Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"First Light" - a Christmas Painting

Otis the Wonder Dog and I were up early this Christmas morning. He had puppy toys to unwrap and I had a painting to finish. With the floor covered in bouncy noisy toys and shredded wrapping paper (Otis' favorite part), he finally had enough Christmas fun for the morning and climbed up on the couch for a nap.
"First Light" 12x18 acrylic

With a small block of uninterrupted easel time ahead, I put out some new paint and dove in. This frozen winter landscape has been getting the bulk of my attention for about a week. I was a bit unsure about whether or not to put the whitetail in the painting. I considered a great-horned owl or a northern harrier. I also considered leaving it a pure landscape with no critters at all (my recent work seems to be leaning that way). In the end, I opted for the feeding buck, wanting to keep the quiet, early morning feel in the painting. The head-down attitude of the buck and pushing him back into the middleground of the painting helps give the painting calm and relaxed mood.
Two hours after I smeared in my first blob of paint, it was finished. I had not planned to get this far today, so it's a nice Christmas surprise to have it listed as "complete".
Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


"Foxy" 5x7 acrylic
Starting the push toward SEWE... less than 2 months to go!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tall Grass - Part 2, The Gathering

It seems like a lifetime ago when I took a bearing and set sail on my career as a painter, pushing aside my "regular" job (or getting fired to put it bluntly) to focus on my "real" job. As with any extended voyage, there have been many times of uncertainty, fear, and yes... even triumph. Though fear and uncertainty still patrol these waters, they don't seem to board my ship as often as they used to. Triumph, on the other hand, seems to regularly fill my sails with victories both large and small.
There is a great deal of solitude in what I do, both in the studio and the field. In my little creative vacuum, there's very little opportunity for personal interaction with other artists. That lack of creative feedback is often amplified when I'm mired in a project that seems to be draining all my energy without much sign of progress. It can be a nasty cycle of depression and self-doubt when things aren't going well.
This year's crew of usual suspects: Cindy House, James Coe, Jim Bortz, Sue Adair, Stephen Quinn, Michael DiGiorgio, Sean Murtha, Barry Van Dusen, Lucia deLeiris

So I was both honored and excited when renowned New England painter, Jim Coe, invited me to attend the "Gathering." Not really knowing what to expect, I cleared my calendar for the proposed dates. I couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity and the 7-hour drive to the Catskills was a small price to pay. From the beginning I knew I'd likely be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Break time!
I've written before about the energy surrounding a group of likeminded people. It's both exhilarating and exhausting. As it turned out, this was basically a show and tell session for artists... and pretty damned high level artists at that! This included thoughtful critiques and helpful advice... all of which I took to heart.

The entire time I was there, I kept thinking back to a conversation I'd had with Paul Rhymer more than a year ago when he told me, "You've been walking in some tall grass, my friend!" There is however, danger in that tall grass. There is a rush of pure joy that comes from being included with such accomplished artists, each with their own specialties and areas of expertise. Along with the inspiration of talking to and getting advice from such a proficient group, there is a humbling sense of admiration and an almost paralyzing fear of inadequacy. It's easy to take a look at Barry's sketch books and wonder what the hell I'm doing! Tall grass indeed.

I expected to come away with a need to pause and reassess my plotted course, but seem to have instead caught a wave and good wind for my sail. I'm sure my course will shift... as it should... but the direction is "forward"... even if the destination is unkown.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Unbearable Curiosity

"Unbearable Curiosity" 15x15 acrylic
I've been working on this one for a while and I think it's finally complete.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Sun Spot"

"Sun Spot" 7x5 acrylic
Getting up early this morning, I managed to finish this small painting before heading out for Thanksgiving dinner.
The sunflowers I planted outside the studio this summer provided some great painting inspiration, as well as quality reference photos. I may have to plant a bigger plot next summer!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rain, Wind, and Lunacy

There have been plenty of times in my life when I've questioned my own sanity. Yesterday afternoon was another one of those.

The remnants of superstorm Sandy were still swirling over Pennsylvania making the weather service radar maps look like slow-motion water circling a drain. Being holed up in the studio for the last two days, I'd had enough puttering around and needed to get out. A break between bands of rain offered me a chance to check my trail cams, move a tree stand, and maybe do a little hunting. I was out the door as soon as my lunch dishes hit the sink.

