Fish flies and flowers от jdfishart на etsy electricity production in chad

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I grew up with a warm, wonderful family with a Mom and Dad and brother. My Dad was a fisheries biologist, so when we were out camping or fishing, there was always an imparting of knowledge. Knowledge that when I was a child and early teen, I would roll my eyes at, and laugh at the ‘nerdiness’ of my Dad. Little did I know what I was in for, nor did I know the impact it would have on me. Both of our parents taught us the general beauty of the natural world. Dad taught us about fish habitat, food webs, diets, and Mom taught me about flowers, well before any of those subjects were included in the curriculum at school.

When I was in college I was adamant that there was a need for me to help people, I intended on going into social sciences, become a counselor, I had it mapped out. It’s funny how the universe will intervene. The natural world has an ebb and flow to it, and the universe periodically will show you who’s boss. I tried it for a while, but I just didn’t "get" people. Honestly, people are just so complicated; Nothing seemed as simple as pure nature. The nature that my parents taught me about. So, following in my Dad’s footsteps, with all of his ‘nerdiness’ inherently coming out in me, I changed my major to fisheries. And ironically, the entire world made sense again. Habitat, food webs, diets, the beauty of holding a fish and seeing the types of scales it had; how colorful a fishes eye is. The intricate detail of the iris around the pupil; or the pure ingeniousness of a fin and the mechanics of its function. These things spoke to me.

I would continue my education and get my degree in Fisheries Resources and during this time, every year on Dad’s weekend, unlike most dad’s…my dad and I would go fishing. Kelly Creek, Grande Ronde, Clearwater, St. Joe, and eventually Alaska. We’ve fished for cutthroat, trout, grayling, and our latest adventure is Steelhead using spey rods. Many times during these trips I wouldn’t catch a thing. I would throw fly after fly and nothing would snatch it up. I still remember my first fish on my fly rod. I didn’t land it, but when they say the tug is the drug. That feeling, is indescribable. The feeling was so… invigorating.

After college I started working as a technician on a fisheries project for the state of Idaho. A job where I got to handle adult salmonids on a daily basis. I got to see that beauty Every. Single. Day. We would tag them, measure them, condition sample them and send them on their way. On their way to spawn and make the new cohort of fishes for the next year. I had the best job ever. But that need grew again. That need that I couldn’t satiate. I would have dreams of fish, I would think of their colors, their eyes, and what they would eat. I got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore, I needed to bring those colors to life. I picked up a pencil and drew my first fish. I had never thought of drawing a fish before. Never thought of painting one. I remember being inspired of DeYoung and Maddox. How colorful and impressionistic their artwork was.

Who knew that was what I had in me? I certainly didn’t. Each fish artist is different, as most art is subjective, fish are also very objective. Not only do I come at it with a sense of artistic license, I see it from a biological and educational standpoint. Educating people, especially young women interested in the resource, is one of the excitements of painting for me. Imparting my knowledge like my dad did to me to the public, telling them that fish are an indicator species for the entire world. They show if a body of water is healthy, if a certain part of the food web is going to collapse, as well as the health of the future fish run for anglers to feel that tug. When I talk to young women about the world I work in, their eyes light up. It is inspiring to know that I have created a spark, even if it is just a small one in a future biologist.

Looking on the inside of a fish is one of the coolest things I know. Under a microscope literally magnifies how detailed an eye is. Looking in the soul of the fish, or if it’s looking into mine. Or how detailed a vertebrae is and the skull of a tiny sculpin. My heart has been filled since starting this adventure. My husband and I laugh because not only am I my dad’s fisheries legacy, but my husband is in fisheries, my brother in law is in fisheries, the love, support and fish surround me on a daily basis and so when I go home from seeing this, instead of wanting to just talk about my day…I paint it.