Gone Fishin’

Brook Trout

Why is there a painting of a fish on a CLA Creative greeting card? The obvious answer is because I needed another entry for my Virginia state symbols series, and the Brook Trout (state fresh water fish) was far more appealing the Virginia Big-Eared bat (state bat). The less obvious answer is that this card is a tribute to my good friend Andrew, who I met in high school and has become a friend for life. He is a native of Winchester, Virginia, and when he told me I should paint the trout, I decided to give it a try.

Photos show a fish that is distinctive in both markings and coloring. I used Yellow Ochre and Raw Umber to paint variations on the skin, highlighted with bits of metallic yellow for the dots and gills. A pinkish/salmon color provided the contrast for the belly, with white gouache accents on the ends of the fins and around the mouth. I took special care with the eye, trying to capture the depth of the socket with a line of dark brown in a half-circle around the amber lens.

The reactions to this card have been interesting. When I showed the Virginia series to a shop owner in Leesburg, Virginia, her response was immediate and blunt: “Who would want to buy a card with a fish on it? I’ll take the cardinal and the dogwood, but you can keep the fish.” Alternatively, my friend Tom, who also lives in Leesburg, said, “I like all of your Virginia cards, but I think the fish is my favorite.” Thanks, Tom!

My cousin Glenn lives on Cape Cod and frequently fishes in the pond (it’s the size of a small lake) that fronts our family home. He texted me recently to tell me how great the fishing is right now in New England due to heavy spring rains. I replied back with a picture of my brook trout. His response was short and to the point: “Beautiful.”

This week I sent 10 new card designs to my website developer, Pete. Included in this batch of new paintings (I’ve been feeling quite creative lately) were spring flowers, a pink flamingo, my first dog (also part of the Virginia series), and a landscape of the buildings on Thames Street in Fells Point. Pete’s response to the new designs was as follows: “I love Thames Street and the Brook Trout! So cool!”

What I have learned from this is that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. The Brook Trout card is not something you would find on a store display in Target, and I don’t think Hallmark is going to be rushing to produce their own version of a fish card. However, I don’t sell my cards at Target and I’m not trying to chase Hallmark’s dominance of the greeting card market. What I want to do is paint cards for people who matter to me. Andrew, Tom, Glenn, and Pete, this one’s for you. Happy fishing!

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