Replace Tony Montana’s coke smeared machine gun with a big brown. Substitute a Big Lebowski pistol grip with fish slime and fins. And swap Eastwood’s smoking barrels with a ballistic redfish and you have a good sense of fishing artist Paul Puckett’s mindset.
Puckett recently moved from Atlanta, where he was working at The Fish Hawk, to new avenues and a new shop in Charleston. And in between chasing tarpon in the Keys and reds in the backyard, he’s busy redefining perceptions—mingling famous gamefish with iconic faces from the big screen and beyond. We recently threw a 6-pack of questions his way. Here’s what he had to say.
The Drake: Artist, musician, fisherman… how do these three elements define your day-to-day?
PP: I definitely take advantage of going fishing and playing more than I should. At the end of the day I’d rather fish. Music is more of my hobby. And art really is my life.
The Drake: How has the transition been from Atlanta to Charleston and your new gig at Lowcountry Fly Shop?
PP: It’s a different experience as far as the shop is concerned. Atlanta was bustling with customers primed to travel someplace else; this is a little more laidback and more of a destination experience. I’m two weeks away from being in the Keys tarpon fishing. I’ve got poon on the brain and will be taking advantage of the experience to draw while I’m down at Big Pine fishing with Joel Dickey.
The Drake: Johnny Cash, Clint Eastwood, Rocky, you feature some gritty characters in your new series of illustrations. How did the celebrity-with-fish theme come into play?
PP: It started when I randomly came across the classic Pacino shot from Scarface. He’s holding that big machine gun and all of a sudden I envisioned a brown trout in his hands. The next one came from a photo of Rocky, where he’s standing atop the stairs looking out across Philly. He looked like a he needed to be holding a trout. I kept rolling with the concept and as I put them out people started e-mailing me new ideas and I’ve done a few commission pieces since then.
For the most part, I try to keep it to underground movies. For example, The Big Lebowski is a perfect example and it continues to evolve.
The Drake: You describe your early art influences as E.T., the Miami Dolphins, and alien scetches. What inspires you today?
PP: In addition to my own photos I have a couple of guys like Jim Klug and Tosh Brown I consider friends. A lot of times I’ll see one of their photos and I’m like ‘I have to paint it.’ In those situations I give them as much credit as I can and they’re really gracious to let me do that. But being out fishing is still my first and foremost influence. I’ll go on a cool tarpon-fishing trip and come back and paint for 10 days straight.
The Drake: There are a lot of talented fishing artists in the game today, painting similar subject matter. How does a DeYoung differ from a Bob White differ from a Tim Borski differ from a Paul Puckett fish interpretation?
PP: It’s funny, I can look at a painting and instantly tell it’s a DeYoung. As far as recognizable pop-culture fishing art he is on top. I think most people would know a Tim Borski piece, as well. He’s really graphical, but brings a touch of classical style to his work. Bob White is that classic painting touch, like an Eldridge Hardie feel. I try to fall somewhere in between all that. Every day I feel different and that translates into my work. I don’t really fall into a typical style as of yet.
The Drake: With a new website up and running what can we expect to see coming down the line?
PP: Tarpon, for sure. I’m also traveling to Alaska with Bob White in July and staying at Bristol Bay Lodge. You’ll see some of that work coming down the pipe. I plan to keep the illustrations rolling, too. I have a lot of fun with it and it’s something I can do on a daily basis. It also transitions well into the Flood Tide Co. fold, which basically consists of a clothing line featuring my artwork.
For more info, see paulpuckettart.com
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.