- By: Bob White
Sarah Briston paints classic salmon flies that were inspired or created by some of the best-known fly tiers in the world. And since I collect flies like some people collect baseball cards, it’s not surprising that folks like me are smitten by her colorful, highly rendered and wondrously beautiful artwork.
Born in England, Sarah began to paint as a young girl and remembers the day she decided to use the walls of her bedroom as a canvas. “My mother, knowing I couldn’t resist all that white space, was very understanding,” she says. “I think that a lot of encouragement at an early age is the key to success in any field.”
She earned a degree in the fine arts, taught for 15 years in England and eventually became the head of faculty for Expressive Art. But she gave up the security of this high-powered position and moved to Scotland to pursue her art. “It was rewarding,” she says of her time teaching, “but I was working long hours, and didn’t have much time to fulfill my dream of being an artist.”
From her home, near the Carron Bridge on the River Spey, Sarah painted landscapes, but she was never quite satisfied with the results. One day a friend and fly tier showed her his full-dress salmon-fly creations.
“Straight away they appealed to me,” she says. “They seemed like treasures from the river, and I knew they were the right subjects for me to paint.” Sarah painted using her friend’s collection of flies and the photographs she found in Paul Ptalis’ book Century End—A Fly Tying Journey as reference. She also began to scour the Internet for information, and it was there she discovered www.classicflytying.com. Sarah was welcomed by the world-class tiers that frequent the site, many of whom she now works with. In collaboration with 16 of these tiers from around the world, she recently completed a body of work depicting the fly patterns immortalized in AE Knox’s classic book Autumns on the Spey. The paintings took her two years to complete and the 16 flies she painted are to be the main prize in an auction to benefit Casting for Recovery at the British Fly Fair International, October 31.
“I enjoy being part of this big, global community, which is brimful of talented, generous and supportive men and women,” she says. “Fly tiers have a code of support, encouragement and generosity which seems to spring from their very core. They are my role models, inspiration and influence. Everything I do as an artist pays homage to their skills and creativity. I wouldn’t be anywhere at all without these great people.”
See more paintings at www.classicfly art.com or follow her Facebook page, Sarah BristonArt.
Contributing editor Bob White is a writer and artist; go to www.whitefishstudio.com.