Cast Away

03 Jan 2024

Paul Puckett blends his love of art and fishing

Liesel Schmidt

With his penchant for board shorts, T-shirts and trucker hats, Paul Puckett is every bit what you’d imagine in a fisherman—right down to the scruffy red beard and ghostly outline of sunglasses that testifies to his time in the sun and bracing wind. He comes by it honestly. In fact, the native Texan, now a Lowcountry resident, has spent countless hours on the water with a line in, heeding the call that it seems to have on his soul.

For Puckett, fishing is an art form. And as talented as he is with a rod and reel, he displays an equally deft hand with brush and pen, capturing on paper and canvas the incredible beauty that he sees on the water, as well as the amazing creatures that live within it.

What led him here—to this place of being an almost undercover artist—seems as natural to his story as casting a line. Raised by a father and mother who were a musician and an avid quilter, respectively, creativity runs deep through his veins. Like most kids, he drew cartoons and pictures of his favorite comic books as a boy and continued creating into his teens and college years.

During his time at the University of North Texas, Puckett studied in the advertising design school and also took art classes as well as doing fishing art on the side, selling his art at the fly shop where he was working part-time. He moved to Jackson, Wyoming after graduation in 2001 and submersed himself in the flyfishing world in the mountains and rivers of the west as he continued his art on the side. In 2004, he moved to Atlanta and got a job in radio, but soon returned to his two passions.

“I realized that I didn’t want to be sitting in a cubicle when I could be doing what I loved, which was fishing and wildlife artwork,” he recalls.

Rather than keeping it as a goal for some undefined “one day,” Puckett left radio behind in 2005 and took a part-time job at the Fish Hawk in Atlanta, devoting the rest of his attention to honing his craft as an illustrator and artist.

“I told myself I’d give it at least ten years before I decided whether to stick with it,” he said. “And I could just move on to something else if it wasn’t working.”

Clearly, something was working, as it has now been almost 20 years since Puckett made that vow to himself. And while the self-described “artsy fishing dude” may not exactly look the part of an artist, he has proven that talent can come in unlikely packages.

“I get some funny reactions from people when I tell them I’m an artist,” he admits. “But it kind of works because my art career started off in the more humorous realm. I did a lot of drawings of well-known people from pop culture and put fish in their hands, which is what got me noticed. I tried to make sure I didn’t get stuck in that corner, so I was always making it very apparent that I did other paintings and subject matter as well. I still have fun with that genre, but I tend to do the serious paintings more often these days.”

As far as his more serious work goes, Puckett prefers oils and turpentine, using them as he would watercolors.

“I get a lot of washes and runny layers that make up the look I’m going for,” he says. “I also love working with an ink pen and doing illustrations in my journal.”

Puckett doesn’t like to pigeonhole himself in any specific style, but says, “people always tell me they can tell my paintings from a mile away.”

He tends to concentrate on waterscapes that feature boats, drawing the eye to the anglers within the skiffs.

“I want to remind the viewer how small we are out there in nature and to live in the moment and appreciate their surroundings,” explains Puckett, who moved to Charleston in 2012. “Some of my favorite subjects to paint and draw are the people I fish with on the water here in Charleston. I love coming back from fishing and writing in my journal and drawing from photos that I’ve taken of the people that I’ve spent that time with. Traveling all over the world and fishing and seeing new places definitely inspires me, but I can just as easily get inspired by the marshes and waterways right in our backyard. There’s always something new to see, from the way the light hits the marshes or the way the water reflects the colors of the sunset. It never gets old, and I never run out of things that I want to capture.”

Puckett supports organizations including Captains for Clean Water, Charleston Waterkeeper and Bonefish Tarpon Trust. His work is represented by the Sportsman’s Gallery LTD at their location at 165 King St. as well as the gallery’s locations in Nashville and Beaver Creek, Colorado. His art can also be found at the Tailwaters Fly Fishing in Dallas, Texas, and online at his website, www.paulpuckettart.com.

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