Derby's grand slam contest inspires new print series
Outdoor artist Dimitry Schidlovsky's "The Steal" is the latest in a series of oil paintings and limited edition prints inspired by the Derby's grand slam competition, the quest to catch the heaviest (combined weight) striped bass, bluefish, bonito, and false albacore. Photos Courtesy of Dimitry Schidlovsky
Speak to a fisherman during the 60th Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and the conversation will often be framed in terms of big fish caught and lost. But the heart of the story will always be about the fishing experience.
That experience can take many forms and not necessarily involve catching a fish but simply fishing surrounded by the natural beauty that is the Island's constant backdrop.
Added to that are those singular moments that define fishing. Like an encounter with a bluefish, captured in the oil painting, "The Steal," by outdoor artist Dimitry Schidlovsky for the Derby.
The painting is the second in a series of oil paintings and signed limited edition prints commissioned by the Derby committee to honor the skill and determination it takes to win the grand slam competition.
The grand slam competition is a series of sprints within a marathon. The object is to catch a bonito, false albacore, striped bass and bluefish during the course of the five-week long Derby from shore or boat with a rod and reel or a fly rod.
Last year's Derby grand slam winners each received a signed limited edition print of "Passing Chance," the first in the derby's grand slam series by artist Dimitry Schidlovsky.
The fishermen with the heaviest combined total weight of all four Derby species in each of the four categories are judged to be a winner. The Derby grand slam winning fishermen are an elite group.
In the main derby competition, a lucky catch of one fish can propel an inexperienced fisherman on to the winners' podium. Winning grand slam fishermen make their luck.
The fact that the Derby selected an artist who is also a fisherman and outdoorsman adds an element of authenticity that is evident within the print created to honor what it takes to be a grand slam winner.
Ed Jerome of Edgartown, Derby president, said the derby committee came up with the idea to create a special print that could be presented to each year's grand slam winners as a way to recognize the grand slam accomplishment.
An Edgartown resident introduced Dimitry to the committee and he provided some sketches. The committee liked what it saw and that led to an oil painting titled "Passing Chance" and a run of limited edition prints, only four of which carry a Derby grand slam designation and date on the mat. "We saw it as a blending of art and trophy," said Ed, "something each winner can be proud of."
Initially, the committee planned to use the same image each year. But Dimitry offered to produce a second painting, one that followed in the spirit of the first painting. That led to a decision by the committee to commission Dimitry to produce a five-year grand slam series going forward with options to renew the series. Each original oil painting and all but four of the 750 print edition made from it are for sale.
Ed said what shows through in this year's painting is Dimitry's artistic skill and his ability to capture the spirit of the Derby in a classic image. Dimitry's ability to put the feel of the outdoor experience on canvas is not limited to fishing. His work has appeared in many venues including Outdoor Life magazine, where he is a contributing artist.
Speaking from his studio in Sea Cliff, N.Y., Dimitry said that each image in the grand slam series will tell a story that connects to the fishing experience and folklore of fishing in some way.
"The Steal" comes from his experience of bringing up a fish only to have a bluefish hit at the fly or lure and cut his line. "I think quite a few people have experienced it," said Dimitry, who first fished the Derby back in the early 80s.
Dimitry, who studied biology at a college in Maine, said he pulls from his various experiences for his paintings. "I fish, things happen, and I try to illuminate them," he said.
Each painting begins with a series of drawings that help him to define the composition of the final image. "There is a creative process there that is a balance between the experience and what I want to convey, how I want to engage the viewer," he said.
Dimitry's artwork includes a series called Trophy Prints. The collection includes striped bass, bonito, fluke, bluefish and weakfish. There is also a whitetail deer in the mix. The first time I saw his striped bass print I was impressed with the accuracy and feel of the striper's color.
He attributes his ability to get it right to being around fish and fishing for much of his life. "When you are fishing with your eyes open and your heart open it is just a natural osmosis," he said, "It kind of permeates your head, it is fairly spontaneous actually. I start gearing the color and I intuitively know what I want to get and I work towards it."
He chooses to work in oil because the pigments provide a deep medium for what are, at 30 by 40 inches, fairly large paintings.
Dimitry grew up in New Jersey and has had a studio on Long Island for the past 20 years. As an artist, the proximity to New York City's publishing business is important for his work.
He summers on Moosehead Lake in Maine with his wife and two teenage boys, Constantine and Max.
His two original grand slam series oil paintings are on display at the Edgartown Art Gallery on South Summer Street in Edgartown. Selections from his Trophy Prints series are on display at the Edgartown Scrimshaw Gallery on Main Street in Edgartown and the Kennedy Gallery in Vineyard Haven.
The spectrum of Dimitry's work is also available on his web site at www.dimitry.com.
He plans to be at the Derby awards ceremony when four of the best fishermen on Martha's Vineyard receive a copy of his print. The reaction of one of last year's winners says something about the artist and his art.
At the conclusion of the Derby awards ceremony, Lev Wlodyka of Chilmark, the 59th Derby's boat division all tackle grand slam champion and a past Derby grand winner who has won a boat load of prizes over the years (including a boat), told Dimitry how happy he was to win the print.
"It was a charge to get that kind of response from somebody who fishes as hard as he does," said Dimitry. "He was right in that competition."
Lost life jacket
Ed "Bonito" Lepore called Monday to say he found a West Marine inflatable life jacket floating in the water Sunday just outside the entrance to Oak Bluffs Harbor.
Ed suspects the life jacket blew out of someone's boat. The owner can give Ed a call at 508-693-3595.