Paddle Out studio - Richie Gudzan
My name is Richie Gudzan. I am a Southern creator and conservationist, born and raised in the woods, creeks and coastlines of Georgia, South Carolina, and now Alabama. Water holds a particular magnetism for me, and my experiences fishing, surfing, and paddling shape the soul of my artwork. I use big brushes, striking composition and stark contrast to evoke power, subtlety, and flow in my paintings.
Fish are some of my favorite subjects, and my recent work is rooted in an old Japanese printmaking technique called Gyotaku (ghee-oh-TAH-koo). I use the actual fish I catch to make art, covering them with non-toxic pigment and gently laying handmade natural-fiber paper on top to reveal a mirror image imprint. Once the prints are dry, I compose and mount the fragile paper to a wood panel, and finish the painting in thin glazes of vibrant color. My fish are cleaned and eaten after the initial prints are created - never wasted. Water is life to me, and my art is about story, connection, respect and gratitude.
I am not however, much of a tech guy, and not much of a blogger either. I’d rather be doing something, taking action, than talking about it, but I promise I’ll do my best to keep this page updated. New posts are at the bottom (scroll down!), but the best way to see what’s new with my art or with Paddle Out brand is always gonna be to track me down at one of my art shows / exhibits, or surf industry trade shows. Still, check back here often, and feel free to shoot me a note anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mahi, dolphin, dorado, whatever you choose to call them, are definitely some of my most favorite (and most often painted) subjects. And this piece will always be one of my favorite pieces of art, mostly just because of the memories. This is a single female Mahi Mahi, inked and printed three times on chiri paper before becoming some awesome ceviche. I caught this fish with my wife Mallory, just off the North Shore of O'ahu - and wanted to commemorate that trip with a statement painting full of good vibes (even though my 6-month pregnant wife spent most of that day seasick :<)... Finished in watercolor, the warm tones are bright and simple, but with a good flow across the 65" panel I chose as the backdrop. If you're wandering, yes we got the Bull swimming with this fish as well (followed her right up to the boat), and he's been the subject of a few other paintings.
This wahoo was not a monster by any means, but no "weehoo" either. Caught off Murrell's Inlet, SC in July 2013, I used the actual fish to make this piece ("gyotaku" technique). I started by brushing ink directly onto the actual fish, then quickly laid handmade paper on top to transfer life-size stamps of various parts of the fish. After printing I cleaned and filleted the fish (Mmmmmmm.), and after the prints were dry a few weeks later I assembled them on a wood panel and created this painting on top of the print. Lots of work, but really digging this one.
One of the few fish in my portfolio I didn't personally catch, this was a commission piece for the big 'copper belly' gag grouper that won the 2014 Destin Fishing Rodeo women's division. Love the texture of this piece, and wanted to create something that felt as "snaggy" as the reefs these guys call home.
So here’s the thing: Art has everything to do with water. If you’ve ever ridden a board, eddied out in a canoe, been entranced by tailing redfish, or felt a roll cast come peeling off your fly rod, you’ve felt that same unexplainable wave, that rush that happens when I put a brush to canvas.
What I mean is, there’s only so much I can control in a painting, and that’s what draws me to it. Sure, I can mock up composition, lay out a plan, mix pigment with a reasonable expectation of what I’ll get (it’s science after all), and follow general design principles, but stuff happens along the way. The art moves, it changes, my vision bends a little, and I adapt. The result is never quite what I saw in my head to start, and that’s the beauty of it.
If you surf, fish or paddle, you get it. You plan ahead, check swell models, call the surf report line, check the wind, watch the tide. But the waves aren’t bound by those models, and the fish don’t care that they’re ‘supposed to’ bite. So you adapt. Your blood pressure rises, breathing shallows, you question yourself, you’re caught off balance, outside, and you learn. Sometimes you take a beating, but sometimes you hook into that free jumping sailfish that wasn’t supposed to be there, sometimes you make a drop that you didn’t think you could, and either way you’re left with a memory that couldn’t be if you never went; never paddled out.
So this is my latest piece; a new gyotaku ("fish rubbing") based painting of a sailfish caught just off Key Biscayne, FL. This is the first sailfish I've ever killed, but based on the health of the fish once we grabbed the leader, it wasn't going to make it if released. I'm not down with flippantly harvesting fish, so it seemed only fitting to honor this catch with a one-of-a-kind piece of art.
