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The sea has fascinated me ever since I was young boy, fishing with my dad. It’s filled with such a diversity of spectacular animals and fish, so many beautiful and colourful creatures around every rock and crevice. I’m amazed every time I enter the ocean and I often find myself discovering something I’ve never seen before. Whether it’s the splendor of the coral reefs or the serenity of the open ocean. But what really fills my imagination are the “hunters”. Daily the drama unfolds as the ‘eat or be eaten’ rule is constantly lived out, it can be an unforgiving place. Big game fish appear from the depths to begin hunting, just before dawn breaks or dusk falls. I had so many heart-stopping moments witnessing feeding frenzies in documentaries and real life of game fish such as Tuna, Marlin, Dorado, Garrick, King Mackerel and more torpedoing through the water after bait fish. It is dramatic and spectacular. These mysterious creatures fascinate me, and painting the scenes draws me into the action as though I was living out those moments in reality

King Mackerel
Acrylic on board (75cm X 60cm)
Private Commission

Three Kings Yellowtail
Acrylic on board (68cm X 90cm)
Private Commission

"Black Storm " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2012)
Acrylic on Board (90cm X 60cm)
COMMISSION

Black Musselcracker
Acrylic on board (75cm X 60cm)
Private Commission

"Big Blue " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2012)
Acrylic on Board (103cm X 53cm)
COMMISSION

"Hightailing" - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2012)
Acrylic on Board (90cm X 60cm)
COMMISSION

"Red Rover " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2012)
Acrylic on Board (90cm X 120cm)
COMMISSION

Ignobilis - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2012)
Acrylic on Board (90cm X 600cm)
COMMISSION

"Kob on the Rocks " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2011)
Acrylic on Board (54cm X 74.5cm)
COMMISSION

Patrick with GT - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2011)
Pencil (60cm X 42cm)
COMMISSION

Angler and GT Drawing - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2011)
Pencil (42cm X 52cm)
COMMISSION

Trophy Tarpon
Acrylic on canvas (100cm X 75cm)
Private Commission

Surface Tension
Acrylic on board (80cm X 70cm)
Private Commission

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Electric Blue - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2011)
Acrylic on Board (95cm X 65cm)
COMMISSION

 

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Turned-on - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2011)
Acrylic on Board (180cm X 85cm)
COMMISSION

This has been my biggest painting so far and m y obsession with minute detail, more for my own satisfaction than anything else, is evident in a million strong sardine bait ball. From the outset, I decided that I would paint every little fish with all the characteristics that make them sardines. Well, my obsession didn’t end there as I endeavored to paint every luminated dorado spot, sailfish stripe glowing electric blue and bubble detail

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Iggy Pop - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on board(70cm X 50cm)
AVAILABLE

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Seconds from impact as a large GT smashes into a Darkstar skipjack popper. Watching the shoulders of a GT swooping in on a popper is an explosive experience. The giant kingfish is one of the most powerful fish of the reefs, incredibly strong as well as swift

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Andre Van Wyk and Giant Kingfish - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Pencil (42cm X 60cm)
COMMISSION

A fine specimen of GT (giant kingfish) , caught at Cosmoledo Atoll in Seychelles. A memorable trip that ended up with an unforgetable catch on fly. Andre wanted Craig to record this once-in-a-lifetime moment with a black and white drawing.

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Digging In - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on canvas (76cm X 101cm)
COMMISSION

Anyone lucky enough to have caught large white steenbras, will understand the power of these fish. Found in shallow
surf zones where the water is crashing and ripping, a habitat that would send any self respecting fish back to the
calm of a reef. Also known as pignose grunter, this fish patrollers the white-water in search of sand dwelling
crustaceans where it is able to feed in a very specialized fashion. Very closely related to the spotted grunter, it too,
feeds by blowing jets of water into the sand with its elongated snout. The helpless crustaceans
are then quickly snapped up.