Everything seemed damp and cold outside. It wasn't quite raining, but it hadn't quite stopped either. The deluge of rain and wind from the previous two days had stripped the trees of any remaining leaves and the water soaked bark made their trunks look almost black against the landscape. A fine mist was now falling from the sky and I wondered to myself if this afternoon's outing might be a mistake. It was Halloween and dealing with the onslaught of neighborhood trick-or-treaters back at the studio didn't really appeal to me, so I pushed any negative thoughts to the back of my head... for now. Resolute in my plan, I slipped on my rubber boots and rain gear, shouldered my pack and trudged away from the truck.

Two hours after leaving the relative comfort of my truck, I found myself twenty feet up in a sparse hemlock staring out over a swamp... and getting soaked. As I sat there assessing my situation, the rain was coming steadily and showed no sign of letting up. It wasn't raining hard, but it was still enough that the insides of my "waterproof" Gortex gloves were wet and water was starting to seep from the cuffs of my parka to my elbows. At that moment, I had a decision to make. Either call it a day and head back to the truck or tough it out for the next three-and-a-half hours until dark. It seemed like an easy conclusion, but I decided to stay... smiling to myself as the rain and wind seemed to increase at that very moment.
Ignore the time and date stamp. I changed the batteries and forgot to reset the clock.

I'd love to continue this story with a tale about a big buck eventually ending up in the back of my truck, but that's not what happened. In fact, I never saw a deer (at least not until I got back to the studio and checked the memory cards from my trail cameras). The hunting aspect of this little adventure became secondary to the experience of actually being there to experience something very few have the fortitude (or lack of common sense) to face. At nearly fifty years of age, I'm not as adventurous as I used to be. I do, however, like to challenge myself on occasion... and it rarely goes without reward. Sure, I had a great-horned owl sit on a hemlock bow less than sixty feet away and shake the rain from his soaked feathers. A merlin (only the second one I've ever seen in PA) took a sparrow just above the swamp's overgrowth, landing nearby to dismantle and eat his prize. But this afternoon, I learned something about myself. Sitting completely still for three hours in the driving rain (not to mention the 39° air temperature) gives a person a lot of time for soul searching.

I wondered about my hermit-like existence, as I often do. I'm never quite sure if my need for solitude is from some sort of anti-social tendency, mental illness, or just part of my natural transformation into a crusty old fart. I find myself avoiding people with certain extreme personality traits... especially overly negative folks (I have enough uncertainty of my own without someone else's black cloud rolling over my life) and those that propel themselves in all directions in mach-two-hyper-spaz mode. I've never understood how someone can live their life like a superball in a blender, trying to go every direction at the same time at twice the speed of stupid, seemingly never accomplishing anything, regularly running their life off in a ditch and wondering how they got there.

The pace of my life is much slower than that and I've settled into a comfortable gate that gets me where I need to go while allowing me to enjoy the journey. In that context, sitting there in such inclement weather seemed perfectly natural. So at that very moment, I found myself leaning toward my crusty old fart theory and it made me laugh.

In fact, I found myself laughing to myself a lot as afternoon crept to evening and the rain began to let up a bit. The rain was still dripping steadily from the bill of my cap and my cold wet hands were nearly numb. I had to shake my head at the lunacy of this small adventure... or maybe at how much I was enjoying it.

As darkness descended upon the waterlogged landscape, I climbed down from my stand. Once again, I shouldered my pack and began the nearly half-mile hike back to the truck. Back out on the trail, the mud and standing water made the footing less than ideal, but I slogged happily along. Happy that I'd made it through the evening proving to myself that I could. Happy that my hours of isolation had led my thoughts down such a pleasant path of introspection. Happy to be headed back to the house for some dry underwear!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Time for the Hunt

It's that time of year. October and November are my favorite months to be outdoors. With the last two weeks of bow season right around the corner, deer activity is ramping up and signs of the rut are everywhere. Rubs line deer trails near thickets and swamps. Scrapes are briefly covered by falling leaves, but quickly cleaned out as bucks freshen them. Does are getting antsy as they seem to know bucks will be running them ragged in just days. Scuffles between the boys turn into knock-down-drag-out brawls when the older bullies on the block are involved.
My trail cameras are getting a workout and the anticipation of checking them for new images is sometimes more than I can stand. Still, it doesn't compare to actually being out there. Most of my days from now until the end of the season will be spent sitting 20' up in a small tree stand. I will stay from an hour before sunrise until well after sunset, only making my way back to the truck after I'm confident any deer in the area have moved on. Then it's back to the house for a quick bite to eat and a few hours of sleep before I head out again.
So far, I've been able to pace myself. It's easy for me to get burned out early in the season if I'm not careful. Now my drive has reached a crescendo of hunt all day every day if at all possible. If you call, I likely won't answer. If you visit, no one is at home. It's just that time of year.

