By: Phil Monahan
Dr. Brandon Finnorn discovered his passion for creating art when life threw him a curveball back in 2016, but he hasn’t looked back since. (You can get the full story of his remarkable journey by reading his blog post “Stethoscope to Sketchpad.”) In the short time since he first launched his Etsy shop TheBonnieFly and his business Finnorn Illustrations, he has become one of the premier fishing artists along the Gulf Coast. Brandon was kind enough to submit to our “5 Questions” grilling and explain how he has arrived at his current situation.
1. Where are you from, and what do you do for a living?
I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, and I currently reside in Madisonville, Louisiana, a small town on the other side of the pond from New Orleans. As a full-time fine artist and illustrator, I create digital graphics for brands and clothing companies, as well as work on my own original fine art, focused mainly in charcoal, pastel, and digital painting.
2. Where and when did you start fishing?
I spent most of my childhood on Mobile Bay and Dauphin Island, Alabama, fishing for inshore saltwater species. I started fishing at age two on the Dauphin Island Pier with a Mickey Mouse rod with a push-button reel. I still spend every other weekend driving from my home in Madisonville to fish with my dad and brothers in Alabama. Although there is legendary fishing here in Louisiana, I still find myself preferring the time spent with family in my home waters.
3. When and how did you start drawing/painting? Did you study?
I remember my dad teaching me the basics of drawing a horse, which then turned into sketches of saltwater fish in the margins of every notebook from grade school to medical school. Prior to 2016, I had never given my sketching much of a second thought. It was just something to pass the time in lectures.
After graduating medical school in the spring of 2016, I was preparing to start pediatric residency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There was a month or so gap between finishing school and starting in the hospital. So naturally, like any obsessed fisherman does, I decided to attempt to learn fly fishing around southwestern Pennsylvania.
Up until that time, I had grown up in shorts and short sleeves, fly-casting for saltwater fish on the beach or from the family boat. I had no experience with wading streams, nymphing, or tossing dry flies to freshwater species. After a week of fishing various streams in the area and catching my first brown and rainbow trout, I was hooked! But there was something that I didn’t account for . . . something that I knew to be a classic and easy medical exam question.
Northeast United States. Outdoors. Deer. See those words in a question and the answer in the multiple choice is easy: Lyme disease. I never found the rash or spotted the deer tick that bit me. After weeks of unexplained night sweats, chills, and finally Bell’s Palsy, I found myself spending the majority of my first year of residency on medical leave with arthritic joint pain and suffering from memory loss. As a medical student, you thrive on memorization under pressure. Suddenly, I could hardly find my way to the grocery store or remember the day of the week. During that time away from patient care, I started sketching old fishing photos to pass the time. Eventually, daily sketching kept me going through those trying days. It became apparent that I had a real passion for the work.
On December 1, 2016, after making a full recovery, I decided to leave medicine and pursue a full-time career in fine art and illustration.
4. What is your connection between your love of art and fishing? When did they come together?
Fishing has always intrigued the scientific part of me that enjoys understanding the different bird species, crustaceans, and life that thrives in coastal environments. It’s hard to accurately describe the unique sights and sounds that accompany spending time in the outdoors. Fine art has given me the opportunity to bring to life the epic and beautiful things I’ve witnessed on the water.
5. What’s up next for you?
I currently am working on a series called “Moments of Tension,” highlighting the moments before or after a fly is taken by a fish. Thus far, the series has been a lot of fun to create, and brings to life the moments when you aren’t sure of a successful hookup. This year, I am also working on my second year with the largest fishing tournament in the world, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Each year, they pick an artist to do their featured print. They have featured artists such as Guy Harvey in past years, so it’s a huge honor to be able to do it consecutive years.
This article was first posted on Orvis’s website.