Artist Glenn Wolff and writer Nelson Bryant collaborate once again

Artist Glenn Wolff and writer Nelson Bryant collaborate once again

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"Nightfishing," one of more than 250 pen and ink drawings Glenn Wolf provided for Nelson Bryant's Outdoors column in the New York Times. — Photo by Glenn Wolff

The style of the illustration that accompanies Nelson Bryant’s essay on deer hunting published nearby this week may be familiar to readers who recall Mr. Bryant’s Outdoors column, published in the New York Times from 1967 to his retirement in 2005.

It is the work of artist Glenn Wolff and represents an artistic reunion of sorts between Mr. Bryant and Mr. Wolff.

Beginning in 1979, Mr. Wolff’s pen-and-ink illustrations accompanied the Outdoors column. The evocative images and attention to detail traced the currents of the written word in a collaboration that delighted New York Times readers for 26 years.

Over time the two spoke on the phone and exchanged letters. But it would be 15 years before they met face-to-face, and the setting was Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Wolff was living in Michigan, having returned to his native state in 1987. From there he regularly illustrated Outdoors columns. Mr. Bryant lived in West Tisbury, home base for his many travels.

In July 1994, Peter Conway, a fan of both men, arranged a show of Mr. Wolff’s original and limited edition prints at the West Chop Club. On the porch of the Cedars, writer and illustrator met for the first and only time.

During his brief stay, Mr. Wolff, a trout fisherman, accepted my invitation to fly fish for striped bass. Late at night, with the illumination cast by a starlit sky, he and I stood on a sandbar in Lake Tashmoo and cast to stripers slurping sand eels on the surface of the water.

I was fishing with a new fly I had tied using a balsa wood insert to keep it on the surface. The fish were finicky, but the fly was effective, and I continued to catch fish until one particularly violent strike fractured my sandeel imitation.

At one point in the night, I told Glenn that no camera could ever capture the beauty of an evening like the one we were experiencing. Only an artist could do that, I said.

Months later, a package arrived from Michigan. Inside was a watercolor of a fly fisherman under a night sky in Tashmoo. Under the image was a detailed drawing of the slightly fractured fly I had used with some success that evening.

Several weeks ago, The MV Times asked Mr. Bryant to write about deer hunting over the years and on Martha’s Vineyard, for our Thanksgiving issue. His essay arrived well before deadline.

Deer hunting is an undertaking that allows time to think. Sitting in a tree stand in Chilmark waiting for a deer to come within bow range, I thought about Nelson Bryant’s essay and wondered how we might illustrate it. Then I thought about the watercolor on my wall.

I had not been in contact with Glenn Wolff for more than 17 years. Google helped me answer the most immediate question. He was alive, well, and continuing at his profession.

I emailed the artist at his studio in Michigan last week. I asked if he remembered an evening fly fishing for striped bass on Martha’s Vineyard. I said that Nelson Bryant is approaching 90 and added, “Not bad for a guy who jumped into Normandy and Holland.”

Glenn Wolff responded immediately. “I would be happy and honored to illustrate the piece,” he said.

About the artist

Glenn Wolff’s career began in New York as an illustrator for clients that included the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Central Park Conservancy, and the New York Zoological Society.

He recently illustrated “The Windward Shore; A Winter on the Great Lakes” by Jerry Dennis (University of Michigan Press), and “No Shortage of Good Days” by John Gierach (Simon and Schuster).

For his illustration, Mr. Wolff relied in part on photos of West Tisbury swamps and a deer captured on a hunter’s trail camera in Chilmark.

Original fine art, prints, and more information is available at www.glennwolff.com.

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