Thursday, August 29, 2019

JEFF KENNEDY - Gates Lodge "Artist in Residence" Daily Journals

The other day while poking around Facebook, I noticed that artist Jeff Kennedy (the creator of the Retro Fly which he has allowed me to use as a  T.F.M. logo for years and years) announced that he'd again been invited to Gates Au Sable Lodge for an "Artist in Residence" week which will begin this Sunday.

I'll always have a soft spot for the Au Sable River as I learned to fly fish on those waters, haphazardly caught my first trout one evening some 25 or so years ago downstream from Burton's Landing and of course was in and out of Gates Lodge as a poor college student with not much money to spend but still would stop in to pick up a few flies.

I sent Jeff a message to see if he'd be willing to put together a series of dispatches during his week there to share on T.F.M. and he graciously agreed.  I figured that it would be good to do a question and answer to provide some background for these daily journals before they begin next week. 

What is the "Artist in Residence" program and why is it important to you?

The Artist in Residence Program allows creative time and space away from the usual environment and obligations life throws at you. It provides time to reflect, immerse and research. 

The most important aspect to me is the immersion and escape. Having the opportunity to spend time in nature, particularly on a river, to focus on the sights, sounds, and smells of the surroundings. And to then take that and convert it into sketches and paintings is truly magical. 

The ability to escape and provide a singular focus on developing my art goals is a true gift. Without the support of my family and lodge owners, this would not be possible.  The other important aspect is interaction with the folks that come to the lodge. We get to swap stories and they get a glimpse into my creative process for creating artwork.

What does a typical day look like while you're at Gates Lodge?

I am an early riser, so I will get a pot of coffee rolling in my Jetboil, first thing.  I will reflect on what I saw and learned from my previous day and I enjoy a cup of freshly pressed joe.  During my coffee time, I will do a few warmup sketches.  This helps to get my eye-hand coordination in sync.  I will review sketches or photos and dive into creating some images.  Most of the time the images I will be creating will be landscapes, lodge scenes or flies ( which are near and dear to my heart).  

Then in the afternoon, it's fishing, oops, I mean research time.  I will head out to one of the sections of the river, sit, and take in the surroundings, sketch, take a few photos or cast to rising fish. 

Depending on the weather forecast the schedule may be reversed. In the evenings, I typically will go out mousing.  I really dig heading out and dusk to just sit and wait for the sun to set.  The sights and sounds are incredible. once the lights are out, the show for big predatory brown trout begins.  It is an amazing experience to no longer rely on your primary sense of sight and switch to your sense of sound.  There is nothing like the sound of a big brown crushing a mouse or the crap in your waders sound of a deer crashing through the woods behinds you. 

And depending on how late I stay out, I would journal and sketch my day's experience. If the mousing is good, that journaling may have to wait until morning.

I do have specific art goals that I want to achieve during this time and I will be focusing on my composition and values in my image-making.  If you want to learn more about that, you will have to stop by and visit, or follow my daily journal on T.F.M. or check out my Instagram feed.

What is your connection to Gates Lodge and the Au Sable River?

My first introduction into Gates Lodge and the AuSable River came when I joined the Northern Illinois Fly Tyers in the Chicago suburbs.  The club always took an annual trip to the Au Sable River. Many of its members had a connection with Cal and Rusty Gates.  
Living in the Chicago suburbs, trout fishing is not readily accessible.  The closest trout fishing is in the Driftless region of Wisconsin which is a four hour drive away.  I started to make the annual trek to Gates Lodge and the AuSable River with the club.  It was such an incredible environment to visit. Different than my typical suburban surroundings. 

Although I did attend Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, met my incredible wife, then moved back to the Chicago suburbs for a job, I never took advantage of the vast fishing opportunities Michigan had to offer.  I really enjoyed and looked forward to the trip and camaraderie every year.  I use to spend the early morning hours in the fly shop drinking coffee with Rusty discussing fishing before the shop opened.  I now have a similar relationship with Josh Greenburg, who is the proprietor of Gates Lodge.  

Josh has always been a supporter of my creative endeavors and this is my second Artist in Residency at the lodge. Josh also makes sure that I get a good balance between spending time on the artwork and getting out to fish ( or as I call it, research).  

The river is such an incredible resource steeped in fly fishing history which is another reason the area is so attractive.  I was fortunate to be able to move back to my adopted state of Michigan two years ago.  I now have all of its incredible resources at my disposable without the excessive drive time.  The AuSable, and many other fishing resources, are under constant attack which is why I also give back at every opportunity I can.  This past year I teamed up with Vedavoo to custom paint a messenger bag which was auctioned off with all proceeds going to the Anglers of the Au Sable to assist in fending off the forces that try to destroy this incredible river ecosystem.

Anything else you'd like to say before the Daily Journals kick off next week?

I am extremely grateful that Josh continues to make this opportunity available to me.  It is a substantial commitment on his part, and in return, I hope I can create a fun experience for those who visit the lodge. On occasion, a lucky visitor may walk away with one of my sketches. 

Jeff Kennedy unplugged his website but the Drawing Flies 365 blog is a great trip down memory lane.  You can follow along with his latest fishing exploits and studio news on Facebook and Instagram.  If you're looking for his latest collaboration, Simms Fishing just released his Patriotic Bass in both a short sleeve t-shirt and long sleeve tech shirt.

Look for the "Artist in Residence" daily journals from Gates Au Sable Lodge to begin early next week.

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