International angling artist Flick Ford created a stir in 2006 when his masterfully painted coffee table book "Fish" dropped. It was a "Meet the Beatles" of high-end fishing books, which generally sell 8,000 issues at the maximum in part because the costs can run between $1,000 and $2,000.
When broken down to 75 prints in a Ford book worth $85 apiece, the book price becomes much more palatable and understandable.
"Fish" sold more than 20,000 copies, a remarkable run that led to another book in 2008, whose sales were damaged by the Great Recession but still managed to attain the coveted 8,000 plateau eventually.
International angling artist Flick Ford
Standing hed: Look Who’s Talking
Ford has become an annual fixture at Ruhama's Books in the Sand on Boca Grande where he finished a five-day book- and print-signing run Monday. Ford shared his views on his state-of-the-art giclee print work, the need for fish conservation and his attraction to Boca Grande in a discussion with the Gazette right before the beginning of Tarpon Festival weekend.
QUESTION: Why come to Ruhama's annually?
ANNUAL: Originally, when a book comes out, they'll put you on a book tour for six months. It's worth it for the publicity. People always want to get their book personalized and signed.
Flick Ford at a glance
Birthdate: Aug. 4, 1954
Family: single with girlfriend of 20 years
Hometown: Schodack Landing, N.Y.
Residence: outside Albany, N.Y.
Education: attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.
Discovered Boca Grande: Mother and stepfather are frequent vacationers, also, book store signings at Ruhama's Books in the Sand, 333 Park Ave., Boca Grande. "My first visit would have been about 2002. The fishing was fantastic."
Q: How surprising was the massive success of your first book?
A: The first book did far better than anyone expected. Normally, a coffee table book is considered a success if it sells 8,000 copies. I think it came out in October and by May they were closing in on 20,000 copies. So it did very, very well, better than anyone expected.
Q: Including you?
A: Well, I was new to publishing, so, yeah (laughs). I was happy to hear it was doing well.
Q: Your art carries your books. Do you handle the writing, too?
A: They let me write 10 of the stories for the first book. It was really written by Dean Travis Clark, who at the time was an editor at Bonnier Corp. and also had a TV fishing show. That was kind of a thrill. I got to be an author for the first time. The second book was written by a historian, Mike Rivkin of the International Game Fish Association, and that book came out, unfortunately, in the fall of 2008. It's almost sold out.
Q: What's the next book?
A: I'm working on a two-volume collection of the freshwater tropical fish of the world. We're thinking of calling it "Wild." That's being done in a different kind of way. It will appear first as a self-published book. I'm going to write the whole thing. It will be about their natural life history, of how they live in the wild. It will be done as a limited edition book of prints.
Q: Your books aren't just about striking prints. They serve a purpose, too, don't they?
A: This next book will be used as a conservation and awareness tool. I'm working with Mr. Steve Smith of Pegasus Capital Advisors. We'll do 75 of the freshwater fish and 75 of the reef fish. Then it will be moved into print books.
Q: How long does it take to pull together one of your books?
A: About a year. I started in September and will finish by next September. They'll have a huge show in august to get more people behind the book.
Q: Publishing has changed, you say. How?
A: They do stuff with educational gaming, digital applications. It's all kind of new to me. I'm used to traditional publishing. I used to do mainly sport fishing but now I'm moving more into conservation. It's all new and exciting. It's a different world now. You can't get the book advances to live off of the way you used to. Now it's all geared toward the digital side of the property until they figure out different ways of financing them. You've got to keep up with technology and the times.
Q: What first made you decide you had a book, and now books, in you?
A: I started painting fish just for myself to keep records of the best fish I was catching. In 1993, I left the city and the commercial art business after 25 years of doing commercial art in some form or another. I didn't like the direction it was going. Also, they were hiring 20-somethings at money it took me years to make and they were letting them tell me what to do. I didn't like that. By 1998, I had left commercial art business altogether.
Q: How did you find an artistic niche that had been neglected through your hobby of painting your own catch?
A: I went out to bookstores looking for reference books for fish to help me with my paintings and I couldn't find any good ones. They all had tiny illustrations or you'd find one with nice illustrations that was out of print. So I looked and thought about it and said: There really is nothing. But I never imagined myself at that point becoming an author and doing a book myself.
Q: What was your big break?
A: My father saw an ad in the New Yorker magazine for a 1999 James Prosek show (the best-selling "Joe and Me"). My father, unbeknownst to me, took a bunch of my paintings and took them to the gallery. They farmed and matted my pieces and had them at the Prosek book-signing and art show. I think I sold two and maybe a couple weeks later, two more. And I said, "Oh my gosh. This is what I should do."
Q: How much fishing do you still do today?
A: The official story is I spend 150 days a year. It's probably less today.
Q: The World's Richest Tarpon Tournament in Boca Grande emphasizes education and conservation. Doesn't it seem as if your work fits right in here.
A: The reason I do this, what consider I do different and special, is I don't show the fish under water swimming around or show them being hook4d and caught by anglers. I just show the fish with the hopes that the beauty of these animals, as I do them as realistically as possibly, creates empathy and awareness so that we try to save them eventually