Illustrations as background surfaces


All of Friday we faced numerous periods of heavy rainfall with intermittent showers, but in the late afternoon the sky broke open, revealing a low setting sun and with ones back to her, the hillside before me became alive. Bathed in a pale soft golden light, the new years growth drenched from the rain sparkled, while off in the distance the sky was a dark turbulence of grey, a dramatic contrast and I wish I had stopped and taken a few pictures. Yet some things are best remembered, treasured in our memory as an experience randomly recalled when something irrelevantly triggers the past.

With the day mostly gone by now, I am sitting back in my favorite chair, drinking a new tea that I have not had since my early twenties and contemplating about what to write, even though I am also yearning to get started with my first artist trading card (ATC). However I have been struggling with not only style and subject matter, but also my personal demon, fear. The fear of not being able to draw as I did years ago, when I last held a pencil or a fine tipped Hunt’s pen in my hand.

Rainbow Trout
Pencil, watercolour on illustration board — 1998-99

At the time I had worked for more than a decade photographing fishing flies for various books and calendars after the success of my first book in 1988, The Art of The Trout Fly, a collaborative effort with author Judith Dunham. Since these flies were tied by master fly-tiers and placed into very small elaborate sets and not a tying vice, I was always looking for another way to interpret their art with my creative vision.

California Golden Trout
Pencil, coloured pencil, and watercolour on Bristol — 1998-99

Previously the sets were recreations of scenes found in nature or on a fly tiers bench, in which the very books, tools and materials that created the fly, now surrounded them. Though I was content with the method I had established, I began to explore the idea of developing illustrations as background surfaces on which a fishing fly would be placed and then photographed.

Only a number of drawings were made and I do not think that even a single frame was ever shot. A combination of economic shifts and my own needs, these drawings lay hidden in envelops that are tucked away in artists carrying cases and though not forgotten, I now look upon them with a sense of pride and an unwavering apprehension. Maybe once I get started with my first miniature drawing, fear will no longer seem insurmountable.

The Art of The Trout Fly
Second edition, Chronicle Books 2003


The art of my childhood

Every time when I walk into the converted guest bedroom that serves as my office, I see two pieces of art hanging on the wall from when I was a child. It was not until today when they were removed from the frame for scanning, did I discover a third, a smaller drawing, hidden behind the larger one. These drawings with watercolour were done when I had just turned five and six years of age and are the only ones I have of my childhood as a budding future artist.

October 8, 1954, 156 x 116 mm

I remember little surrounding these drawing, except for my insistence to paint the clouds blue and the flowers in this smaller illustration represent sunflowers. I would be speculating, the artwork could have been done after a visit to the countryside to see my grandfather, since we lived in the city. Though I was only five, I remember clearly a row of houses to one side of the street and empty farmland on the other, where the soil was being tilted and in the distance a number of large mounds of harvest debris were smoldered, leaving a trail of soft grey smoke against the afternoon sun.

August 88, 1955, 215 x 180 mm w/o support

Each one in its own way tells of a story, a reflection of the times. Not the time we live in, but rather a snapshot of my little universe within four walls, one without the presence of a father. He was away for weeks on the passenger ocean liner Italia, crossing the Atlantic between Hamburg and New York. The ship was built in 1928 for the Swedish American Liner, at which time the vessel was named Kungsholm. She changed ownership several times during its lifetime operation and it was during the years when Home Lines acquired her in 1948, renaming her SS Italia where my father served on board as a maitre d’.

Postcard images of the SS Italia

Little did I know at the time, that within two years we would cross the Atlantic Ocean for America, pulling up roots and temporarily planting them in New York, where we stayed with my aunt. Within a few months of our arrival, we left the ‘Big Apple’ and crossed America in a burgundy Chevrolet two-door coup my father had brought. With our destination being Hollywood, we traveled in part on the legendary Highway 66 and though the landmark highway has been replaced, I have from time to time longed for a trip down memory lane, to see what is left of the true American architecture and the people still living there. For I am sad to admit, any memories from the 1957 road trip are lost, as any recollection of my time in Arizona or Nevada are fuzzed together in a blur of one big endless adventure.

September 14, 1955, 246 x 180 mm

I do not know if any other drawings or watercolours were ever saved, only to be lost when we moved, I am very happy to have these three to pass along to my children. I hope will cherish and keep them safe along with all their art that we cherished and saved, marking the different stages of their individual progress.


Earlier last month I launched my third blog, The DIRECTORY that is not only my blog roll, but also serves as an artists resource with numerous links to other sites on a variety of subject matter. If you have not done so already, please do have a visit and add yourself as a follower in order to receive monthly updates.