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Justin and the Giant Kingfish - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Pencil (42cm X 50cm)
COMMISSION

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Show Time - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on board (65cm X 84cm)
COMMISSION

A fully ‘lit up’ sailfish is a spectacular sight. They have the ability to instantly alter their colour from dark browns
and maroons to almost silver with bright flashes of electric blue, violet and purple. This can be seen during
a feeding situation as the sailfish ‘switch’ ‘on’ and ‘off’ to confuse bait fish and keep the bait in a tight ball.This
changing-colour phenomenon is also frequently seen once a sailfish is hooked and brought to the boat side.

I have focused on the sailfish's intense colours in this painting. The deep turquoises are emphasized as they
contrasts with the distinctive edge to the silvery-tan of the fish’s flanks, as are the Sailfish’s usually-dark stripes that
also ‘light up’ in an electrifying, ultramarine blue. The natural, brown, maroonish colour, of the sail fin changes tovarious
hues of bright blue and violet when illuminated from behind as shown in the painting where backlit by the sun.


Preliminary Drawing

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The Spanish Armada - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on board (30cm X 42.5cm)
SOLD

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A sleek, opportunistic predator that has the ability to disable any fish small enough for it to swallow. King mackerel have extremely sharp teeth which contributes to their membership of the "razor gang". I wanted the focus of the painting to be on the movement, showing migrating Spanish mackerel en route to their feeding ground. I also wanted to emphasize their streamlined bodies that are so highly adapted to life in the open ocean.

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Top dog - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on Canvas (76cm X 101cm)
COMMISSIONED - SOLD

An aggressive predator that hunts on the edges of deep reefs where they are the top predator along with Giant kingfish and groupers. I wanted to indicate it's deep water existence showing the big fish viewed from underneath and looking up at the reef rising from the darkness. Dogtooth show no respect for even their closest relative the Eastern little tuna (Kawa kawa) and express their great power and agility in catching such a fast fish!


Preliminary Drawing

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Quick on the Trigger - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on Canvas (90cm X 120cm)
COMMISSIONED - SOLD

Some of the most remote and wondrous parts of our planet can be found on tiny specs of land - Atolls, built by millions of years of coral calcium deposits. An island grows and transforms century by century, leaving behind a perfect habitat of both vertical reefs and sandy flats. These fragile ecosystems flourish with life, including an abundance of fish.

I wanted to emphasize an environment undisturbed by man. Fly fishermen are sometimes lucky enough to venture out to remote islands and with the attitude of nature preservation some of these beautiful creatures are documented, admired and released. In this painting a Yellow-margin triggerfish, a spectacular and fascinating tropical species, is seen pursuing a crab pattern. A bone fish, one of the ghosts of the flats, lurks in the background.

Preliminary Drawing

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Break Away (King fish)
(Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
Acrylic on canvas (120cm X 80cm)
Commissioned - SOLD

Tropical water, coral reefs, deep drop-offs and many shoals of bait fish form the perfect habitat for one of the apex predictors -the Giant kingfish. A fish that is both respected by the reef inhabitants and fisherman who target them. They are robust fish, built for powerful hunting. Their body shape suggests a species that is able to swallow relatively large prey. With large gills to oxygenate their muscles for high energy habits, their stream-lined bodies and powerful sickle like tail, make this species one of the strongest fighting fish caught on lure.

The kingfish is a fish with an attitude and presence. I wanted to covey it's nature as a predator to be feared.

Preliminary Drawing

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Giant Kingfish (Caranx ignobilis)
(Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Acrylic on board (45cm X 45cm)
Commissioned

This piece will be used on packaging of a new saltwater lure range soon to be released. It is painted in acrylic.

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Earl Strydom
renowned fishing guide and lodge owner, with his record 54kg Kingfish
(Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Pencil (30cm X 35cm)
Commissioned

Respected fisherman, international Fishing guide and Lodge owner, Earl Strydom with his monstrous 54 kg Kingfish, his biggest!

Although this fish was landed at dark, I visualized the event rather in daylight displaying the Kingfish with all it's menacing beauty as the proud owner looks down on his catch before releasing it.

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Yellow-margin Triggerfish
(Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (70cm X 90cm)
Commissioned - SOLD

Conceptual drawing

Anxious moments just before the Triggerfish grabs the crab imitation fly - Some of the most breathtaking and memorable fishing, with pristine crystal clear water, a backdrop of scattered palm covered islands and ocean.

A commissioned piece, depicting a typical day on the coralline flats of tropical islands where Bone fish, Permit, Sting rays, and, in this painting, Triggerfish are spotted and stalked.

I embarked on various intensive studies on the species including its habitat, with a sequence of detailed sketches. Finally a "concept sketch" was visualized and drawn (see below). The owner of this painting received the drawing for approval. The go-ahead was given with only some minor adjustments requested.

With my studio walls and floors covered with reference photography, books and sketches, I began painting in fine detail. The most important part of my paintings, however, is the accuracy in the representation of habitat and fish species. The fish and it's environment are one and together along with correct lighting and texture, the realism is sought.

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The Reef Kings - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (70cm X 100cm)
Commissioned - SOLD

Conceptual drawing

Although the kingfish being the focal point in the composition, I wanted the reef portrayed rising from the depths, showing the steep drop-off. This unique angle also allows for the viewer to be looking up at the GT's, giving them a menacing presence! The fly fisherman is seen slightly distorted as the light refracts through the water. The sea is quite turbulent along these margins as the oceans swells are pushed up against the almost vertical reef. I have also indicated churned up water in the wave and just beyond the reef.

I was commissioned to paint a painting that would depict fishing in the Maldives, a tropical island atoll, casting flies to Giant Kingfish just of the coral ridge. The owner of this piece wanted a painting to record his fishing experiences as he had remembered. (Click here for comments from Petrus Gous - the owner of "The Reef Kings")

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Sailfish Launch- (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (76cm X 101cm)
SOLD

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I wanted to emphasis the mood in the painting to create a misty, windy and rough day out at sea. I painted the fishing ski-boat very subtly with very soft tones and limited colour, then faded it out as though being engulfed by the fine rain and mist. The water in the foreground was painted with detailed showing the foam caused by the rough sea to contrast it with the misted background

Apart from it's obvious striking beauty, I chose the sailfish to paint as it is the ultimate open ocean predator and of cause it is eagerly pursued by fly and Lure fisherman. It is one of the fastest fish in the sea, it’s sickle shaped tail is the secret to it’s speed - bursting through the water at speeds of up to 68mph or 110kph over short distances with minimum effort.

I worked in fine detail to emphasize it’s sleek arrow shaped body with all it's spots and markings.

I included gulls to indicate that bait fish are just a couple of meters below the water’s surface being pursued by bigger predators.

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The Back-line Greyhounds - Garrick / Leervis 2009 -(Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

Conceptual drawing

To paint two or three Garrick chasing a fly but at the same time seeing the fisherman working his fly through the water - was the request that the owner of this painting emailed me. Even though the thought of conceptualizing and painting this piece inspired and excited me, I knew that this would require great amounts of careful research and reference.

Underwater reference for local sport fish, such as our much respected Garrick, is very difficult to find. And as it stands, which is true for most of my paintings, I had to use bits and pieces of images that I have collected of different aspects to carefully sketch, meticulously draw and finally come up with accurate poses.

The concept drawing is a very important tool that I use, and in some cases coming up with it is the most challenging phase. If the concept drawing works and looks believable then I begin with the final painting (see conceptual drawing). On the other hand if something looks wrong I can make adjustments without affecting the canvas.

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Yellowfin Torpedo - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

The Tuna species and in this instance, the Yellowfin Tuna, have always been top of my list of fish to paint, they are fascinating and captivating creatures. They are a marvel of the seas. In every way, they are perfectly adapted to a high paced existence of an ever changing life in the deep blue open ocean.

