Spotted Hunter - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
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.