Twenty-some odd years ago my wife, JoNell and I began traveling together to the Florida Keys. The trips were for both relaxation and fishing and also included the inevitable stop at local gift shops. When we married we combined a collection of artwork limited to “travel art” from JoNell’s adventures in Egypt, Kenya and Peru, and mine… Jimmy Buffett posters. No, I’m not kidding.
I remember the first real Florida Keys artwork I was totally taken by. The artist is Tim Borski. I’d been a fan of his hand-tied fishing flies for years, but for some reason hadn’t encountered his artwork until visiting Islamorada. It was quite an eye opener. There’s something about the way he paints fish and birds that just hits home with me and apparently a lot of other art collectors. Eight paintings later I’ve had to stop collecting for lack of wall space, to make room for other outdoor artists. Tim, you still hold the lead.
Roughly seven years ago I met artist Steve Whitlock at a Coastal Conservation Association banquet in Fort Myers. We had a great conversation during which I found out he was a graduate of the Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota. That just happened to be where my youngest daughter was attending school. I was well aware of his art, especially through local art shows and eventually Bass Pro Shops. I’d say his most popular works are those where he paints gamefish on existing nautical charts. They are unique and eye catching.
Not every artist is a painter. In my eyes one of the best is photographer Clyde Butcher. His black and white large format camera landscapes of Florida are truly spectacular. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the backwaters of the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades and I have yet to find anyone that can capture what it looks like in real life. Clyde Butcher can and does. In my home office I have one of his poster sized photos of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve that he signed and gave to me. Whenever I miss being on the bay I simply look at it and I’m taken back in time to that exact location. His Big Cypress Gallery is located in Ochopee, Florida. Be sure to stop by.
I would be remiss to not mention another favorite fine art photographer, Alan Maltz. His gallery is located in Key West and his work is of full color landscapes, Florida cities, wildlife and the strange and wonderful sights of the Keys. However, you don’t have to travel to Key West to see his work. There are 60 large-edition regional photos taken in Lee County that are part of a rotating display at the Southwest Florida International Airport. He also has beautiful coffee table books of Key West, Collier County, Lee County, Miami and Florida.
Last, but certainly not least is artist Anisa Stewart. Her designs are not paintings or photos, they are jewelry. Specifically, ocean and wildlife inspired jewelry. Anisa is from Fort Myers and I met her years ago at the Florida Sportsman Expo. At that time she had only a few designs. One of them, a silver fishing hook bracelet, caught my eye and wound up on my wrist. It also wound up on a lot of anglers’ wrists. Soon there were necklaces, earrings and then a host of other beautiful jewelry. JoNell has a very nice collection.
We have dozens of pieces of artwork and photos on the walls and shelves of our townhome from many other Florida artists. We found most of them at local art fairs, craft shows and festivals. Take the time to attend them as they reopen and if possible, make a purchase. I love the shows and I’m always on the lookout for something new and inspiring. And yes, I still have one Jimmy Buffett poster.
Artists’ Web Pages
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman and retired spin & fly fishing guide. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association.