I was fortunate enough to come into contact with AD Maddox, an artist whose work I have greatly admired from early on in my fly fishing days. She was gracious enough to grant me an interview for DoubleHauled and we’re thoroughly grateful for her time and candor. But before we begin, here’s a little background information on AD and her work, as represented in her studio’s website.
“I believe people fly fish to enter a more serene state… One that is completely free from the chaos and pressures of our modern society. I strive to capture these brief moments of perfection on canvas so that the viewer can remember the utter simplicity of the experience. Fly Fishing is a spiritual pursuit!” – AD Maddox
DH – AD, on your website, I counted 16 charities that AD Maddox Studios supports. 6 of those were specific to either rivers or regional fisheries. As someone who has established themselves in the world of fly fishing, what is the connection for you between your art, your fishing, and your charities?
AD – The charities connected with rivers and/or regional fisheries hold auctions once a year that my work is auctioned off for them to raise money for their cause. They promote my work and I in turn support their cause.
DH – Do you feel as though you have an added responsibility to contribute to these charities given that you have a respected voice in the fly fishing world?
AD – I don’t feel there’s any pressure of added responsibility. I have quite a bit with my work but some of the charities invite me to their events and I attend when I can and help out either with the set up for the event or just being there to meet everyone.
DH – For those outside of fly fishing, the practice can easily be viewed as just a casual hobby or something to do to pass the time or to bring home something to eat. I imagine though that it would be difficult to create your often dynamic artwork without some high degree of passion for the sport behind it. Can you talk a little about what drives you to create these works and what makes your creations so appealing to other anglers?
AD – I’ve always loved painting from a young age but it’s very important to find a subject to paint and an audience who loves the work. My career was created by finding both and fishing is a sport that is absolutely addicting! So I fish, photograph and paint my pieces which is driven by the interest of my audience and my passion to paint.
DH – As someone who is only a few years into my addiction to fly fishing, I’ve noticed a strong connection between the sport and art. Perusing any fly shop and you’ll likely find tshirts, hats, fly boxes and even nippers with either your art work emblazoned on it or another artist’s. Why do you feel that this connection exists and what do you feel your role is in the fly fishing world?
AD – It’s amazing how all this art has come to the fly fishing market. I’ve actually seen the advent. I suppose companies wanted to liven up the gear with color and with new printing techs available these companies are now able to get really good images on just about any surface. My role in the industry is to continue painting beautiful pieces of art to supply images to my companies, magazines and my fans. So happy you’ve started your fishing! I’m off this weekend to breathe and catch a nice Brown on the Delaware. 🙂
DH – You talked in your bio about fly fishing allowing you to “enter a more serene state” where you can become unrestrained from the day to day grind. Can you please talk a little more in depth about that transition to serenity both as an angler and as an artist?
AD – Painting all day is a lone sport. I obviously love the easel but taking breaks to get out in nature, relax and fish is a balance with my production time. Both places have their purpose with my career and enjoy them both equally however production time is dominant.
DH – In a sport that is, at least in media, dominated by men, you have probably been questioned numerous times about your being a woman who is developing into a prominent voice in this subculture. Do you ever feel that you or other female anglers may be unfairly caricaturized by your gender rather than by your work?
AD – Absolutely not. I think there are so many talented women in this sport that are well received by this male dominated sport. There are many women fishing clubs growing as well. I’m really excited to see females diving into this sport.
DH – That’s great to hear. I suppose the reason I ask is that I often think back to that April Vokey 60 minutes spot where she talked about being called a “cupcake in waders” and being visibly irritated about it. It made me wonder if there was a trend of that across the board among prominent women in the fly fishing industry.
AD – I haven’t seen it on my end but I’m not a guide. In the example above I’m hoping someone just said something they didn’t mean. Vokey rocks it as well as Rebekka Redd. 🙂
DH – I have a two year old daughter whom I dearly hope will at least grow to have a deep appreciation of the outdoors if not specifically fly fishing. Whether wanted or not, fly fisherwomen will be looked to as role models by young female anglers seeking a shared experience. What is your perception of this both as a potential role model and as a woman who has grown up in fly fishing?
AD – Well I think I’m more a role model as an artist than an angler! I wish I could fish every day but as I told you my priority is the easel. But admiration is a wonderful thing. I’m so grateful for those that seek my advice and guidance as an artist.
DH – Do you ever get the opportunity to work with children with your art? Do you do any teaching or mentoring?
AD – Occasionally I do get to work with kids and inspire them … usually a clients child who has some questions. I don’t give lessons … just answer questions. Currently I have a handful of artists that I help when they have questions.
DH – Would you tell us about a time when your art has solicited a particularly memorable response from its audience and how that response may have shaped your approach to future pieces?
AD – There are so many but the LL Bean catalog covers really get me excited to produce as much as I can. I don’t think a response from an audience changes my approach to pieces. I have an innate idea of what I like to paint. Even commissions have to be something I really want to create. But the constant admiration of my work does excite me to spend more time on the easel to push the production. 🙂
DH – Are there particular artists, beyond fly fishing, that you identify with or that inspire your work? What is it about their work that speaks to you and how do you feel it may be reflected in your art?
AD – I’ve had a few mentors early on in my career that helped me with painting techniques and palette colors. The rest I had to learn on my own by application. Each piece is a journey of coordinating design, color and values. Some are created effortlessly and others are a battle. In the end the piece isn’t signed until I feel all these aspects are covered to the best of my ability.
DH – Can you talk a little more about what the experience is like when you’re in “a battle” with a piece? What is your mindset with working through these times? My first thought when you said that was how I feel on those days on the river where I can’t seem to do anything right.
AD – Hahaha! Exactly! It’s just a part of creating. Sometimes I paint a piece and take it to a place where it goes a bit out of balance and have to correct it and other times it paints itself effortlessly. Every piece is an adventure. So battles do occur but I suppose this word may be a bit steep. It’s more like a tough fish you have to reel in 🙂
DH – While the pool of artists in your particular genre is fairly small, how do you feel your work is unique? What do you feel are its strengths and characteristics?
AD – I feel that my perspectives and color palette are unique as well as the way I paint water.
DH – You know, the way you paint water is actually one of the things I admire about your work. I am by no means an artist, but I would imagine that translating a clear, flowing, and fluid substance into a 2 dimensional image must be extremely difficult. Yet some of your pieces like Lightning Rise 1 achieve that 3 dimensional, almost translucent appearance. Especially with how the river bed pattern bends and refracts in the dimpled water. Can you talk a little bit about how you developed that technique or is that a trade secret?
AD – It’s a trade secret for sure. I just look at what angle I’m going for a push it a bit. Sometimes the water is clear and my techniques have to build the water in a way that the water is still visible and other times it’s opaque. It really depends on which piece I’m on.
DH – Do you feel as though your approach to or your mindset for your art has changed over time? And how do you manage the inevitable strain between painting for work and painting because you enjoy it?
AD – Absolutely my mindset for my work has changed over time. Painting has become more enjoyable as the mileage on the easel grows. Experience has made it quite comfortable as there’s really no other place I’m happiest then at the easel. Painting for work and painting because I enjoy it are the same. There’s no difference. My work is play … that’s the lifestyle I’ve created. I’m very grateful.
DH – I mentioned to a non-fly fishing friend that I was constructing an interview of an artist who specializes in fly fishing themed artwork. I shared some of your work and got the response “So how many times can you paint a fish?” My first reaction was of course “You just don’t understand…” but it got me thinking about the volume of work you do and how it could be difficult to find new ways to portray a creature that you’ve painted so many times before. How do you find new inspiration or new approaches to your work and do you ever find yourself saying “If I have to paint another brook trout…”?
AD – hahaha! No not at all. I love painting these trout. And something unique about my talent is that there is never a shortage of material to paint from. All I have to do is go out and fish or one of my fans gives me a pic to paint from. I have an endless supply of creation. I don’t paint out of inspiration as it’s a via … I just paint because I love to paint. And knowing that there is a white canvas in front of me that will look awesome when I finish drives me.
Follow AD on Twitter : @ADMaddox
Check out A.D. Maddox Studios for more information and to purchase some of her work.
And a great bit of gratitude to AD for her time!
As for our readers, expect more interviews with fly fishing artists in the near future. Hope you enjoyed.