Monday, October 15, 2012


"Sanctuary" 10x20 acrylic
This is the final painting for my Waterfowl Festival inventory... finished just minutes ago. Time to start something new!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Few Hours in the Autumn Woods

Some days are just meant for being outside. October has started out with quite a spectacular display of brisk weather and bright fall color. Not wanting to miss out, I took a few hours this week to do some exploring along one of my favorite streams. I left the fly rod at home for a change and took only my camera and hiking boots. For me... leaving the fly rod behind is not as easy as it might sound.
On days like this, the torments of my daily life are... at least for a while... lost among the brightly colored maple leaves. My thoughts seem to tumble along with the stream moving easily past otherwise sticky obstacles. For some reason, I find it comforting that the water at my feet will, at some point, reach the Gulf of Mexico.
It feels good to take in the cool air though the bright sun makes my fleece almost unnecessary. As I follow well-used deer trails, they reveal buck rubs and the occasional scrape. Though I take note of these, I'm not here to hunt deer today. My hunt is for painting inspiration... and I'm finding it everywhere.
Blue jays scold me as if I had some sinister intention, but soon lose interest and move on through the canopy. A pileated woodpecker cackles and I see the flashes of white on its wings as it moves from tree to tree. The forest is a flurry of activity. The critters seem to be enjoying the day as much as me, though I know that's likely my imagination. They are simply going about the tasks of daily survival. Still, I am a bit more appreciative than usual of days like this. Wind and rain took many of the leaves before their time last year, making the fall a flop for observing the colors of the season.
I'm feeling the urge to paint... as I often do. My mission to find inspiration has been a success. Now... with my spirit full... it's time to get back to the studio!

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Sign of Spring"

"Sign of Spring" 6x8 acrylic

Just off the easel, this is one of my final few paintings headed for the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD next month. Now... time to get busy on something a little bigger! Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Minis

"Whitetail Study" 5x7 acrylic

With the 10th annual McKeever Nature Art Show less than a week away, I've been working on some small affordable studies. See these and many more new originals at the McKeever Center in Sandy Lake, PA September 28 - 30.

"Blue Jay Study" 5x7 acrylic

Monday, September 17, 2012

Drawing... AGAIN!

I talk (and write) a lot about the importance of drawing and will likely continue to do so. I feel it's that important. A reporter asked me last week if I had any advice for aspiring artists. This was my reply: "Learn to draw and practice often. Solid drawing skills are the building blocks upon which all other artistic skills may be built. It's the one area I see consistently lacking with many of today's young artists."


I've spent the last couple of mornings doing a lot of drawing. I never tire of it. Drawing keeps me fresh and focused and I never lack for subject matter. None of these studies took more that 15 minutes. Most were less than 10. I just wanted to get the pose on paper as accurately and quickly as possible.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Birds In Art 2012... Looking Back

Now that I've been home for a couple of days, I've had some time to process this most recent Birds In Art opening weekend. There is so much cool stuff that happens at the Woodson Art Museum, it takes some time for me to put it all into perspective. I've come to realize over the years just how fortunate I am to be associated with this outstanding group of people... artists, patrons, and museum personnel included!
Patrons study the BIA exhibit
For artists attending opening weekend festivities, it seems as though at least one extraordinary thing happens over the course of the weekend. Perhaps the surprise of seeing your art published on a museum promotional poster, or maybe finding out the Woodson is going to purchase your piece for the permanent collection. There is always something positive to take away from each visit. Once in a lifetime opportunities present themselves periodically over the course of a weekend, if only you have the foresight to grab onto them before they pass... like getting the chance to talk to Robert Bateman and watch his painting demonstration during the "Artists In Action" event. Seriously?! How cool is that!
Larry Barth's "Yellow-rumped
Warbler and Goldenrod"
Museum staffer, Amy Beck and I were interviewed on Friday for the local news and asked to speak on the Birds In Art event. Of course, I was a nervous wreck, but the producers edited the piece into short sound bites and I didn't sound like a complete moron. It actually turned out quite nicely. I had no idea that so many people would come up to me the next day and mention they'd seen me on the news. Thank you Amy, for asking me to participate.
Bart Rulon's "Roseate Spoonbills"
Dinner Friday evening was amazing. The meal was perfect and the conversation lively and fun. We sat with Owen Gromme's grandson David and his wife Christina. I learned a great deal about Owen and came away with a renewed appreciation for the man. A big thank you to Jane Weinke for facilitating such an entertaining evening.

Guy Coheleach and Me!
The big shot in the arm for me came when I got to meet Guy Coheleach. Guy has been one of my painting heroes for as long as I can remember and this was the first time I'd be in the same room with him. The challenge for me would be to muster the courage to approach him and start a conversation. As it turned out, my "in" would present itself in the most remarkable fashion. During "Project Postcard," the Woodson's terrific fund raising event, Guy purchased one of my donated postcard paintings. When I heard that, I just about fell over! We ended up having a wonderful conversation and I came away admiring him even more.
Kathryn Turner's "As with Breath"

There is so much to write about. In subsequent posts, I will talk about the new wing of the museum and the Owen J. Gromme exhibit currently on display there. Also, the breathtaking selection of art in the permanent collection gallery. I've got lots of photos and a stray thought or two swirling around in my head, so stay tuned.

For now, it's time to get back to painting!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Birds In Art... The Beginning

So it begins... the adventure that is Birds In Art. Last evening was the Preview Reception for the exhibit and the atmosphere was electric. There is so much to see, so many people to talk to, and so much to learn. The museum's new wing is spectacular and the collection of Owen Gromme's work made me feel as though I stood in the presence of something quite special. The works selected for display from the permanent collection were absolutely perfect and I'm looking forward to going back to take a closer look.
When we return to the museum this afternoon, it will be just the artists, so we'll get a chance to take in all the magnificent art without the usual crush of people. I think I'll take my camera along this year and hopefully post the images here later in the weekend. Stay tuned. This is just getting started.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Birds In Art 2012

It is with a great deal of anticipation I prepare for my trip to Wausau. Having the good fortune to be selected for the Woodson Art Museum's Birds In Art exhibit is and honor I don't take lightly. There are many old friends I'm looking forward to catching up with and I'm sure I'll make some new ones, too. I'll be rubbing shoulders with my contemporary heroes of wildlife art and hoping some of that brilliance sticks. This will be my 6th BIA opening and the trip has never failed to send my on my way with my head spinning. There is always a flood of new ideas knocking around in my head on the long drive home. I've learned to take a note pad and write things down as they come along.

My 2012 entry "Snow on Willow Bay"

I've always said that my first BIA exhibit was truly the launching pad for my art career. It was a Friday afternoon in early May of 2007 when I got the coveted "big envelope" that changed my world. I was driving to work and, as I always did, stopped at the post office to pick up my mail. I remember sitting in the truck trying to open the letter with my hands shaking. There was a flood of emotion as I saw "Congratulations!" in the first line. I almost didn't go to work that day, but what else was I going to do? I told the good news to a co-worker (and fellow struggling artist) that evening and mentioned how I wasn't sure if I'd go to the opening. She simply replied, "Are you out of your mind?!" Funny how those 6 words changed things for me. That was the moment I decided I had to go... even if it took my very last penny. When I look back on where I was as a painter 5 short years ago, I can't help but be stunned at the progress of my career... due in no small part to the people I met in Wausau. They helped get the ball rolling and I will be forever grateful.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Working Through it

