and snow. She said “yes”. The canyon was shrouded in a deep freeze with icicles coming down and the ice was so dense it took on a bluish tinge within its depths. It is a story for the ages and the dreams of the romantic minded. All the elements that go into the time that has passed with three beautiful children and stories that go on forever of travels and adventure began as a unit at this place.
The flycast on this particular morning found the earth covered in ice with a faint hint of the sun trying to break through the clouds. Small dustings of snow were on either side of the trail as the equipment was hauled down to the stage where the flycast painting would take place. A 36″x48″ piece of Lexan would be the target, for this piece, with more than ample room to make adjustments for the dynamic complexity of how the final work would turn out. Black ice covered every rock on the waterworn sides of the steep banks plunging into the pool at the bottom of the falls that added a certain element of danger. Danger that wouldn’t stop the art patron’s experience of putting on spikes and climbing across an old growth log to stand next to the pinnacle of the river’s descent to its loss of altitude. He would comment “It felt like thunder coming through the rocks”.
Two pieces of driftwood were found on site that make the frame of the painting and after the fly cast was completed the resin work would begin. Lining up two pieces of non symmetrical wood came down to the solution being dowels drilled into to the driftwood going along with a maple frame backing and there would then be a flat surface that could go on the wall with the driftwood being adjusted along the dowels to line up the uneven surfaces.
The first attempt at the resin for the waterfall looked like a plastic bag coming off the top of the driftwood and that would never aesthetically work, so through a bit of trial and error the decision was made to actually look at the characteristics of a waterfall and how it tapers down at the bottom and spreads out in a loose triangle shape. This all came about with the challenge to keep the frame separate from the fly cast painting. In the end the frame was grooved to fit the painting along its length for structural reasons and a tight fit that would integrate the different planes of the work to be more a part of the piece.
To be a part of the celebration that is the love between two people is a humbling experience indeed. In this short amount of time that we have for our existence the mission of the artist is to bring forth the potential of moments and capture the happenings of events. Bringing attention to times that are the exemplification of trials and errors of a couple living the dreams together is no better reason to create a work of art. The appreciation for the fly cast and the acknowledgement of its process I am eternally grateful for.
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Looking down into the gin clear water rests a trout of considerable size. No arrow is drawn, or spear about to be thrust, there is not a net being flung or a trap set in the shallows as this particular trout has evaded all sorts of predators to get to such a considerable size. The Heron that waits on the edge, the merganser diving in the slower water on the side of the current, or the river otter taking advantage of the slower fish in the school, this giant has witnessed them all, and survived. This trout knows every grain of sand in these haunts and the undercut bank that has been its sanctuary and instinct to safety, allowing for the full potential of its girth, and maximum prowess to time.
Suddenly, upstream of the trout’s favorite lie, a stonefly emerges from under a cobble and struggles to rise to the surface of the stream. With a nonchalance of knowing (allowing the stonefly in its hapless movements to flow towards its awaiting jaws) the trout flips its tail to the side and moves with the current to intercept its entomological delicacy. It has now begun. The stoneflies keep flowing down and the trout is soon engulfing them as fast as possible. It is a gangbuster hatch and will continue into the evening hours.
One particular stonefly has an air bubble shimmering off its back and is attempting to swim with the most voracity this trout has ever been subject to. An easy item to engulf for sure, and the trout makes a move like a thousand times before. Upon sucking in the fly towards its awaiting belly, it seems one the legs has been caught in its lip and suddenly its head is snapped up with all the power of a sledgehammer trying to displace the positioning of its entire body!! With a torrent of movement to gain the sanctuary it has known, it bolts for the undercut bank. The pressure increases off the point of the leg on this jester stonefly and the dark passages of the bank can not be reached. In a panic the trout plunges upstream searching for the rapid current that has always been its secondary option when danger was sensed. This trout is power, and understands its capabilities when navigating its home waters and thrashes through the swiftest part of the water’s current. It holds in the current as long as possible bulling down to rocks at the bottom but suddenly succumbs to the displacing pressure that begins to guide its movements. Shaking its head, rolling over its body, or swimming in a tight circle, the trout finds itself suddenly in the shallows where present danger lurks, there is a shadow above getting ever closer. The trout is too tired to fight for its life and with all the craziness that just ensued it is an almost guarantee it is about to realize certain death.
From underneath its tired body a sensation of rising above the life saving flow of water is felt as its gills open to the lack of pressure the stream would provide. It is in an unfamiliar area in a zone of this earth where survival is denied yet the gills involuntarily react to try and gain its active circulation. Before it can adjust to this new environment it is half submerged into the water it craves and the annoyance of the stonefly is removed. The trout is sunk a little lower into the stream and rights itself ready to return to the depths it knows, confused by the whole affair but ready to relax for the rest of the day.
Who could have know such a foreign creature from another world could be fooled into reacting to a piece of fur and a hook? How is it possible that the ingredients of a sewing kit could be used to have such a creature succumb to another world that was never known, but ever present? With a decision being made to put the fish back into its water’s, its another question as to the draw to be the one to bring a fish into our world for a gratifying but brief second? That is the art and connection being experienced.