An Angle On Art

An Angle On Art

Becca Schlaff’s Tributes to the Colors of Fish

  • By: Bob White
  • Illustrations by: Becca Schlaff

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Becca Schlaff’s Tributes to the Colors of Fish


Becca Schlaff’s paintings are vibrant and alive, with a musical undertone that reminds me of running water. There are no static passages, no contrivances or need for exacting realism. There is a sensitivity to pressure and release in her brushwork that I rarely see and, quite frankly, that I envy.

Every mark she brings to her work is as unique as the fish she renders. After a study of her paintings, it seems to me that she doesn’t actually paint fish. Rather, she weaves painterly marks of color on canvas to create the spiritual essence of them. I am forced to respond.

Schlaff’s path to becoming an angling artist happened in a slightly different manner from most; she began painting fish before actually taking up a fly rod to pursue them.

Her journey began in 2007, when a friend showed her a photograph of a brown trout, and asked her to paint from it for his fly shop. She was struck by the beauty of the fish, and says that being exposed to trout was, “like discovering a new channel to look at the beauty of nature.

“At first, it was simply the colors of trout that appealed to me,” she added. “As someone who loves nature, I’m inspired by the fact that such colors are produced in the natural world. As an artist I find fish to be a platform to communicate that indescribable beauty. As much as I love sunsets, I’ve never felt that a painting captures or recreates the feeling of the moment. Somehow, acknowledging fish does. My paintings of fish are a commentary on what I can’t put into words about the beauty of the natural world.”

One of the many things I admire about Schlaff’s work is the sense of process I feel. She seems to leave a lot of herself behind on the canvas, and there appears to be no plot or agenda driving the work other than a need to express her love for, and fascination with, fish and the environs in which they live.

“I usually don’t start my paintings with outlines,” she says. “My process is instinctual; I don’t try to control every brushstroke, to make perfect circles or straight lines, or clean up every drip. I want the paint to act organically, on its own. I control the color pallet, yet the colors mix their own way on the canvas. Paint is an organic medium; whether it’s dripping down the canvas, or one passage of color next to another creates a dynamic. I purposefully experiment with paint based on the feelings I need to express. I think this spontaneity mirrors what happens in nature, and I like to bring that element into my work. When viewers find their own reference to nature in my images, or they react to the work in an emotional manner, I feel I’ve done my job as an artist.”

If you’d like to see more of Schlaff’s work you can visit her Web site, or schedule a visit to her studio in East Lansing, Michigan. w

An Angle on art

by Bob White