Sitting on a hillside watching deer in a soybean field a quarter mile away, the sun began to turn the sky amazing shades of pink, orange, and purple. I knew I'd spend as much of the next hour watching the sky as I would the deer. I also knew from the photographs I shot, there would be a painting soon to follow.
block in stage
Once I decided on an 8x10 format, I began to block in the basic tones trying to get the basic shapes down as quickly and accurately as possible. There was a brief moment just before I shot this image when I considered leaving the painting like this. It actually rivals some of my plein air work and it took me less than 45 minutes to get this far. That leads me to believe I need to work faster when painting en plein air, but that's a topic to be tackled in another post.
Stage 2
I began to refine the sky working in small blocks from right to left (not that the direction matters). As the painting moved forward, it became even more appealing to me. This was one of those paints that, like a good book, I just couldn't leave it alone. I also knew it was going to need some birds... a small flock of mallards perhaps. So I painted them in at this point knowing I could move them if needed.
Stage 3
Refining the sky further and pushing the middle ground, the painting starts to give the illusion of depth. As I look at it now, I may have gone a bit dark on the treeline on the far side of the field. I can adjust that as needed later. I added two more mallards to the flock so the formation seemed a bit more believable.
Finally, moving forward in the composition, the corn field and the weeds in the foreground moved along rather quickly. Again, I see I've gone a bit dark in the foreground, so that will need to be adjusted before this piece gets a frame.
The hues in the sky have also been adjusted to add a bit more drama to the scene.
"Harvest Glow" 8x10 acrylic

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Sun Catchers"

"Sun Catchers" 6x10 acrylic
I may tweak this one a bit later, but setting it aside for the moment. I really like this one :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Second Sign of Fall

For the last couple of years, I've been having some fun with trail cameras. Setting a few cameras in likely spots, then checking the memory cards keeps me busy while my mind races toward October and the beginning of archery season. The photo above is from 1:00 AM today. It's still pretty early in the year for the bucks to be dropping their velvet, but this guy already has his antlers shined up and ready to go.
A lot of things seem to be happening early this year. The white oaks are already dropping acorns, corn fields are starting to brown, and a few trout art moving upstream as though looking to spawn... perhaps all set in motion by the dry summer. It's been a strange year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

First Sign of Fall

Summer has been a bit of a grind this year, but I've managed to muddle through. As I took Otis the Wonder Dog outside this morning to do his obligatory sniffing and marking of everything in the yard, I noticed a welcomed sight on the other side of the street... one of the big old maples has started to turn.
The small patch of reddening leaves immediately made me smile at the thought of the upcoming season... my favorite by far. Last year, the fall weather was pretty miserable around here. When the leaves were turning, rain and wind ripped them from the trees as fast as the chlorophyll began for fade. My photo files typically bulge with with shots of fall color, but not last year. My photo outings were pretty fruitless, so my hopes are high that this fall season will be spectacular. 
Of course, the possibilities of fresh venison, wild mushrooms, spawning trout, and a myriad of other appealing goings-on has my blood moving and sends me into this fine day with optimism and vigor. Time to smear some paint and perhaps... a hike a bit later :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Work In Progress... Sunflower

I've been having some fun with this small painting. My production level has been pretty low for the past few weeks, so I'm trying very hard to work my way out of this slump. The yellow and orange hues in the sunflower blossom have been quite a challenge and they're still not quite right. As I move forward with the painting, I'll keep tweaking a little at a time until I'm satisfied. Lots of cool shapes and textures in this one.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pink Bottoms

After pouring a cup of coffee this morning, Otis the Wonder Dog and I took a short walk around the house. It was pleasantly cool and the dewy grass felt good on my bare feet. At the edge of the yard, we found a small group of meadow mushrooms (also known as "buttons" or "pink bottoms"). These are not the safest mushroom in the world to pick. I know people who have died mistaking a similar poisonous species for this common fungus. It only takes one screw up to ruin your day (or worse)!
Though not my favorite wild mushroom, they are excellent when cooked thoroughly so the edges are a little crispy. Add a touch of salt, pepper, and garlic and they round out a meal quite well. Just what I needed... an excuse to get a steak out of the freezer. HA!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Preseason Deer Scouting

I spent a fair amount of yesterday wandering through some of my deer hunting areas. It's always fun to get out there and see what the deer and other critters have been up to. I set a trail camera in a new area where 2 heavily used trails intersect near the corner of a corn field. For the past couple of years, I've spent more time scouting and goofing off in the deer woods than I had since I was in my twenties. Just the anticipation of getting trail cam photos of deer, turkeys, coyotes, foxes, etc. gives me the excuse I seem to need to lace up my hiking boots, sling my pack, and take off.
Big poop = Big buck!
Even during these hot summer months, well before bucks are making rubs and scrapes, they leave tell-tale sign for the observant outdoorsman. Of course tracks are always a good indicator to deer movement and I pay close attention to size, location, and direction. Droppings are another key piece to the puzzle that are often overlooked. When you find huge clumps like the one in this photo, you know there's a very large deer in the area. No 2 1/2 year old six point is going to drop a number two of this size!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Timeless River"

