Published Nov 1. 2020 - 3 weeks ago
Updated or edited Nov 1. 2020

Nick Mayer

Nick Mayer's watercolors are large, colorful and stunningly beautiful. Read about his journey from his childhood sketchbook to becoming a full time artist.

Painting a GT
Painting a GT
Nick Mayer

Back in July 2020 I got a mail from artist Nick Mayer, asking whether I'd like to feature him in the Fishy Artist series.

If I hadn't been tingled by the mere fact that he wrote me and asked, the attached image of his hand holding a brush over a homongous and very beautiful painting of a giant trevally did! Nick was definitely an artist who belonged in this good company, and we immediately agreed on doing a feature, and I sent him my usual bunch of questions.

Below you see his replies and some examples of his stunning art. Notice the size, which is really surprising. Both the above image and the one of Nick working on a bluefin tuna show the scale. These watercolors are huge, almost on the boundary of what's possible with the medium as Nick also notes in his replies below.

How did you start working with art and with fishing related art in particular?

I have been drawing ever since I was a kid. My father was an art professor and he was always bringing home art materials that his students left behind. I still have my first sketchbook from ages 5-7. At that time like most kids I was drawing mostly with magic markers and loved dinosaurs and sea creatures. At that age I also had this one book The Sea, a Time Life Book Series that for some reason drew me in. It was filled with photographs and illustrations of sea creatures, many from the deep sea that fascinated me. I paged through it hundreds of times and memorized captions. Oddly enough my first book illustration job after I jumped into my art full time I worked with a scientific consultant/dive master named Jon Council. When we got acquainted we started sharing stories and he said the same thing happened to him as a kid with that book. We recited the captions of the same pictures! Needless to say we have done lots of dives together and have become good friends since then. This book was Catalina Island Dive Buddies, Silverfish Press.

The sea
Childhood sketchbook 1
Childhood sketchbook 2
The sea and the first sketches
Nick Mayer - Silverfish Press

Why fish and fishing?

My entire life has been influenced by fish and fishing. I have been drawing and painting fish and sea creatures my entire life. I spent all of my summers as a child catching turtles and pawing through the mud to see what I could find. As a teenager I became obsessed with fly fishing and I still am. I went to college and received undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology and then worked as a marine biologist. I traveled all over North and Central America doing research on fish and sea turtles. Now my career is painting fish and other sea life.

Mako
Brook trout
Leopard shark
Striped marlin
Fish and sharks
Nick Mayer

But why fish and fishing? I would guess that it stemmed from my early fascination with deep sea creatures. Another very early memory was from around age 3-5 years old. I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and my mother would take me to the Museum of Natural History there. There was one huge diorama of the prehistoric ocean floor that as I recall featured ammonites and cone-shelled cephalopods and gorgonian corals. It was mostly pink, purple, and orange. That was my favorite display and I would stare at it like I stared at the pages of The Sea. I think these images stirred my imagination and brought me to a fantasy world beneath the ocean’s surface. Knowing that this alternate reality actually existed yet was so different made it all the more interesting because there was a possibility of me going into that place someday. Now I have.

Sheephead
Sheephead
Nick Mayer
Paper nautilus
Paper nautilus
Nick Mayer
The big brush
Nick Mayer
Painting a bluefin
Big paintings
Nick Mayer

What is your preferred method of painting/drawing/producing your art - if any?

I paint exclusively with watercolors. It seems an appropriate medium for the subjects I paint! Over time I have gained a great deal of control over this unforgiving medium, yet one of my favorite aspects of painting with watercolors is when I am painting large areas with wet washes and I can simply deposit the paint onto the wet paper and let it organically move around and do its own thing. The body of my Humpback Whale and the reflective shoulders of Giant Bluefin Tuna II are examples of this. Both of these paintings pushed the boundaries of what is capable with watercolors in terms of their size, particularly because I stretch the watercolor paper before I paint on it. The Humpback was 8’ wide and the Bluefin was 10’ wide.
I would like to do more pencil sketching and experiment with oil paints in the future, but for now it is just watercolors.

Giant bluefin
Giant Bluefin Tuna II
Nick Mayer
Yellowfin tuna
Yellowfin Tuna
Nick Mayer
Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Nick Mayer

Is the art your main source of income - if at all a source of income - and do you do other jobs as a supplement?

Yes, I have been full time as an artist since 2012. I do not do other jobs as a supplement. I support my family and am putting my son through college by selling my art and products with my art on them. I sell direct to customer via e-commerce, wholesale to stores, and license my art. I have created two businesses to make all of this happen: Nick Mayer Art and Predator Fly Gear.

Screen capture from nickmayerart.com
Screen capture from predatorflygear.com
Nick's web sites
Nick Mayer

Can people buy your art and if so, then in which form and where?

Nick Mayer Art website: https://www.nickmayerart.com/
Predator Fly Gear Apparel website: https://predatorflygear.com/

Where do you currently live and work?

I live with my wife and two sons in the Green Mountains, Lincoln, Vermont in the USA.

Big flies, big fish
Good one
Nick leadered
Nick with a muskie
Nick fishing
Nick Mayer

Some final remarks

My mission as an artist is to inspire an appreciation for this planet’s amazing creatures by painting them as they really are, without smiling faces and neon colors.

When people see a Weedy Seadragon for the first time by seeing my painting, they universally take a step back and say, wait, what?! This thing really exists?!! Purple with white polka dots, yellow, turquoise, a seahorse head, whale flippers, transparent fins on its gills. Was this an artist’s psychedelic creation? No. They are a wild creature swimming in the ocean and are only found in a few locations on the Southern Coast of Australia! It is my conviction that this appreciation I inspire in my audience catalyzes Conservation. Whether that is manifested it is in the form of small decisions or large scale efforts in favor of nature, then my paintings have come full circle and helped out the creatures that inspired them.

Weedy seadragon
Weedy seadragon
Nick Mayer
GT
Albie
Bonefish
Indo permit
Saltwater species
Nick Mayer
Sulawesi Shrimp
Sulawesi Shrimp
Nick Mayer
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