For a fish to be able to survive in the open ocean there are many restrictions and natural elements that they have to overcome. Tuna are so precisely suited to dealing with these elements, as you can see with its torpedo shaped body, allowing the fish to move through the water with effortless grace and power. To add to it’s design the surface of the body has adapted with many thousands of tiny scales, slots in the skin where the fins would fit into during a high speed chase and eyes that have a membrane of skin over them so that they fit flush with the surface of the skin like that of a jet airplane, ship or submarine where the screws and rivets would be countersunk to sit flush with the metal surface.

The biggest attribute behind it’s matchless power and endurance is indicated by it’s dense muscle configuration, a rich blood red muscle mass filled with a maze of blood capillaries to feed the muscled with oxygen. This meat is highly sought after with prices for a single fish fetching up to $10 000 or more.

There are two distinctive muscle groups: The outer core of muscle is used for great bursts of speed for shorter distances probably when pouncing for bait fish, and the inner muscle core (a darker coloured muscle) for long distance endurance swimming, during it’s continual migrations in search of fresh feeding or breeding grounds. More incredible though is that the central muscle core is kept at a higher temperature, generating it’s own body heat, making it partially “warm blooded”.

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"In the Zone" - Garrick (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

One of my more successful paintings - “In the Zone” was the result of many weeks researching, sketching and studying. Garrick or Leervis as they call it in South Africa are extremely popular amongst many sport rock and surf fisherman but they have seldomly been photographed underwater, despite the many dead pictures of ecstatic anglers with their fish. A dead fish to me is pointless. It is the life of the fish, the spirit of the fish that I need to capture. You can see it in their eyes, their intent their hunger their nature. Many of my friends who have had more encounters with this spectacular creature were involved in this painting e. I am indebted to Bruce Truter – Editor of The Hunting and Fishing Journal who gave solid direction and inspiration. He has caught many Garrick in his day and if anyone knows what makes this fish tick, he does.

Garrick often hunt in packs like wolves and as shown in the painting this particular group of Garrick are churning up the surface water in pursuit of a shoal of striped Mullet. One of the Garrick is distracted by a popper being jerked and retrieved erratically along the surface. The scene is at a climax – Will it take the lure or will it refuse?

I have enjoyed bringing this painting to life, I put careful attention into the detail of the surface being churned up by scurrying bate fish followed by hungry Garrick. Also the use of light was very important for this piece as underwater light which is constantly refracted and filtered through the water creates a magical light display – note the light patterns on the surface of the main Garrick in the picture.

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"The Spotted Hunter " - Spotted Grunter - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

The painting “The Spotted Hunter” is one of my most recent paintings. It was commissioned by a gentleman in the Eastern Cape who is passionate about Spotted Grunter. This fish has built up quite a reputation amongst the fly fishing and light tackle lure fishing community for being the ultimate light tackle sport fish to catch. They are extremely elusive and very skittish. You can find them feeding in the shallow estuaries for mud prawn. Having a unique hunting technique, they shove their elongated pointed snouts deep in mud prawns holes and “blow” jets of water which usually results in a prawn being ejecting out of it’s secondary hole.

If you have ever fished for these elusive animals you are probably familiar with the term “tailing”. Particularly in the early morning you’ll see evidence of them as they come up into the shallows and stick their snouts into the sand or mud with their tail fins showing through the surface of the water.

The owner of this painting saw one of my sketches in a magazine and asked me to paint a similar idea for him. We spoke and exchanged thoughts and ideas, then I presented him with a concept drawing, which is a detailed pencil sketch showing the feeling and atmosphere of what the painting will look like. After making a minor adjustment on the mud prawn, a deposit was made and a couple of weeks later the painting was completed.