I started the painting by printing various sections of the fish right after we got back to the dock, using an oil-based pigment. I cleaned all the slime off the fish, quickly brushed ink onto it, and laid various different sheets of paper on top to lift off some mirror-image impressions. There were over 20 prints in all, on scraps of handmade papers I'd brought along on the trip ranging from mulberry to mango fibers. Once finished, the prints cured in studio for several weeks before I picked the ones I liked the best and arranged in fragmented fashion on a hardwood panel. The painting was finished in light washes of oil color that match the cool tones I used for the original printing process, and I framed it using reclaimed pallet wood. The whole thing is 72" X 48", and I'm super stoked about the finished result. You can find some reproductions of this piece on the 2016 lineup of YOLO stand-up paddleboards. See yoloboard.com if interested.
I'm loving using this Gyotaku ("fish rubbing") technique to paint the fish I catch. The old, raw look is really cool sometimes, leaving just a monotone black & white image, but lately I've been exploring some fully-involved color studies. For paintings here, I picked a spotted seatrout (or speckled trout, or "Speck" as they're better known on the panhandle) and redfish I caught over in West Bay / Panama City Beach to really try and replicate the natural, vibrant colors they exhibit when they're alive. Those specks have got such a cool, mirror-like sheen that reflects just about every color you can think of, and it's crazy work to try and translate that with dull, opaque paint. Still I gave it a shot. I started with a traditional grayish, monotone print pulled directly off the fish (mostly just so I could work quick and then still clean and eat the fish), and once those were dry I used acrylic paint to meticulously add thin glazes of color on top of the underlying "fish print". My work is usually a little more off the wall in terms of composition, structure, color, whatever, but I'm kinda digging these focused color studies. Anyway, lemme know whatcha think.
New art featuring some Jack Crevalle (or Jack"s" Crevalle - not sure on the grammar there). Had some fun printing these little bastards. Actually, it's just one of these little bastards, replicated 9 times on two different panels. I was trying to catch a keeper snook after finishing an art exhibit in Naples, FL earlier in the year, and kept hooking into these tackle-busting jacks instead. They pull like a freight train pound for pound, but not so fun when you're on a mission for something else. Anyway, I'd never used one for a painting so figured the iridescent color would be a fun study. I also decided to eat this one after the initial monotone print was pulled just so I didn't feel wasteful and disrespectful - which I did, and would not recommend if you're curious... pretty oily.
Figured I'd commemorate one of my fave longboard skegs with a sweet print before retiring it. Turns out they print just as well as fish fins...
Just a cool shot of one of the many bonito caught out of my kayak these past couple weeks; off Navarre Beach, FL. One of my fave fishing spots - especially when this warm water's still holding on for a little while. Between these guys and the last few kingfish out there, you can still find a Florida sleigh ride if you know where to look (kayak fishermen know what I'm talking about).
Man I love kingfish. Especially caught out of a kayak. This one's no smoker, but still at about 36" was a blast on light tackle. I painted this fish with a focus on being bold and vibrant - wanted the art to communicate the strength they fight with. This life-size gyotaku print was pulled on mulberry paper and finished in oil, then mounted to a hardwood panel. You'll see touches of color I added as the painting evolved, but I really wanted that original raw print to shine through. The script at top left reads "the king is dead. long live the king."
Big painting of a gulf Amberjack. Love catching these tackle-busting reef donkeys, and translating that power into art is an even bigger rush. Wanted to show the weight of this fish, but couple it with the air of effortless freedom they swim with. Light washes of acrylic color over the sepia-toned, life size gyotaku print I pulled from the actual fish. Panel is 60" X 48".
Sometimes these little freshwater fish are as much fun to paint as the big pelagics. As evidenced by this commission piece of a bluegill for a kiddo's first catch ever, they can certainly carry just as much weight. I started with a traditional gyotaku "fish rubbing", and finished in watercolor to really bring it back to life.
I am so stoked to partner with Anne Hunter Gallery in Seaside, FL (address is 25 Central Square). The 30A coast is where I do most of my fishing, surfing, and paddling these days, and Anne is the real deal - super supportive and instrumental in introducing me to the art scene there. I've got a collection of original works on display at the gallery now, and will be live and in person on September 15, 2016 for a meet & greet (and to sell work!). Please stop by if you're in the area; we'll have free Grayton Beer, music and a great vibe.
It's so awesome to finally be working with a gallery in my current hometown of Birmingham, AL. Opening event is set for Friday Dec. 16, so if you're in the area please stop by. I'd love to see you!