"Timeless River" 12x9 acrylic
I really struggled for a couple of weeks, but it feels like I'm back in my groove. Working on this painting was a lot of fun and putting the belted kingfisher in the riverscape just seemed like the right thing to do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Timeless River" work in progress

"Timeless River" detail
Here's another update on the painting currently on my easel. The detail view is about 1/3 of the overall area of the painting. I'm having fun with this one, so if all goes well... it should be finished by the end of the week :)

Monday, July 23, 2012


"Timeless River" (detail) work in progress

I often think about the abstract qualities of water in my paintings. So much so, there was a time I considered doing nothing but close-up studies of ripples, waves, and reflections. It would certainly make for an interesting collection of work and endless possibilities to explore the relationships between color and shape.
I've been struggling a bit as of late. The last couple of weeks have seen very little in terms of production, but I'm working through it. Yesterday was a great day at the easel and it may signal the end of my relatively short (for me) dry spell. Working on a riverscape always seems to help.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Dad with a nice channel cat
There are days that just end up being easy. Today was one of those. From the time we parked the truck along the stream, everything just seemed to fall in place. There were almost no bugs to bite us (and this area is notorious for deerflies and mosquitoes), the morning air was cool, and the river was low and easy to wade. The catfish were cooperative and we caught several... keeping a few for dinner. One of my favorite things about summer is fresh pan-fried catfish and home fries made from red potatoes just out of the ground. Outstanding :)
Catfish dinner!

Of course, there are always other things to keep my interest if the fish are being difficult. An old doe wandered by on the opposite bank as if to see what we were doing. Kingfishers zoomed by and chattered in the distance. Cedar waxwings busily winged from tree to tree picking off unfortunate insects along the way. Frogs and snakes and other ever-present creepy crawlies slither and hop away as we approach. It's a morning well-spent.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Be Brave!

"The Long Way Home"
One of my favorite paintings of years past was in need of an overhaul. James Coe once told me he doesn't consider a painting "finished" until it sells and constantly reworks his art. With that in mind, I decided to take the red fox out of "The Long Way Home" and replace him with a trio of gobblers. I also added a splash of morning light behind the birds drawing the viewers eye to the bend in the road. This kind of adventurous update is something I would have never attempted earlier in my career. There is always some fear involved that I might screw up an otherwise decent painting, but confidence in my ability to correct any missteps allows me the freedom to try all sorts of cool stuff.
"Long-Beards of Steckler Hollow" 20x30 acrylic

Now that I have the images side by side, I've also noticed how much better the photography of my paintings has become. The image of the updated painting is much more accurate to the true colors.
Complete with a new title and soon to have a brand new frame, this painting is destined for the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD in November.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Conewago Rush"

"Conewago Rush" 16x8 acrylic
 Inspired by a recent fishing trip, I've attempted to capture the essence of the crystal clear water in the "narrows" section of Conewago Creek. The fish were wild and frisky. The scenery was breathtaking. It was a day spent in fly fishing paradise.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Sad State of Outdoor Television

I’m a sportsman. More specifically, I’m a bow hunter, a fly fisherman, and a guy who spent 15 years in the musky fishing industry. If you know me at all, you understand it’s a very big part of my everyday life… and a huge influence on my art. I rarely musky fish anymore, but that experience as a guide, writer, and pro staff member put my face on TV more than once. I’ve got a little background. As much as I hate worrying about things I have no control over, I do worry about how the non-hunting/fishing public feel about sportsmen. It’s a factor in how people feel about me, my art, and how willing they are to part with their hard-earned dollars to own it. So when I see the current state of outdoor entertainment on the television… it bugs the hell outta me!

It seems every knucklehead with a video camera has a TV show these days. Some are pretty decent. Most are downright embarrassing. Just because you can be on TV doesn’t mean you should be on TV!

