South Florida’s Eric Estrada catches fish by day and paints fish by night with a style all his own.
Eric Estrada is a Miami-based artist known for his stunning oil-based paintings of fishing and angling. A professional fisherman as well, Estrada embodies the south Florida lifestyle combining his love for rod and reel along with brush and canvas.
Estrada has accumulated a large swathe of loyal fans that follow his exploits on and off the water via social media and purchase his wares via his e-commerce website Shopestrada.com
We caught up with the Florida artist between fishing trips to get the background on his steady rise above the artistic top water and to take notes on living the dream.
Q&A – Eric Astrada
What’s your artist origin story?
Growing up, my father was an artist. He used to drag me along and help him out on jobs, doing murals in restaurants and whatnot. So I grew up exposed to the fact that you can make a living painting. Once I got into high school, I started doing graffiti all over Miami. As I got older, in my 20s, I kinda grew out of graffiti. I didn’t really want to be vandalizing anybody’s stuff. My buddy suggested I try painting on canvas, so we went to Wal-Mart, bought some paint supplies and some canvas and I drew a Red Fish tail. It wasn’t very good.
Why a fish?
Like painting, I grew up fishing. My mom was really into it and she always liked fishing with light tackle. So every weekend, each summer, we’d go down to the Keys. My grandfather was a pastor at a church in Key West, so we’d drive down there for the summer and fish. And I remember seeing Tarpon down there when I was eight years old and it was just mind blowing. Like they were these giant silver chrome dinosaurs essentially.
So you combined your love of art and your love of fishing.
Do you have any formal art schooling or training?
No, I haven’t had any formal training other than helping my dad. I mean, he used to make me do all the grunt work and then he’d come in and do the detail work. I kind of just learned that way. Later, I also, for many years, did custom paint work on boats and on cars.
Tell us about your technique.
At first, painting on canvas was weird. I used to draw with pens and markers and stuff, and I used to do a lot of stuff with paint on walls, but the canvas was different. I took it as a challenge. I decided to figure out how to make painting on canvas work. I focused on just getting a feel for the paint and the texture. So for a couple of weeks I just worked on smearing paint with my finger on the canvas just to see how it felt. Eventually I figured out how to start with a brush or a paint marker and then smear with my fingers. I like that approach, it gives it a different look.
You’ve built a rather big following on social. How did that all come about?
Well, before the artwork, I had already made sort of a name for myself in the fishing industry, at least locally in Florida. I had started doing a lot of photography of all of my fishing trips and posting it on my blog. So I already kind of had a little bit of a following doing just that. And then when I started doing more paintings I had an actual product. In 2012 I painted my first canvas. A month later I quit my day job. And I’ve been doing art (and fishing) full time ever since.
How do you find the balance between fishing and painting?
I feel like the fishing kinda solidifies the art. You know what I mean? For example, I have friends that have gone to art school and are amazing artists but can’t seem to find a market for their work. Whereas the actual fishing and the artwork of fishing really compliment themselves, obviously. I’ve been told it’s also a tribute to the fact that I actually live the lifestyle and the audience that is a fan of both.
So do you mostly do paintings on spec or on commission?
I mostly do whatever I’m inspired by. If I’m out fishing, I see something, I want to paint it. I catch a fish, I want to paint that fish. Essentially I’ll photograph it and then paint it. But I do have a lot of guys that commission me or companies that commission me to do work for them. For example I’m working on a project with Yuengling brewing company currently, creating custom artwork for some of their apparel and also painting at different events with them throughout Miami and Fort Lauderdale area.
What’s upcoming for you?
I have a new apparel launch coming. It’s called Fender Pointe, which is named after a famous fishing spot in Biscayne Bay. I’m also going to create a new YouTube channel with one of my best friends, Jasiel Morales. We have been helping each other out on our own projects individually, but now we’re going to launch a project together. I’m sure we could do some real cool stuff together. So keep an eye out for that.
For more on Eric Estrada and his artwork and content, be sure to check out these links:
James C. Sullivan is a guitarist, singer and long-time journalist having worked at publications including Snowboarder Magazine and USA Today. He recently returned to his roots in New England after a decade in California because cold winters and cloudy days inspire more creativity.