Fd: Artist and fisherman. What came first? How did it all begin?
Dan: It began with art. I have been blessed with some artistic ability, and at a very young age, I was drawing. That developed into a lifelong pursuit and passion, and it’s manifested itself in many different ways as I’ve been drawn to a variety of subjects and media. I was also blessed to be born into a family of fishermen. Both grandfathers were devoted anglers, my uncles followed suit and my Dad has taught me everything I know about fly fishing. A small bluegill caught on a nightcrawler on the banks of the Kankakee River when I was two years old spawned an addiction to being on the water and chasing fish. I’m not sure why it took me so long to marry the two passions, but about 10 years ago, fish became the primary theme of my artwork.
Fd: Why did you choose to work with watercolor?
Dan: It’s fast, colorful and, at least within the style I paint, requires pretty intense concentration. That being said, it also helps to have a “go with the flow” mentality, as mistakes are not easily corrected. But, I’ve learned to be adaptable and often the mishaps become unexpected and wonderful aspects of the finished work. I’ve tried oils, acrylics, pastels … you name it. But, I always come back to watercolor.
Fd: What spots are you fishing these days? We saw some nice bows on soft hackles on your blog recently.
Dan: I live in middle Tennessee, and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by lakes, streams and tailraces. The Caney Fork River is my favorite local trout water, but I also make a few trips each year to fish with family on the Little Red River in Heber Springs, Ark. The Caney is a great river, but the Little Red is both legendary and prolific. Some of my best fishing days have been spent in local streams and creeks, which can offer some really unexpected surprises, including some pretty big smallmouth bass. I’m also a huge fan of saltwater, and recently spent a few days on the beach and bay in the Apalachicola, Fla., area chasing red and black drum, bluefish, sharks and anything else willing to bite. I gravitate to fly fishing, certainly. But, I have an equal love for fishing for largemouth bass on conventional tackle, and a huge passion for surf-fishing.
Fd: What advice would you give to those who haven’t taken that big step into doing what one loves for a living?
Dan: Always pursue doing something you love for a living. It’s not always feasible, and often, responsibility will necessitate a different path. But, you have to continue to pursue your dream. You’ve got to make time to explore your true passion. One day, it will be prosperous, but it will always be rewarding.
Fd: Where can we find more about your artwork?
Dan: The best way is through my website, dansharley.com. Additionally, I maintain a blog, the not-so-cleverly titled, “Dan Sharley and the Art of Fishing”. Both are great resources for info about me and my art, although the blog often trends towards tales of fishing adventures. The online gallery called Shallowfish features a great number of my prints and paintings for sale, and I’m also a featured artist on the fly-fishing mega-site Midcurrent.
And here's some Little Red River action by Dan: