From birth, sea water has run through my veins. I’ve never lived more than ten minutes from the mean high water mark … and I never will. As long as I’ve been alive I’ve been fixing stuff, making stuff, drawing stuff. Just like Mom and Dad. It’s beyond what I do – rather, it’s who I am.
You can’t know what it’s like growing up with Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park, and Homestead Airforce Base as your playground unless you lived it. But yeah, what you imagine it might have been, just like that, and then some. We spent weekends offshore on Elliot and Adams Key where the park rangers lived, camping by the sea and fishing off the docks for snapper, grouper, and shark.
Dad worked as a carpenter at Biscayne National Park and in later years at Everglades National Park. He had a workshop in our garage where he, my brother and I built things and fixed cars. Before first grade I could handle a jigsaw and router and by age thirteen I could patch any two pieces of metal together with an acetylene torch.
Before Computer Aided Design there were draftsmen, and my mom was a really talented one. As a little kid I hung out at her office on the Air Force base and she’d lay out big rolls of blank paper on a drafting table and I went to town with markers, pens, pencils, protractors and compasses.
My Grampa was a hardcore amateur photographer at Volcano National Park on the big island of Hawaii. We moved there when I was about ten. Through my early teens when I wasn’t surfing and bodysurfing in the shadow of Kilauea Volcano, or snorkeling the reefs I hung out in Grampa’s machine shop.My family on weekends hiked to remote locations to fish and snorkel or we’d drive my dad’s Bronco down to Southpoint to fish the cliffs.
In 1992, after Hawaii, Dad took a job at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I lived my teen years in North Carolina, that time that you grow into who you are, defining the person you become. We lived in a big A-frame bungalow on stilts just beyond the dune line, the crash of the surf lulling us to sleep at night, waking us in the morning, the salt spray always in our hair and clothes and nostrils.
On big surf days, when the powerful winds commingled with the tides to drive the waves, the whole house shook from their thunderous crash.
Surfing and boogie boarding out on the deeper breaks to catch the bigger waves and bodysurfing – I’ve just always loved the feeling of my body against the water. I surfed-fished almost every day on the Outer Banks – bluefish, redfish and striped bass. I hit the piers for kingfish, sometimes headed into the Great Dismal Swamp to gig frogs.
When I was 16 I got a job painting fish and nautical scenes at the Twisted Fish, an art gallery in Nags Head, owned by a cool, burned out, surf bum. He’d leave me a six pack and a note with instructions of what to paint that day while he caught waves. All day, every day painting Mahi, marlin, turtles, lighthouses, sharks of all types, barracuda – all acrylic on wood that we collected from the beach. We sold my artwork to divers, fishermen, restaurants, surfers, locals and tourists.
From Cape Hatteras Dad transferred to Cumberland Island National Park in Georgia. Of course, I kept on fishing, and I also took up shrimping with big gill nets; we would locate schools of shrimp on our depth finder, drop the weighted nets and pull them in.
Shortly thereafter I went to Savannah College of Art and Design. From there I transferred to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where I received my B.Sc. in Industrial Design in 2008. I do more backcountry fishing for snook and tarpon than anything else here in South Florida. I have also learned to SCUBA dive·
I get great joy from settling in neutrally buoyant over a coral head for an hour at a time, watching the tropics scurry about, the
Christmas tree worms pop in and out, teasing the turf-defiant damselfish, feeding bait fish to the morays. Or riding the current along the reef line, coming across the big pelagics and the sea turtles, sometimes a pod of manatees.
There’s no finer dinner than a couple of red grouper you’ve speared yourself and filleted with a little garlic powder and lemon. Or a hogfish – clean out the guts and throw it on the grill. Or a couple Florida lobster. Always minimal seasoning. let the distinct flavor of each fish tease your taste buds. Stalking for my food, is exhilarating – I always cook my catch.
Like John Masefield, “I must down to the seas again … to the gull’s way and the whale’s way. where the wind’s like a whetted knife.”
I must ALWAYS down to the sea! I have no choice. I hope that with my art I can take you there with me.