Friday, September 28, 2012

Painting the Whitetail Buck

  As the fall hunting season begins my mind cant help but drift to those prevalent whitetail deer that roam the forests of North America.  I am by no means an avid hunter, but I do occasionally find myself being called to the deep woods to hunt these great creatures.  Nothing can beat watching a great buck emerge from a thickly wooded forest in the light of a morning dawn.
  A few days ago however I had a small surgery that has had me laid up for the time being.  It was nothing major, just enough to keep me in the house.  So there I sit, unable to wet a fly or notch my bow and sit among the changing colors of the forest to wait for a deer to pass by.  For a guy that can't sit still for long and always has a project in the works, it is a brutally long recovery.  Today however I felt good enough to exercise my mind and soon found myself picking up paint and paper to paint an outdoor scene that I can only imagine.
This is quite the departure from my usual paintings of trout and fly fishing but I am sure that even the anglers out there can enjoy a Fall Whitetail Buck in a wooded scene.  There might be even a few hunters out there that will stumble on this blog and appreciate this painting.
As for the painting itself, it incorporates many elements that I have never really tried before.  First the deer - I have painted a buck before but never one in such a setting.  It took some practice sketching out the deer and the colors of fur took some experimentation but I think it turned out okay.  Next is the forest - For a guy that concentrates on water and the fish that swim in it, the fall colors of the forest was a real challenge for me.  I decided to forget about the details and go with a classical quick brush stroke approach.  Adding in the lighter sky and barks of the trees with the colors and thin dark branches eventually gave me the contrast I was looking for.
    I am calling it "Fall Whitetail Buck".  The painting measures roughly 11"x9" but will probably fit best in a 8x10 matted frame.  It IS FOR SALE.  Just email me for the details if your interested.  If you would like a print of this work you can email me as well and if I find enough interest in it I might run off a limited count of 8x10 prints.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Its Hunting Season

Its that time of year again.  The stands are in the trees, the corn is being harvested, and the deer are on the move.  Yesterday my buddy convinced me to go out hunting with him at O'dark thirty.  We had set up a few tree stands last week right before he returned to his job and I left on a week long trip.  Neither the two of us are the kind of hunter that calls in sick the first day of hunting season so our excursion to the woods had to wait till our jobs left us with some free time.
  Well yesterday we finally found that time and after only a few hours sleep, we met up with his brother to go wait for some deer. For me sitting in a tree stand and watching the sun rise makes that struggle to get out of bed at 430 all worth it.  The solitude and quiet gives one time to think.  You hear the forest begin to awake with song birds and squirrels and you think 'Is this what growing up in the frontier was like 200 years ago?'
  Of course the pioneers never had a compound bow, and they were hunting to survive, but in my defense my bow is a vintage 70's compound with only the basics.  I don't hunt to survive either but more from a desire to connect to a past and to keep a few of those skills alive in my basic human DNA.  There also that heart pounding pulse of adrenalin that a hunter gets when after hours, and days of sitting in quiet anticipation, a deer appears from the brush and you need to take the shot.
    That surge of energy one gets when you let loose the arrow is hard to explain to someone that has not experienced it.  To see that majestic buck, sniff the air, cautiously emerge from the shadow of the woods,  all the while you lay motionless waiting for you shot - simply amazing.  For a fisherman its like fishing all day without a bite and then just as he has given up hope, up from the deep comes a fish, brilliantly colored, and holding that fly in his mouth as he puts on a aerial display.
  This day however, I saw no buck, I took no shot, and it passed like so many other days out in the woods, just me and my thoughts (which is a scary place for anybody that knows me).  The one exception was I did end the day on a high note.  It was not my shot that brought me joy but that of my fellow hunter.  Across the small valley from my stand, my buddy had made his shot and brought down this great looking Carolina Buck.  With a perfect shot through the lungs, he made the kill as cleanly and quickly - as if it was a lesson in a book.  The arrow had snapped between the legs and within minutes the deer was down.   Great Job Mat!

