Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
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Michael Stidham

Artist of the Year for 2015


Silver King Circle


Oil on board

About the Artist

I love to fish. I’ve done it since I was a kid. Although I grew up in Palm Springs, California – an unlikely nursery for a nascent trout bum – our family summered in Aspen for several years. This was in the late sixties when Aspen was just beginning the change from a sleepy mining and ranching town to the happening place it is today. I learned from Chuck Fothergill, the local master, how to cast a fly on the Roaring Fork and on the Frying Pan, and an addict was born.

I also love to paint, having done it since I was a kid and discovering early that I had a talent for it. At first I painted the desert, and later the Sierras when we moved to Bishop, California while I was an older teen.

It was only natural that my two loves should merge at some point. But I was twenty-one years old when I made my first attempt to paint a fish. I wanted to dress up my fly tying room and could not find any paintings of trout that looked to me like they were painted by anyone who had actually seen a trout. I decided to fill the void myself.

I guided in the Yellowstone country for a few years and sold enough fish paintings during that time that I became convinced that others felt the same way about trout and fly fishing art as I did. I began to think that I might even possibly be able to paint for a living. Then I spent a winter in Southern California that changed my life forever. First, I got married, which meant that I now had to get serious about a career of some kind. And second, since I lived near Laguna Beach, I started visiting the local galleries and began to acquire a love for the California Impressionists. About this time I also came across the published work of Stanley Meltzoff. Wow! For the first time here was a fish painter who loved his subject and knew how to make fish paintings look like art! I also remember a specific painting of sailboats by Edgar Payne. The sails just glowed with translucent light, and yet the oil paint was laid on quite thick and with a sense of authority. I remember thinking at the time how cool it would be to paint a permit with that kind of artistic merit and vigor. The confluence of Meltzoff and Payne made quite an impression on me. And so I decided that painting the world of fish and fishing might be a legitimate endeavor after all.

Today, if you were to ask me whether I am a painter who fishes, or whether I am a fisher who paints, I would have to say “yes”. As much as I love trout; and as much as I love bonefish and permit, my favorite fish to chase is the tarpon. I like the babies back in the mangroves and in the agricultural canals. I like the bridge fish at night. And I also love the big strings and pods of adults that migrate up and down the coasts, or lay up as singles in the backcountry.

This painting is a glimpse of a daisy chain as the tarpon begin to form up into their familiar nose to tail dance.  I have tried to capture the essence of these magnificent fish in their environment as the light falls across them. These days I don’t worry so much about whether my paintings look like fish… I want my fish to look like paintings – paintings that will stand on their own artistic merits right along-side the very best animal art. I am pleased to work with the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust to help support the research that will preserve these wonderful creatures for generations to come.

In February 2015, Copley Fine Art Auctions was pleased to raise a significant amount of money for BTT with the successful auction of the painting by the 2015 Artist of the Year. Mike Stidham’s Silver King Circle oil went far above its $8,000-$10,000 estimate, ultimately selling for $12,000 on active bidding with 50% of the proceeds from the sale of “Silver King Circle” going directly to BTT. This marked the top price for any BTT Artist of the Year work since the prize’s inception in 2010.