Chris Peterson has tried almost every form of outdoor recreation. He has snowboarded, mountain biked, and backpacked, but the thing he keeps coming back to, the sport that connects with his soul, is fly fishing.
He says, “For my personality, for who I am, fishing is the thing. It’s about those moments of magic where you’re face to face with the wild animal, these crazy looking creatures.”
Fishing is not the only thing Chris happens to love. He is also passionate about painting.
The Contemplative Man’s Recreation
So, when Chris was contacted on his Instagram by Fish Heads Fly Shop owner Ben Diamond, and asked to complete a mural in their new space, it was a no-brainer. Chris was all in. One painting turned into two, and soon the shop had a vivid, larger than life trout, as well as an informative map of the Middle Provo River ready to inspire any adventurous angler.
For Chris, painting and fishing hold one beautiful thing in common. They both take him to an ethereal place where he can experience the sublime. He said it reminds him of the subheading “The Contemplative Man’s Recreation” from a famous old book The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton published in 1653. Chris said, “For me, fishing and painting are both amazing and exciting adventures that I, in some way, use the same part of my brain for. The exploration of paint and the way that I interact with the canvas as it iterates to sort of take it [the painting] in a direction that is unexpected or not planned; that’s also sort of the way that I like to fish […] I’m looking for adventure as I go out there. I don’t want to go to the same old place. I’m trying to figure out how to solve a problem, how to get to this place where there’s like a transcendent moment, which is what you’re also looking for on a canvas.”
Chris’s artwork is informed largely by his previous work in environmental advocacy, international rural development, teaching, and charter school development. Chris got his BFA in painting, but then stepped away from his art while he worked in nonprofit and public sector organizations as a manager, and earned two Master’s degrees. Eventually his path led him to teach art in an elementary school. While there, he started a nonprofit to fund art projects with kids. He became entranced with community development using art, and creating murals, as a tool. Chris said, “I had this experience doing these projects. I wasn’t controlling the outcome of them. It was more about the process.”
These experiences led Chris back into doing art full-time. “I decided I was going to refine my art skill set, my artist vision, so that it was more powerful and said what I wanted it to say.” What is it that Chris wants to say with his giant, colorful trouts and massive portrayals of wildlife? Really, it is about commemorating the creatures that Chris has grown to revere. Chris says, “In a way, it’s like my way of talking about this thing that’s kind of painful, the plight of wildlife in the age of climate change and what their future looks like, but doing it in a way that’s celebratory of these animals and our experience to live in a place where we get to interact with them.”
Walking into Fish Heads and having the trout with its dancing colors greet you at first sight does feel like a celebration, but it also becomes quickly apparent that painting a mural is not an easy undertaking. With a mural being so expansive in scope, it can be difficult to replicate something larger than the artist’s field of vision. How does the painting end up in the right proportions on the wall? Chris has a few tricks and tools that make the magic happen. A projector is critical in getting the drawing to scale in the designated space. Chris says, “The pattern of trout spots is not replicable, by me at least, without some tool to do it. I can’t just do it by eye. It doesn’t look right. There’s sort of a natural order to that stuff that you can’t replace.” He adds that using the projector allows the proportions to be right on, allowing him freedom to then go back into the framework with a variety of colors with different values and temperatures. The result is spectacular.
Chris hopes that as people take time to view his paintings and have their own experiences with wildlife they can learn something about themselves. Chris hopes that this thoughtful observation will help build appreciation. He says, “For me, it’s more about recognizing the special moment we are in right now in the history of this planet. Don’t take it for granted and do what you can to not destroy it.” One of his future goals on his bucket list is to create a trout mural on an exterior wall somewhere in the Heber Valley. He hopes to paint giant trout murals around the world at key fly fishing and trout habitat areas as a way to commemorate the identity of that place and how it’s tied to that particular animal.
Did you know?
Fish Heads Fly Shop is the only full-service flyfishing outfitter in the Heber Valley.
32 South Main Street, Heber