As with all my paintings and drawings, I put a great amount of research into this painting. Even more than Garrick I battled to find reference material for spotted grunter, many dead photographs but nothing usable. I waded through all my reference files and catalogues and managed to find a few key photos, showing body shape, head detail, fins, colour etc. I made some studies of water surface reflections and the basic look and feel of a typical mud prawn infested area. I paid particular attention to the water surface detail as this would play a key role in the continuity of the painting. Note the reflection of the fish at the surface and also a partial indication of the blue sky and clouds. Quite a bit of time and thought was put into the light patterns that would be constantly be flickering and changing, creating intricate patterns on the sandy bottom and on the fish. The painting shows the spotted Grunter pouncing on a large mud prawn and in the process kicking up dust from the sandy riverbed.

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King Mackerel - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (75cm X 61cm
)
SOLD

Another request from a client who already owns two of my paintings and is a very keen sport and game fisherman often going on expeditions to Mozambique, was to paint King Mackerel. In my opinion one of the most perfectly designed fish that I have ever painted. It’s body is that of a elongated torpedo, it’s large eye highly adapted to locating and hunting down bait fish, it’s razor sharp teeth are capable of disabling any fish big enough to fit in it’s mouth, it’s speed and agility are almost unmatched by being one of the fastest fish in the sea. It’s fighting abilities, as I’ve been told, are highly rated and not to forget the striking markings that run down the flanks of the fish.

The idea was discussed with me and after intense research, I came up with a concept drawing which I emailed to the owner of this painting. He loved the idea and look of the drawing and then I began with the painting. Here the painting, which was done with oil paint on stretched canvas (75cm x 61cm), shows the King Mackerel actively chasing sardines. The King Mackerel in the foreground closes in on a helpless sardine. As indicated by the churned up water, this is quite a frantic, frenzy and heart stopping spectacle. I can only wish that one day I can be as close to this amazing creation in the wild.

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"Golden Strike " - Dorado Bull - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

The Dorado has got to be the most spectacular fish to catch not because of the strange shape but definitely in terms of colour. Not only is the gold so intense and almost luminescent but on closer inspection you will notice an electric blue speckle throughout the length of the body. The Painting “Golden Strike” which was commissioned by it’s owner who proudly display’s it in his study, shows the first leap of a spectacular looking Dorado bull after taking a sardine imitation fishing lure. The fish is in full splendor boasting it’s fan like dorsal fin and luminescent yellow. These fish are renowned for their fighting abilities and at this stage in the picture you never know who will win the battle – my money’s on the golden beauty. As with all the paintings that I do, every part of the painting is given equal attention in terms of detail and thought – note the reflection of the fish on the surface of the water and the wind swept clouds in the background. This was painted using oils on a 91cm x 61cm stretched canvas.

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"Sunset Explosion " - Great Barracuda -(Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Acrylic on Canvas (61cm X 91cm)
SOLD

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The wolf of the sea, the Great Barracuda is highly sought after by game fishermen. They have a fearsome reputation as being hard and dirty fighters. Their fangs towards the front of their mouth give them a particularly unfriendly appearance. Their teeth are like razors and can slice through any bait fish that are unlucky enough to encounter them. As the Painting “Sunset Explosion” illustrates, they are most often caught in the last hour before dark or at the break of dawn. This acrylic on canvas painting (61cm x 91cm) is still one of my favorite paintings and is referred to “the fish with a cigarette” (as my wife calls it). I have been tempted to change the Red popper to something else but I decided to keep it as it was intended to be. The Red popper lures are a fisherman’s favorite as they are more often caught on these than any other lure. The painting puts the viewer in the moment, it tells you what time of day it was caught, it shows it’s ferocious nature and also shows it’s incredible sleekness, colour and aggression. I really enjoyed painting the indication of light coming from behind – note the slightly transparent fins picking up the orange and yellow of the setting sun. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the water when these beasts are around.

