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Fish Art

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Ambassador Profile: Adrian Gray

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Adrian Gray's passion for fishing is clearly evident in his artwork and his photography. 

The man is a perfectionist, and you won't see his artwork unless it passes a very stringent quality test. Every detail must be perfect. If every finlet, color and use of light is not absolutely without flaw, the piece won't leave the artist's easel.


With that kind of attention to detail, it takes more time to produce a final painting, but the end results are incredibly lifelike scenes that depict a magical moment of the watery hunt. While the artist may never be 100 percent happy with the final piece, the public must be because demand for Adrian's artwork and photos continues to grow.  

Born on the southeast coast of South Africa, Adrian took to surf casting for local species such as kob and “pig-nose grunters” as a kid. He credits his mother and grandfather for getting him into fishing. When his grandfather passed away, Adrian inherited his fishing rods. Those rods led to a lifelong passion for angling.

At 11, he and his family moved to New York, where the fishing was much different than South Africa. He started targeting salmon and steelhead in the New York watershed and Great Lakes. At 14 his father bought a cuddy cabin boat and Adrian took it on fishing adventures throughout Long Island Sound. He caught bluefish, fluke and striped bass.

His love of fish and the ocean led him to the University of Miami, where he studied marine biology. “I wanted to do something with fish,” he says, but he had no idea that he’d move into art and photography. 

“I would sketch and play around with pencils,” he says. “I took general art classes in high school and excelled at it, but I kind of left it and it didn’t hit again till I was 24 or 25. We caught a big swordfish and I wanted to paint it.”

Using a friend’s easel and leftover paints, Adrian put his swordfish memory on canvas. His swordfish painting quickly caught the attention of the fishing world. The Big Game Fishing Journal ran the painting on its cover and Lindgren-Pitman bought the rights to it and used it as a catalog cover. Adrian began going to tournaments and selling prints. Demand for his art began to grow. He painted when he wasn’t fishing or working, which means he didn’t paint a whole lot, but he made time for it. Then he got a camera and that took his talents in yet another direction. 

“In 2004 I started working at the IGFA and I wanted to make the magazine and newsletter better, but I had no photos,” Adrian recalls. “Whenever I approached a photographer, I hit a wall when they said, ‘What will you pay me?’ So I invested in a camera got an underwater housing.” 

He taught himself the intricacies that go along with taking tack-sharp photos of fish in their natural element, whether that was below the water or jumping behind a boat. Adrian traveled and attended fishing tournaments and fished as much as he could, always toting waterproof boxes with his camera gear. He is now considered one of the premiere photographers in the recreational fishing industry, with many magazine covers to his credit. He has a gigantic photo library with everything from freshwater species to blue marlin, but he says he does not paint photos. He only uses them for reference to help him create the scenes he conjures up in his mind. 

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His artistic style continues to evolve: “I have this perfectionist personality so I’m never satisfied,” he says. “I don’t want to show old works. They’re not an example of what my strengths are. The art develops through experimentation, growth and how you perceive things.”

With about 30 completed paintings to his credit, he is not about pumping out new paintings as fast as possible. He prefers to focus on the details rather than the end result. He started with acrylics but now paints in oils. “I like the way the oils blend,” Adrian says. “It takes longer to do. The mixing is more tedious but oils have a natural look.”

"The art develops through experimentation, growth and how you perceive things."

He’s currently working on a bluefin tuna piece inspired by a 2014 trip to Nova Scotia. “We only had two days and on the first day we went out it was unusually calm. Each of us caught our first bluefin in the 750- to 1,000-pound range,” Adrian says. “We started hand-feeding them and I jumped in. The water was cold but it was one of the best experiences of my life, swimming with something that big. They move so much water but they’re so graceful at the same time.”

Adrian, who turns 38 this year, still works for the IGFA, laying out their publications and posting on the organization’s website and social media. His phone usually goes to voicemail because he’s traveling, fishing, photographing something or in the studio painting. And lately he’s experimenting more with video. “I’m intrigued by slow-motion and and working with that type of video,” he says. “I’ll probably get more into that.” Fishing is his passion. The art and photography are his way of expressing this love of all things fishing. 
 
“My favorite thing is to jump in the water and take photos of fish.”

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Special Edition Keepemwet Artist Series "SILHOUETTES"

As we developed the Keepemwet logo featuring the silhouettes of three fish, we sought iconic shapes that were emblematic of major sport fishing categories. A bass shaped profile for warm water species, the iconic tarpon representing salt water game fish, and a salmonoid shape which could be interpreted as a trout, steelhead or salmon, representing cold water species. Another element of this selection was to feature species that are commonly caught and released- the paramount purpose of the existence of Keepemwet Fishing and reflected by the underwater port-hole.

