Published Sep 27. 2019 - 3 weeks ago
Updated or edited Sep 27. 2019

Fish Art for the Stars

Brad Pitt’s New Movie Ad Astra has a Connection to Fly Fishing - and A Fly Fishing Painter’s Well Traveled and Well Lived Life

We all know how Brad Pitt has changed fly fishing with his role in "A River Runs Through It". Brad has yet another connection to fly fishing in his latest adventure Ad Astra. In this movie, there is a time sequence in which Brad is in a western home and part of the set is decorated with original fly fishing artwork. The artwork in the set came from a little known fly fishing artist from Ithaca, NY.

Bob Witzel painting
Bob Witzel painting
Witzel watercolors
Bob Witzel

Two years ago, in 2017, I was approached by the production staff of a movie company. They wanted to acquire all the paintings I had listed on my web site to be used in an as of yet unnamed movie. I was shocked as this was an archive that was hidden from the general view on my web site. After some discussion, I told the producer that Bob had passed away and I wasn’t sure if these paintings were still available. I told her, I’d check in to it.
I wasn’t sure if this was a hoax or if it was genuine. The working title of the movie was “The Lima Project”. I was assured that yes, they really were interested and they would like to know how to buy all the paintings available. I honestly, wasn’t sure if these were available or how to get a hold of the family. After several phone calls in and around town, some folks that knew the family and one of my friend’s wife ran into Bob’s wife at a local quilting shop once in awhile. Determined to find Bob’s family I kept looking. I located some of the original materials Bob gave me and I also found an unframed print I won of his in a local TU raffle. So I had at least one for sale.

I kept searching and I looked in my old database and then searched in my phone and there it was, Bob’s old cell phone number. I thought no, this couldn’t still be active, but I dialed it anyway. Surprisingly, his wife Marie answered the phone. I introduced myself and told Marie the story of the movie company. Marie remembered me and my prior attempts to sell some of Bob’s work. Marie asked if I thought this was a real customer that was truly interested in Bob’s work and I said, “Well this seems to be the real deal”.
I said, “Let’s explore this and see what happens.’’
Marie agreed and we made an appointment for me to look at the existing paintings. I told her that I’d like to photograph all available, and I would send proofs to the customer and we’d see which ones they liked. She agreed and we set up a time to photograph them.

Bob Witzel painting
Bob Witzel painting
Witzel paintings
Bob Witzel

Marie had a large collection of Bob’s work. Some 20-25 total paintings. A few were sort of partially done, but I thought they looked interesting. I set up an easel outside her daughter’s house in full light and brought a tripod and set up the camera. As we pulled each painting out, Marie described in loving detail the events of each picture. She vividly described each and what lead up to the painting. In her younger days, she and Bob travelled all over the USA and Canada. Marie worked as the local Ithaca school secretary and each summer they went on a fly fishing adventure.

Bob Witzel painting
Witzel watercolor
Bob Witzel

As soon as school was out, Bob dropped by the school and picked up Marie. Off they went with their loaded up Airstream camper (for overseas folks these are a bubble shaped retro aluminum campers that are quite famous) and his rigged out painting/fly fishing van.
Marie said he had the van set up with all his paints and artist supplies along with fly fishing, camping and fly tying gear.
Sometimes Marie would drive while Bob tied flies or painted. Their travels took them to Montana, British Columbia, Florida, Alaska as well as many local streams near Rochester in Upstate, NY. Originally, Marie would fish, but after a she had an accident, she asked Bob if she could give up fishing. She still travelled along but had no interest in fishing.

Bob Witzel painting
Bob Witzel painting
Bob Witzel painting
Bob Witzel painting
Witzel paintings
Bob Witzel

Everywhere they went, Bob painted water colors. He sold a good many of his paintings, gave some to friends and family. His final collection had some 20 different images. I photographed each one in a raw, untouched file and also left them without borders or framing so that they could use them in the movie.
After some discussion with production we set up an Internet file and I loaded all the images. We decided to sell the digital rights instead of attempting to mail the originals as some were matted, some were loose and all of these were old watercolors that were quite delicate.
I told the production staff that since they were using a lot of AI and CG that there should be some graphics folks that could create an exact copy of the digital images I created to any size. They could use the digital files to frame and matte each to the exact size needed with their house staff. They agreed and selected 3 paintings out of the original selection. Marie and I agreed on an amount. About 3 weeks later the royalty checks appeared and Marie and I settled our agreement. Marie wrote me a lovely letter thanking me for helping her and also for the chance to tell her and Bob’s fishing story adventures.

I have below the original archive and also the original photos. Some of these were never in the show. If you go see the movie, see if you can pick out the paintings. Marie passed away last winter (2018) and Bob passed away a few years ago. This was the tale of a wonderful life well lived. We can only hope to be so lucky in our own varied adventures as this couple was.

Bob Witzel painting
Bob Witzel

Bob Witzel Archive

Bob Witzel sketch
Bob Witzel sketch
Witzel sketches
Bob Witzel

In the Fall of 2008, I was approached by a local Ithaca artist, Bob Witzel. Bob asked me if I would be interested in helping him to sell his artwork, since I never sold artwork before, I told him, I would take a look at his pictures and see what I could do, what follows are pictures that Bob completed and sent to me. All of these watercolors are original, one of a kind and completely unique.

About Bob: Bob was a retired commercial artist. Bob was originally from Buffalo, NY and studied art in high school and the Berkshire Summer School of Art and the The WPA-Buffalo School of Art before graduating from The Pratt Institute of Art in New York City. During WWII Bob worked as an artist in the military setting up schools in camouflage, drew illustrations, sports cartoons for a local newspaper and painted a mural at Chatam Air Force Base. Many of Bob's original murals are in the Naval Museum in Buffalo and an American Legion Hall in Huntsville, AL.

Following his military service, Bob had a successful career as a designer and illustrator working for ad agencies, publishing firms and finally served as Art Director for National Gypsum Company. Some of his clients included: IBM, Southwestern Publishing, Fisher Price Toys, 3M, and Keds sneakers. Bob's artwork appeared in print media, film and TV.
Bob grew up in around the Buffalo area. He began fishing mostly local streams like the East Koy and the Wiscoy outside of Roschester, NY.

Eventually, Bob started painting as he travelled and fished. He fly fished across the US, Canada and travelled to many famous western rivers. In his adventures, Bob camped, road via horseback, flew-in via sea planes and had many summer trailer-camping trips. Over time Bob fell in love with the area today we call,"The Golden Triangle" which is the 3 state corner area surrounding Yellowstone National Park. The rivers that he painted and fished include: The Boulder, The Madison, Upper Snake, The Big Hole, The Bitteroot and Rock Creek. Much of what you see are pictures of the areas as they were in the time frame that Bob painted them… mostly late 60's and early 70's, long before development of these areas. Some of these I have no idea what happened to them. Presumably, they were sold as they weren’t in the final collection. Enjoy.

Bitteroot action
Old iron bridge pool
The boulder river
The Kipioc River
The Maurice River
Paintings
Bob Witzel

About Mike Hogue

Mike is the owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying. You can visit him on the web at www.eflytyer.com. Our web site is now 23 years old. This fall we hope to have a new one up. We also have items for sale on www.etsy.com, Eflytyer.

Comments

Watercolors...

Mr. Bob Witzel's paintings are very beautiful, he is seen to be a great fisherman and a good fan of watercolors. This is also something that happens to me, fishing and drawing ... thanks for sharing a hug to everyone.

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