Apocalypse and Eels: 2020 and 2021 Roughfish Contest Buttons

2020: Fishing vs. the Apocalypse

Though 2020 will be remembered for the negatives, the annual Roughfish.com species contest was a bright spot. Despite being reformatted as a series of weekly challenges—to discourage travel and encourage exploration of waters close to home—and stretched 10 weeks instead of the usual month, it still gave us all an opportunity to get out of the house and focus on experiencing the natural world in positive ways. Knowing that the contest would be a light in the darkness, I drew a Longear Sunfish dispelling dark clouds. Prints (12 inches x 12 inches, framed or unframed) are available in my Etsy store.

“Fishing vs. the Apocalypse” The title is an allusion to Matthew L. Miller’s brilliant Fishing Through the Apocalypse: An Angler’s Adventures in the 21st Century (2019). If you haven’t read the book, get a copy. Now!

smallmouth bass

The 2020 button in action, identifying a smallmouth bass as having been caught during the contest.

2021: The Year of the Eel

In 2021, thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to worry about symbolism or a message. Instead, I was pleased to be able to get back to just trying to make a cool picture of a cool fish. I went with one of the roughest, toughest and coolest of fishes, the American Eel.

My daughter caught this Rock Bass (possibly eventually to be split off as its own species, Cherokee Bass) in North Carolina.

A funky looking Goldfish I caught for the contest.

While I was drawing the eel, the plan was always to carve the design into wood and print it. Woodcuts are my favorite form of printmaking, and possibly my favorite form of illustration. Here is a peek at the key (black) block, which is one of three carved so far (each prints a different color). Once I get them all printed (and finish building the simple printing press I will use), they will also be for sale in my Etsy store.

The key (black) block of the American Eel woodcut (and a little bit of the orange block). Prints will measure approximately 12 inches by 12 inches. (Yes, the image on the block is backwards: that’s how printing works.)

A Brief History of Roughfish.com Contest Buttons

There has been a button every year since 2007, and I’ve had the honor of designing six of them: the two above plus 2013’s pumpkinseed, 2014’s bowfin, 2016’s election year black buffalo, and 2019’s psychedelic bullhead (for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock).

All 15 buttons.

All the buttons so far. (This should be an animated GIF. If it isn’t changing, click on it and see if it works in the pop-up.)

If you’re curious, there might be more info about the 2013 button here, the 2014 button here, and the 2016 button here.

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