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These of course are just three of many categories, which is why we also have art and designs on hand for many many other popular C&R species such as permit, rooster fish, bonefish and pike. As we look into these generic shapes however, we can imagine individual fish we cherish as part of our passion for fishing, wild species and pristine habitats. We can imagine what those individual fish may look like, which is exactly what I asked a few of our artist friends to do with a special edition artist series featuring the stars of Keepemwet Fishing and our logo.

"Consider this black and white outline part of a coloring book." I said. "Fill these lines with the fish that you see when you close your eyes." The invitation sparked instant responses from our friends Ed Anderson, Josh Udesen and Travis Sylvester. The green flag waved and they each set forth in their own respective styles and mediums.

It's no surprise that Ed Anderson and his organic, up-tempo gestural style finished first. If you've ever seen Ed paint, it's impressive in his speed. He moves in quick reflex motions, almost like he's not really using his eyes, like the brush is guided by his entire arm and body with results that flow together quickly. Paint drips and splashes on the floor. It's really cool to watch!

 

As Ed explains "It's great to be working with Keepemwet Fishing on this project.  Keeping our fish populations healthy for sport fishing plays an important role in creating all my pieces.  This species is one of my favorites and hopefully this tarpon can help continue the mission."

With that we introduce the first fish in the Keepemwet Artist Series Silhouettes and "Baileys Tarpon".

7.5 inch decals of "Baileys Tarpon" and "Wild Steelehad" are available now, and stay tuned for print availability throughout the entire series.

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Ambassador Profile: Travis Sylvester

Travis Sylvester working his Jedi color pencil magic.

Travis Sylvester working his Jedi color pencil magic.

Travis Sylvester is an artist out of the Salt Lake City area. His love and appreciation for the amazing colors and markings of trout can be seen in his artwork.
Colored pencils are his medium of choice, and have been since he was in high school.  “I really enjoy the results that I get out of colored pencils, they allow me to create very vibrant images with hard sharp edges, while at the same time I can smoothly transition through all of the brilliant colors on a gill plate.”

"Felicity" is drawn from a Bryan Huskey #keepemwet photo of a wild Eastern Oregon desert rainbow trout.

"Felicity" is drawn from a Bryan Huskey #keepemwet photo of a wild Eastern Oregon desert rainbow trout.


Travis’s artwork and style has become widely recognizable in the fly fishing industry. It is often mistaken for oil or acrylic paintings. Although Travis has not attempted using paint of any kind, he does state that he can see himself “giving it a whirl” in the future.
“My favorite part about drawing trout is trying to capture that awesome shimmery wet look. I also like to exaggerate the tones and glossy reflections that can often be seen around their eye or down their backs. If my completed drawing looks wet, or if it appears that you could reach out and touch the fish, I am happy with it.”

"I Call Bull" is drawn from a Bryan Huskey #keepemwet photo of a wild bull trout from the Imnaha River.

"I Call Bull" is drawn from a Bryan Huskey #keepemwet photo of a wild bull trout from the Imnaha River.


Travis gets inspired to continue his artwork from either catching beautiful trout, viewing fantastic trout photography, as well as viewing great artwork from other fish and trout artists. He continuously strives to make each new piece even better than the previous while continuing to establish his own unique style. Travis also likes to create wild digitally manipulated images from his own original drawings in between projects.
“For the most part, I am as self-taught with my artwork as I am with fly fishing. I still have a ton to learn about fly fishing, I feel that trying to figure things out on the water is half the fun. Although I do enjoy wading a mountain creek or river, I tend to find myself in my float tube out on a small lake or pond when I get a chance to go out.”

Travis hoofing his way to a high mountain puddle. 

Travis hoofing his way to a high mountain puddle. 


Some of Travis’s work can be seen on Montana Fly Company’s “River Camo” product line, Patagonia Tech shirts, and Fincognito Apparel. His work has been published in several popular magazines such as; Fly Rod & Reel, American Angler, Fly Fusion and H20.  Giclee fine art prints on treated loose canvas, gallery wrapped canvas or fine art paper can be purchased from his website.

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"Goliath" is drawn from a Bryan Huskey #keepemwet image of a wild N Umpqua winter run steelhead caught by angler Adam Haarberg and carefully lifted just above the water's surface for the few seconds required for a photo.

"Goliath" is drawn from a Bryan Huskey #keepemwet image of a wild N Umpqua winter run steelhead caught by angler Adam Haarberg and carefully lifted just above the water's surface for the few seconds required for a photo.

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