In so many ways, this project touches on the things that make me who I am. The fusion of art, fly-fishing, and beer is nothing new to the make up of my personality, but I’ve never had all three come together in such power-chord like harmony, and never at such an opportune time. I’ll readily admit that I could not find the motivation to draw/paint fish in years past, whether it was representational, stylized, or all-together abstracted. Instead, I typically opted for skulls as subject matter. Nothing wrong with that program, and in fact, I intend to keep rocking skulls. So, to an extant, this harmony I sought was always just out of reach, largely due to my own actions and decisions. However, through beer, rapping about fly-fishing, to finding a way to use my art to bring the fusion full circle, the Rainbows in the Dark series of drawing for Allen Fly-Fishing came to be and harmony became within reach.
It started at this year’s National Homebrewers Conference in Seattle. I was out there for work, and attending to my duties on the American Homebrewers Association Governing Committee. As is the case with every NHC, I headed to the annual Brewing Network party (a beer fest with music for Brewing Network listeners) the Wednesday preceding the conference. The party took place at Elysian Brewing Company. They had some great beers on tap, and were gracious enough to have many other breweries from the region on hand. I had some of those great beers, talked to old friends, and met some new ones. One in particular, Mr. Burck, working as a volunteer for the party, turned out to be a serious fly-fisherman, homebrewer and under the employ of one Allen Fly-Fishing. We rapped about steelhead, smallies, and a bit about beer. Solid dude.
Months passed while Mr. Burck and I stayed in touch via the internets. I started checking out Allen more, and liked what I was seeing. Great rods and reels, and eye for aesthetic quality, and in particular, they were making an “Artist Series” of T-shirts; I liked what they were laying down. Near the end of the Summer they came out with a new design by Eric Hornung called the Kraken. I was digging it. More importantly, it stirred an ongoing thought/desire that had been in my head for the last several years.
I mentioned above that I could never find the motivation to draw/paint fish. That was true. However, every time I’d open a new issue of The Drake, or Fly Fish Journal, and/or new catalogs from the places I got my gear, I’d come across designs, art and illustrations of the subject matter that invades a flyfisherman’s head, and I would think two things:
1. This shit sucks, and I could do better.
2. This shit is kinda tight, I make tight work and like fly-fishing…why don’t I do this too? (FYI, Hornung’s work falls into this category).
In either case, the idea of getting my foot in the door of the fly-fishing art/illustration game remained sticky. Like the smell of pike slime, it stayed with me no matter how far away the idea remained.
Still, I did nothing to pursue this endeavor. Work had always dominated my attention, and my artistic output suffered as a result. No hard feelings, that’s a choice I made. So, deciding to kick open the door on an industry and culture all-together foreign, albeit something close to my heart, seemed to never be in the cards.
But, here I was, recently leaving my job to pursue something better for my mind, body and soul. Here I was, reinvested in being an artist thanks to some self-reflection and some bitchin’ sludge metal. Here I was, with a chance to pursue those sticky ideas that had nagged at my brain, and touched my spidey senses.
When the Kraken was released by Allen, I simply hit my man Mr. Burck up and asked, “how does one get their chance? How do I put my name in the hat?”. He asked for work samples, I sent them along, he plucked me for a commission. It was that simple; turn the key, and decide to do and not think. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t just happen because you want it to. One needs to show and prove, and then keep showing and keep proving if one ever hopes to accomplish those sticky ideas. My foot had tipped open the door.
These three works are the end result. Allen is going to use version #2 for a t-shirt in the Artist Series, and may use version #1 for other packaging needs (I will update with a post when the finished products are public).
This entire project has been a small, but important journey in my life of art, beer and fly-fishing. I hope it is one of many such stories to tell.
The door is now open, my foot is in, and I plan on staying.