Being an athlete, or a NASCAR driver, or a country music star who likes to hunt does not make you an outdoorsman. It does provide the financial means to hire someone to take you to the right place and put a critter or two in front of you. Okay, fine… but that’s not hunting. A good hunter is also a good woodsman. Most of these “personalities” don’t even know what that means. I understand that not everyone has the time it takes to do all the legwork and research for themselves, but don’t act like you’re something you’re not. And don’t stand there over your dead animal and tell me how hard you hunted that week. The toughest thing you did was climb your fat ass into a 15’ high tree stand or a shooting house (also known as an aerial shithouse) that someone else scouted, hung, and prepped. So you sat there for 10 hours a day… so what! That’s sitting, not hard hunting. I’ve got nothing against hunting from a tree stand. I do it a lot. What I never do is hunt from one that someone else has hung. Tell me about how hard you hunt when you do all that grunt work for yourself. There’s a big difference.

So when was the last time you saw a segment on reading and interpreting deer sign? Today’s television sportsmen (and women) are focused on food plots and management. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with feeding and managing a healthy deer herd, it’s irrelevant to 98% of hunters. Most don’t own 2700 acres of posted farmland to manipulate and manicure into a killing field, but that’s what we’ve been lead to believe is necessary to harvest a decent whitetail. It’s got nothing to do with woodsmanship and hunting as I know it.

There seems to be a rash of unethical quartering-to and straight-on bow shots. I’m pretty sure the anatomy of most big game animals has not changed since I started hunting, so why is this practice now acceptable? I can’t wrap my mind around anyone taking shots at this angle with archery equipment. PERIOD. I understand the desire to get arrow impact on camera and just how difficult it is, but it’s lead to a lot of downright rotten shot selection by on-camera hunters. Several years ago, arrow impact on film was a big deal. Not so much anymore. I’ve seen enough of it and now I’d rather know the animal was killed with a well-placed arrow at close range. Anything else sets a bad precedent and needs to stop… whether it’s being filmed or not. The people on these TV shows have a responsibility to be ethical and many are not living up to that.

There’s nothing special about blasting a 6x6 elk at 400 yards with a 50mm anti-aircraft cannon. It does not make you a good hunter. I’m not sure there are many people out there that can’t get within a quarter-mile of an elk… without even trying. So you made a 400 yard shot. Pump your fist and hug your guide all you want… I’m not impressed. Call that bull in to less than 50 yards and execute a clean kill with a bow or muzzleloader… then I’ll be impressed. There’s admirable skill involved in pulling off a long and difficult shot, but again… that’s not hunting. It’s shooting.

I remember quite a few years ago when Mike Iaconelli came onto the scene of tournament bass fishing. ESPN promoted these tournaments like they were NASCAR events and for the first time, a cameraman was in every boat. This all-access look at the sport was unprecedented, but also brought to the forefront the need for camera presence by the fishermen. Suddenly, sponsor dollars were being doled out less on the ability to fish and more by behavior in front of the camera. Iaconelli was the first to recognize and take advantage of this by screaming and yelling and fist pumping and generally acting like an idiot every time he caught a fish. I remember thinking “This guy’s an asshole. I hope that stuff doesn’t catch on.” Sadly, sponsors flocked to this flamboyant douche-bag and others followed suit. The fact that the guy could fish was completely overshadowed by his knuckleheaded antics. Now everybody seems to be putting on that face of outrageousness for the camera and it repulses me. For years I’ve called this “doing an Iaconelli.” Someone will kill and animal in front of a camera and the fist-pumping and jumping around begins. Some look like they may be having a seizure while others cackle like Roscoe from the Dukes of Hazard. This level of buffoonery has saturated the outdoor industry with morons and at times, I’m ashamed to be associated with it. There’s no respect for the animal or value in the hunting experience. It’s all about getting it done for the camera and attracting money from sponsors. Subtlety and humility are not a consideration.

Yes… I’ve only scratched the surface. I could go on for pages about the jackasses that hunt in fenced off enclosures the size of a dog kennel, or carnage-fest-it’s-fun-to-kill-stuff shows, or the idiot that catches a 12” trout and has to hold it up for the camera 3 times before unhooking it and letting it go, but I’ve managed to get some of this off my chest. Now put the damned fish back in the water and get on with it!

I’m pretty sure my Cynical Asshole Syndrome just kicked in again, or maybe it’s just the heat. Mr. Jose Wejebe, you’ll be sorely missed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Emerald Lake Loon"

"Emerald Lake Loon" 6x8 acrylic

There seems to be a lot of work getting done in the studio during all this miserably hot weather. It's good to stay inside and paint!