Flick Ford, 69, grew up in the Hudson Valley and now lives near Albany. An exhibit of his watercolors, Portraits of Putnam County Fish, will be on display at 160 Main St. in Cold Spring on May 6.

How did you develop your meticulous painting process?
Wherever I caught a fish, I would take photographs while it was still alive, to get the color. I shot close-ups of the head, the tail, the whole thing, and from various angles. I also put it in different light so I could take a highlight or catch a reflection or capture some iridescence. I put the fish on ice and, when I got home, I laid it on a brown paper bag to make a tracing. If you paint from photographs you get a slightly distorted image, but with a tracing I would have the perfect morphology. I then render the outline on watercolor paper. I would hand-draw the head and tail and the colors from the photographs. Finally, I would cook and eat the fish.

Is there a technical name for these types of paintings?
They are taxonomic-plate-style paintings. They’re silhouettes on white. What you’re showing is the taxonomy of the animal. The style rose to popularity in the 1890s when people were going all over the world and discovering plants, animals, fish, birds and insects. The paintings were inexpensive, which allowed the Victorians to hang them in their drawing rooms and parlors. They brought science into the household. They were supposed to be extremely accurate. People like myself still do them.

How do you hope people react when they see your paintings?
I want to get people to look at one particular animal or fish and get a real appreciation for it. For instance, most people think of a white perch as just a silver fish. But I see the bronze in there and other colors. A good scientific illustration will show you stuff that you don’t see right away unless you have a strong eye for detail.

Your exhibit will include 34 species. Can you tell us about one fish?
For Putnam County, the most important panfish was the white perch. They were an extremely important staple for the development of the area. They were netted by the hundreds, and even thousands, in most lakes and impoundments. They were smoked and eaten fresh. It’s an interesting fish to try to catch. They’re always on the move. When you find them, you have to make a lot of casts as fast as you can and get as many lines in the water as fast as you can. You’ll catch a bunch and then they’ll disappear. They’re delicious. Along with the striped bass, they’re a real Putnam County delicacy.

You grew up fishing all over New York. What is your favorite fish to catch?
I love brook trout, especially painting them. It’s native to the East Coast. It’s the most colorful trout. It has a flame-red belly during breeding season. They have a vermiculated pattern on their back with blue and red spots. They’re just plain beautiful. I would encourage people to Google them for a look. They’re little jewel-like treasures. They’re also the best-tasting trout. Most anglers will find them very easy to catch.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Joey Asher is a freelance writer and former reporter for The Journal News.