Consider this: there are really three kinds of fishermen – those that enjoy fishing on a casual basis, enthusiasts, and finally, “fishing idiots.” For better or worse, I’m a member of the latter category, having fished since childhood. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that I had an early affinity for drawing animals and fish.
An art education wasn’t for me. Perhaps this is why modern art is a mystery to me – I’m really just a fisherman who likes to paint. In 1984 I was fortunate enough to pass the Licensed Battlefield Guide Exam at Gettysburg National Military Park. I took some art classes in college (probably should have paid more attention) and went on to earn a graduate degree in history. This has helped me with my work with students and on the park where I have been a guide for over twenty years, interrupted only by a brief stint as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.
There is hardly a day that I don’t spend some time on the Gettysburg battlefield, either guiding visitors, walking my dog, running, or wildlife watching. While I love monuments and the military aspects of the park, I get as big a kick out of seeing a hawk or fox. Quite frankly, wildlife and the natural beauty of the battlefield interest me more as topics for paintings rather than historical material.
Although all methods of fishing appeal to me, fly fishing takes up most of my time these days, both in fresh and saltwater. Like many of the avid fly fishermen and fly tiers here in central Pennsylvania, I’ve had the privilege and fortune of honing my skills on the legendary trout streams around here. These include Yellow Breeches, Letort, Big Hunting Creek, Fisherman’s Paradise, Big Spring, and Falling Springs Creek. Although I think I’m a good fly fisherman, these waters are always challenging and I’m often humbled by their educated trout. If you think about it, most popular fly fishing regions in the U.S. have what are essentially their major leagues where fishermen can test their mettle. You need to be on your “A game” when you cast a fly in the Batten Kill, Henry’s Fork, or downtown Islamorada. It’s the same challenge here in central Pennsylvania. These streams around here are like old friends to me. Their wild trout are an inspiration and I frequently use photos of them as reference material. I could paint brook trout for the rest of my life and never get bored. Really, my art and fishing are inseparable – I can’t imagine one without the other – so I hope to frequent these waters as long as I can. Other favorite places of mine include the New Jersey shore and the Florida Keys, which I get to as often as I can. If you’re a fisherman you understand the excitement of a trout rising to a well placed fly or a striped bass smashing a plug or popper on the surface. If I can depict some of that excitement in a painting I think I’ve done well.
In 1996 I was lucky enough to win my first trout stamp competition after several tries. Since then, I have won three more trout stamp open competitions, including the 2001 stamp for Nevada. Unfortunately, with the advent of computerized licensing, trout stamps are disappearing and there are few contests left that are open to everyone. For me, in retrospect, the stamp contests were a good learning experience and I had some fun with them, as well as gaining some humility. These days I’d rather paint a bit “looser” than what stamp contests typically require anyway.
Most of my art is done in acrylic medium which I like for a host of reasons not the least being my general lack of patience. Acrylic’s fast drying time works well for me. I also enjoy watercolor and, once in a while, attempt an oil painting. These days I paint as often as I can and several galleries are kind enough to carry my work.
I support worthy charitable causes with my artwork when I can. This includes Trout Unlimited in particular, but also fly-fishing museums and several local conservation organizations around Gettysburg.
Stop by and view some incredible paintings and prints from David.