The love of fishing and art run deep in Erik Schmidt’s work
Who and what we love is deep. It’s a part of who we are. In a 20 year study done at Cornell University, it was found that experiences rather than things have a lasting impact. An enduring happiness that far outweighed the happiness found in purchasing stuff like homes and cars. Experiences and the stories generated become our identity. They enrich us far beyond anything that can be purchased in an attempt to make us more interesting, appear smarter or more attractive.
The love of fishing shared by billions on planet earth runs deep for many. Like a lot of other endeavors, it’s importance in our life can be seen with a quick look at our calendars and checkbooks. For some anglers however, that love runs deep enough to eventually physically become a part of you. Tattoo art is a truly amazing way to rep your love of all things fishing and if there’s anyone who knows this it’s Erik Schmidt. He “gets it” as an angler himself as well as a professional tattoo artist. We had a chance to learn more about his artwork and how he got started in a recent interview.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get started as an artist and angler?
I have always loved to draw and be creative within the visual arts world. I was an art major in college and during that period is when I started getting tattooed. I loved tattoos and I would try to draw my own tattoo designs. Fast forward and I have been a professional tattoo artist for over a decade at Neptune Tattooville in Neptune, New Jersey. This is where my “fish art” was born. I was asked to do a Snook fish tattoo on a friend who gave me the artistic freedom to create the design however I wanted. After I did the tattoo I was inspired to recreate the image on paper using watercolor paints in a “Tattoo Flash” style. Oddly enough, the tattoo inspired my art instead of the art inspiring the tattoo! My fish paintings have a lot of tattoo qualities. Bold, hyper-graphic, saturated images that are simplified and exaggerated to depict certain features of the fish species. So far I have done over thirty species and plan to keep adding new ones.
I began fishing as a young child with my dad and friends, mostly fishing in freshwater rivers and streams in central Vermont where I grew up. We would usually spin-cast on the White River and a few small brooks by my house. I especially loved fishing with light gear on a very small brook right behind the house, we would simply lob a worm or spinner into the small pools and catch brook trout. It amazed me that these fish could survive in such a small environment.
After moving to the New Jersey shore fifteen years ago I have become an avid surfer. I feel at home by the ocean and connected to the way of life that revolves around it. After catching a large striped bass off of a friends boat I was amazed by the power and beauty these fish possess. I now surf-cast locally in Bradley Beach, Avon by the Sea and in Shark River Inlet when I have the time. Fishing is a very personal thing to me and I enjoy the solitude it provides.
Tell me about your favorite fishing experience?
My favorite story would have to be fishing on Marthas Vineyard with my dad in Lobsterville. He had never caught a Striped Bass “keeper” and we were scheduled to be on a ferry home that afternoon. It was our last chance to fish before we left and he was out at the end of the jetty methodically casting into the outgoing tide current with a little pink eel bait. Just before we were going to pack it up, he hooked into a really nice one! We landed it, got a photo for him and released the fish back quickly. The experience made the trip highlight for us both!
Where can folks learn more about your work?
This may not be your cup of tea as an angler. Maybe you never intend to tattoo your body, much less with a fish image of all things. Regardless, what can be agreed upon is that Erik’s talent as an artist is strong. He’s skilled and appreciates the specimens that ultimately adorn the bodies of his clients. It shows in his work and that breathes life into the designs. The experiences and memories made fishing can bring last happiness. Erik’s work can bring that back for you every time you view his designs permanently made a part of you.
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Patrick Ritter is the founder of River King Fishing, LLC. Raised near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the outdoors, especially fishing, has always been a passion.