For myself, the time spent quietly in the stand left me with a plan in mind for a project at home.  I had salvaged some weathered cedar from my neighbors deck last spring and had been waiting for a project to use it on.  What I came up with was a rustic gun cabinet.  I had never had one, I needed one (My wife might think otherwise), and quite simply it gave me something to work on.  I can never stay idle for to long anyways and I always have a project or two in the works.
   In a few short hours I had the frame assembled and the weathered cedar sanded out.  I have high hopes for this one and I'll keep you updated on it progress but for now all you get is the pic to the left.  I know it looks like a coffin but just stay with me.  It will turn out looking great....... I hope.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sketching Trout With Thoreau

Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
A few of us angling addicts think we know why we fish.  Its the same reason that my buddy spends $35 - $50 a week for a round of golf.  We enjoy it.  But when I ran across this quote the other day I began to question the true reason I fish.  There is no better feeling than hooking into some cutthroat or brown in a deep pool, or watching the areal take of a rising brookie or the smashing power of a bonefish taking a fly. But, is there more to it than the hook-up?
  As I was passing the time the other day and sketching this brown, I pondered that question.  I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that I fish for the beauty of the experience   For the chance to be out in nature.  To enjoy the solitude of a lonely mountain stream or placid country pond.  I told myself it was the beauty of the journey that kept me coming back.  Maybe it truly didn't matter if I ever caught another fish. Old Henry D. had opened a door.  It was a new way to look at why I fished.  It wasn't the fish, it was everything else.
    Then as I finished touching up the sketch, I put down my pencil and thought to myself, 'maybe Henry never had a morning full of hatches and leaping fish.  Maybe he never held a brightly colored brookie in his hand.  Maybe he never felt the tug of a monster taking a woolly from the deep, and maybe Mr. Thoreau never spent a  ten hours on a bone chilling river with leaky waders and not a single bite to show for it.'  If he had he would know that it sucks.
    It IS the fish we are after otherwise we would just be another guy on a nature hike.  Now don't go unhinged.  I love backpacking as much as any guy on the AT or PCT but when I go fishing, I go to catch fish.  We can enjoy all that goes with catching the fish but in the end without actually hooking into fish... Whats the point.  If you disagree, I know a place you can donate all your fishing gear.  In return I'll give you trail map and a bag of granola

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Asian Lenok Trout

'The bonefish of trout.'  That is what I read when I began to research the Lenok trout and I would be lying if I said I wasn't interested in this species.  Then again any trout peeks my interest because lets face it - Trout are the yin for the fly anglers yang.
  When I was contacted by an fellow angler from the other side of the world about painting a pair of special trout for him and his emerging company, I stumbled over myself for the opportunity.  Its not everyday that this humble artist angler gets the chance to go international.  My last international venture was a few book illustrations with Carlos from Barbos con Mosca and it was a joy.  Not only does it expand my resume as such but it also gives me a contact in the region for any future trip to fish those exotic corners of the world. 
  As for the subject of this special painting my Asian friend wanted to showcase the Lenok Trout.
Hu??  What the duce is the Lenok?
The best answer is that it is a deep backwoods Asian trout similar to the brown trout in size and spots.  It also is a trout with lineage.  In some circles it is thought that this special trout could be the link between the Grayling and the trout.  This also might be able to explain why some anglers refer to the Lenok as the Bonefish of the trout species.  Regardless, the Lenok is a beautiful fish.
    Typified by similar brown trout markings, the lenok also sports some brilliant colors along the torso.  Typically these colors are a reddish pink with yellows, all topped off with deep mossy greens on the back.  Having never actually held one of these beauties in my hand - I found it hard to squeeze in a trip to Mongolia last weekend - I relied heavily on the internet and my Asian angler contact email for reference material.
    Hopefully I did them justice.  Maybe someday I can get over there and compare my painting to the real thing.  It felt good to put paint to paper again and I hope you all enjoy it.  Thanks Dennis for the opportunity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


All hail thou lowly scud.  In a world of creepy looking nymphs and underwater aquatic wiggly creatures that make the skin crawl, you reign supreme as one of the ugliest creatures to swim the freshwater streams of the world.  You are akin to an alien creature sent from some B-movie from the dawn of cinema and if it wasn't for your small stature you would send grandmothers running for the hills.  As it is you simply hug the bottoms of streams, drift with the current, and most likely end up as yet another food source for the more majestic creatures in your little world. And it is for that last and  singular reason that I find you very attractive.  Here is to you Mr. Scud and your 90 fellow North American species that feed the fish on a daily basis.