Accurate reference photos are a necessity for any serious fish carver. There are
many places to find quality pictures. The best however are those taken by you, from live
fish. Take along a 35-mm camera on your fishing trips, and start taking pictures of
detailed areas not normally shown in profile shots from books and magazines. Take several
close up pictures of the skin to capture scale patterns and underlying color values.
Detail shots of the head and fins provide valuable information during the
Take notes on how you would paint the colors you see, and what order would you apply
the paint. This is the most important piece of information you will ever use during the
painting process. These notes will contain information you will never see in a picture.
Film often does not capture the iridescence, pearls, and transparent colors found on a
Carry a notebook of blank fish silhouettes in
your tackle box of several species, as pictured above. This allows you to make color and
carving notes quickly to use later. Simply take a drawing like the one shown to a copy
center and have several copies made into a spiral bound booklet. With a live fish in hand,
detail your observations to the notebook. Use one page to detail color information and
another to take carving notes.
Look deep into the fish skin for the base color
and begin noting every color layer seen. Try to describe every color you see in your notes
and their level of transparency, and opacity. List the various pearls and iridescence seen
and where they appear in the layers. Describe what details are best
painted with an airbrush and which ones are best done with a paint brush.
If you have a paint sample chart from a paint supplier
compare the colors to the samples and write a paint schedule on the spot. Break down what
you see into a step by step painting process using your imagination to apply color.
Try to include
something in the background with a known pure color. A white towel works well for this.
The reason for the white color is to check the final color print for tints. Often color
prints come back with a strong blue, green or yellow tint in the picture. If this is the
case, you would never want to use such a picture as paint reference. A white object allows
you to spot this fault easily.
A quick way to add a
white reference spot to your pictures is to paint a white spot on your thumbnail. This
gives you an easy-to-use color checker while shooting pictures of fish in hand. This
only works if you paint the thumb nail of the hand holding the fish, not the hand holding
the camera ;-). If you mention the white spot in each picture
in a note to your film developer they will often take a minute or two to
calibrate the computer to the white spot for a cleaner color match on your
prints. If you use another color supply them a sample of the
color on a scrap piece of paper so they have something to work with.
Most good photo labs will do this service for you happily. I always
send in a sample of the background paper or material used in
photographing my carvings for them to match the color.
If possible always reference your notes to the pictures
taken of the study fish. If the picture contains a unique object in the background note
that in your notes. This will allow you to match your notes to the proper picture later.
Masking tape or colored dot stickers with a number written in marker work best. Simply
write a number on a small piece of tape and stick it to your hand or an object in the
picture. Then reference this number in your color notes and you cant go wrong.
If shooting a fish on a white towel, a few coins can ID
the picture, ex. 35 cents in the lower right corner. This will eliminate trying to figure
out what notes go to what pictures after the prints come back from the developer. Nothing
is more confusing than comparing notes from one fish while looking at a picture of another
during the carving or painting process. Then simply drop the notes and associated pictures
into an envelope or scrap book for future reference.
Building a library of these photos and notes is
necessary if you plan to do commissioned work in the future. Seldom does a request for a
commissioned piece come in with a packet of reference photos of any detail. The customer
generally has a species request, with at best, a stream side photo of the trophy they
released. Now, where would you turn without a collection of reference photos and color
notes? With a comprehensive photo / note collection you only need to match the supplied
photo to your reference. Pull the packet of detailed pictures and notes and you are in up
Color notes may seem like allot of trouble at first, but once you carve
and paint your first fish with them you will see it was time well spent. This information
will help produce outstanding results that someday will separate a first
from second place ribbon.