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"Underwater Encounter " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Southern Wright Whale and Bottle-nose dolphin
Oil on Canvas (120cm X 80cm)
SOLD

Quite a few years ago, a client of mine approached me with and idea to paint a scene of Southern Wright Whales and bottle nose dolphin together in a large painting. “Underwater Encounter” was a very enjoyable painting for me, this time instead of painting my favorite subjects, fish in a dramatic feeding frenzy, I would paint the more graceful and playful ocean habitants. My client said that he had often watched these wonderful animals from his house in Stillbay.

Again, after days of research and sketching, I showed him the conceptual drawing, he gave me the go ahead and I began the 1.2m x .75cm painting using oil on stretched canvas.

I called this painting “Underwater Encounter” as I feel it gives the impression of an encounter in a very much alien world – the deep blue – a world of harmony, timelessness and majesty, experiencing God’s very own fingerprint.

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Giant King Fish - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

If you’re a passionate game fisherman or fly fisherman, then I’m sure, number one on your list of fish you would like to catch, or if you are one of the lucky ones that have caught before, I’m sure the Giant King Fish would be there in the top 5. The fish that has many fishing lines and rods is the King Fish. I haven’t been lucky enough to catch one of these fish, well at least not an adult, but I have listened to many stories of battles with these brutes of the reefs to know that this is a powerful fish with enough muscle to tire any fisherman. For me though the most striking attribute of the Giant King Fish is it’s build and attitude. In my King Fish painting I have tried to emphasize this with its deep keels on either sides of it’s tail flanks, it’s sickle shaped tail fin indicating power and endurance, it’s large gill cover indicating it’s large gills to absorb great amounts of oxygen from the water for energy sapping hunting sprees and not forgetting the large eyes greatly adapted to visual hunting.

After researching for this painting, I decided to have two large Kingies patrolling the mangrove flats in search of some unsuspecting fish. I needed to show their almost invincible aura and how the mid-day sun interacts with the skin surface of the fish as they move into a hunting area.

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"Yellowtail Frenzy " - Yellowtail - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (75cm X 61cm)
SOLD

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Over the years I have had increasing requests from fishermen wondering when I was going to do a painting of Yellowtail – Resulting in me deciding to paint a scene of yellowtail feeding.

A fantastic looking fish, extremely streamlined and very striking colours, with a band of copper or amber running down ether side of the flanks, the rest of the body boasting a golden shimmery glow.

Closely related to the Kingfish family, Yellowtail are recognised for being strong fighters and capable of stripping hundreds of meters of line backing. Painting the body of the fish in the foreground showing the colours laminating as the light dances over the skin in ever changing patterns from the suns rays was greatly fulfilling. I enjoyed bringing yellow into the painting which creates a wonderful contrast against the blue background. In the Painting “Yellowtail Frenzy” which is painted with oil paint on stretched canvas (75cm x 61cm), I indicated an interaction of the fish with the light filtering through the water by subtly suggesting defined edges of light being blocked by the fish.

The Yellowtail in the foreground is in pursuit of sardine, but its attention is focused on a bright coloured fly and closes in on it. As the painting suggests the moment is frantic and full of action. I strive to show fish reacting naturally to the elements and recording the event as accurately as I would imagine it would be in the wild.

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Bone Fish - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 61cm)
SOLD

Probably the most talked about saltwater Fly fishing target are the ghosts of the tropical coral flats – Bone Fish. They are often nicknamed ghosts because they are covered with thousands of “mirrors” in the shape of scales, and reflect their exact habitat. Often while stalking it is only their shadows that give the fish away. Never having caught one of these beauties before, I only have stories and piles of reference material to go by. I’ve always dreamt of fishing for these fighters on the coral. In my painting I depicted a couple of Bone fish feeding amongst the mangrove roots. They often give themselves away by “tailing” as they shove their snouts in the sand in search of some crustacean or other. I have shown the light creating interesting patterns on the sandy floor.

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All artwork and text is copyright 2009 Craig Bertram Smith. All rights reserved.

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