As a young man, I admired artist Eldridge Hardie’s representational style of painting, particularly his renditions of sporting scenes. It seemed that we had many common interests – on the water, in the field, and certainly in the studio. We first met in Denver, near his home, at a fly-fishing trade show, and our friendship began. Recently, when we had the opportunity to fish together in Florida I discovered that he’d been to Alaska only once, and many years ago. It was then that I suggested he join me in Alaska, at Bristol Bay Lodge, for the Artist-in-Residence week.
The Artist-in-Residence Program at Bristol Bay Lodge was created on the premise that every one is touched by art, but few have the opportunity to witness its creation, or have meaningful conversations with those who produce it. The programs at Bristol Bay Lodge expose the lodge’s guests to writers, poets, painters, print makers, photographers, songwriters and musicians in a manner that enriches their experience and encourages them to support the arts.
This past summer I had the honor and privilege of fishing and discussing sporting art with my good friend and mentor, Eldridge Hardie.
Over the course of the week we experienced the myriad of fishing opportunities at Bristol Bay Lodge. We fished dry flies to arctic grayling on small streams, pursued rainbow trout and monster grayling on mouse patterns, caught arctic char while they fed frantically on out-bound salmon smolt, and swung streamers to dime-bright kings and chums; the first pacific salmon to return from the north Pacific.
While on the water, Eldridge and I talked about our experiences fishing; close to home and around the world. We also discussed our work and where we hoped it might lead us, both in style and content.
At the lodge we had ample time to discuss our lives and work with the guests during cocktails and dinner. It turns out that several of the fishermen have enjoyed and collected Eldridge Hardie’s work for decades, and were thrilled to meet the man.
The highlight of the experience for me was being able to complete a painting from start to finish in Eldridge’s presence. Over the course of the week I painted each evening on the porch at the lodge. Every now and then, my mentor would emerge from a crowd of fishermen and a conversation about his work to offer a suggestion or bit of encouragement. His smile was sincere as he watched me sign the painting.
Often one’s heroes have a difficult time living up to the expectations we place upon them. Such was not the case with my friend Eldridge Hardie.