By Carolyn Males
A fish tale is generally a big lie, something not to be believed. But for this story we asked eight artists to share their true fish experiences along with their aquatic artwork. And we caught a bit of fish philosophy along the way.
Acrylic and Gauche
When I was a young child, my father was a dolphin trainer at the Montreal Aquarium. I spent many hours there roaming between the dolphin aquarium and the adjacent aquarium, which housed every imaginable sea creature. One tank in particular held a great fascination for me because right in the middle of it sat something that looked like a giant dark-colored rock. But it wasn’t. It was a huge grouper. And so the game began. Every chance I had, I would run into the building hoping to catch him moving or in a different location. But it never happened. The grouper was glued to the spot. Many years later I wanted to paint a fish and remembered the giant grouper. I imagined, if given a choice, where he would have wanted to live. In this fantasy world, the grouper would be a multicolored vision accompanied by colorful friends as they swam through tropical coral reefs.
When my firstborn son was five, I decided to take him fishing so he could gain the same sense of father-son bonding I’d experienced as a child. On a lovely spring day, I drove him to the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, set up his tackle, and brought out a pole I’d borrowed from my dad –– a connection to that past bonding ritual. I’m not much of an ‘in the moment’ person, but standing out there, I soaked up the sun, the oxygen of the trees, the sound of near silence, and most importantly, the shared experience with my child. And after a few more fleeting moments passed, my beautiful baby boy looked up at me with shining brown eyes and asked with a tad bit of frustration, “Can’t we just go to Walmart and buy fish?”
Iron Fish Rainbow Trout
Sheet Metal Forging
I was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, but my grandfather lived on the North Carolina coast. When I’d visit him, I’d spend my time fishing on the community dock. I would sit there all day even when I was as young as seven years old –– and my parents swear to this day they would have to pry me away to come home for dinner every night. My favorite memories are of my elderly grandfather slowly walking down the dock to bring me something to eat and drink and to reapply my sunscreen. Those were simple times and they were also when my obsession with fish began.
Low Country Octopus
In fall of 2012 I was shrimping with my father when, to my surprise, I pulled up my cast net and inside was this beautiful octopus. I was born and raised here in Hilton Head and have been a full-time fishing captain for more than 25 years, but this was the first time I’d ever seen an octopus inshore in shallow water. So I put it in a cooler to bring home to show my wife, daughter and friends. That evening I left the octopus in the sealed cooler on our back porch with plans to return it to the ocean the next morning. Unfortunately, overnight the octopus had somehow crawled out and passed away before I could do that. As an artist, I was already practicing the ancient art form of Gyotaku (Japanese for “fish print”) with fish I’d caught locally and on my travels abroad. But I’d never heard of anyone doing a Gyotaku print of an octopus so I gave it a try, and it turned out to be one of my all-time favorite fish prints!
Joan Moreau McKeever
Curious Koi II
Washi tape is a not-very-sticky tape originating in Japan. The tape, made with rice paper, is often used for crafting projects like scrapbooking or decorating calendars and lunch boxes. It comes in solid colors as well as patterns, which are usually theme-based like pumpkins and skeletons for Halloween. I had previously created two koi fish paintings; one in acrylics and the other in watercolor. Then, with all this washi tape I had collected, I thought, Why not “paint” a koi with tape? I never use patterns for what they were intended – I use them for their color and value. A friend said viewing my washi tape paintings is like going on a treasure hunt. And, if you look closely at Curious Koi II, you’ll see airplanes, crowns and flowers in the water.
Kadie and Chris Signore
Fish No. 20F025
Reclaimed wood from dock
In October 2016 Hurricane Matthew slammed into the Atlantic coast, causing a destructive path from Florida to Virginia. Here the storm’s fury tore apart docks on the Colleton River. In the aftermath, residents hired contractors to haul away debris strewn across their yards. But one homeowner who’d neatly stacked the ruined boards on his property advertised “50-feet of dock looking for a good home.” When we stumbled across the ad, we knew exactly what we’d do. We’d create furniture and fish art from the weathered wood. The owner agreed, and we worked our tails off for two straight days breaking down, organizing, and loading the wood into our pickup truck and unloading it at our wood shop. Less than a week later, we had our first furniture order –– a rustic farm
table with matching benches.
My grandmother was an incredible woman with “waste not, want not” mindset and an unrivaled can-do spirit. Having lived through the Depression and raised nine children, there was very little that Grandma Taylor could not do. As a young child, I was fascinated with the ocean and spent hours each day exploring Hilton Head’s beaches. Fishing was a natural extension of this passion, and Grandma T taught me how to take string, attach it to a stick, and bait a minnow onto the hook. I actually caught a few fish with that improvised rig in the Port Royal Sound. As I got older, we bought a proper rod and shrimp for bait, and I was able to reel in enough fish to feed the family. Naturally, when I brought my bucketful of bounty back to the house, my grandmother was there, knife in hand, to teach me how to fillet and prepare each fish.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to paint a fish, and feed him and his cat.” Fish are beautiful models. They look great in any color, as any shape, and those lips! There are plenty of reasons why fish are so much fun to paint, even if you don’t have a cat.
Bevan Brynne Bowler
Large Oval platter with Wave Texture and Fish with Matching Oval Bowl
Blue Slip Under White and Blue Glaze
Jacob Preston, “Bluffton’s tallest potter,” gave me the opportunity to show my work at his gallery, and I took it. Using fish motifs in pottery is a natural thing to do, especially when you live on the coast. Fish have been an added decoration to pots for thousands of years. Just doing my part to keep it going.
From local galleries
Chatter Bait by Dan Laurie McIntosh (Camellia Art)
Two Fish by Ali Leja (Camellia Art)
Summer Fishing by Stephen Scott Young (Red Piano Art Gallery)
Lunch by Sandy Scott (Red Piano Art Gallery)
Henry, Stella and the Twins by Nano Lopez (Endangered Arts)
Good as Gold by Terri Gilecki (Endangered Arts)