I recently came across an up-and-coming artist while perusing social media one day. While she may not be a lifelong fly fisherwoman, her recent graphic and colorful portrayal of trout mesmerizes anyone who sees it. She is currently a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at the STAMPS School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan and has recently fallen in love with the sport of fly fishing and recreating its beauty!
Flylords: What role has fishing played in your life? Does it inspire your work?
Sophia: My first experience catching a rainbow trout was life-altering. Not only was the entire fly-fishing process an eye-opening experience, but holding this beautiful creature in my hands afterward, watching the light refract through its colorful scales, left me awestruck – there is nothing that will help you understand a fish’s beauty more than that. Although I am still learning the intricacies of fly fishing, as we all are, the sport has become such a treat in my life. It is something that truly fuels my work. You will notice my style is a lot more graphic than other artists as it really tries to emphasize the colors in the fish. The fish themselves already have all these colors naturally, but I enjoy highlighting them in my artwork. I also use iridescent gold paint, so the scales really pop if you look at the painting from some subtle angles. This is my favorite finishing touch to add to my paintings, a true tribute to the fish’s incredible characteristics.
Flylords: Where do your interest in fishing and artistic ability come from?
Sophia: I grew up in Florida. But I spent my summers in Michigan visiting my family’s river house on the famous Au Sable River. From as early as I can remember, the river house walls were always adorned with beautiful watercolor trout paintings done by my father and great-grandfather. My great-grandfather, although not one of the original 16, was a part of Trout Unlimited from its inception. The musty smell of my dad opening his fly box, full of glistening feathers, as we walked down the long red dock to the rushing river out back will forever be engrained in my childhood memories. Between my grandfather and dad, fishing and painting have just always been a part of my life.
Flylords: What is your typical art like? Do you specialize in a particular technique?
Sophia: For my job as a design intern at UMich, I do a lot of digital illustrations (you can see this on my website. These include lots of campus scenes. I love working digitally. I have so much freedom within the software, but my favorite medium is acrylic on massive canvases. My recent trout works show this. Before that, my last big project was called “To: and From: A Collaboration of Art and Prose” where I created collages on postcards using vintage national geographic magazines from the 60s and 70s. Each subject was repainted on life-size canvases, with a mailbox filled with postcard replicas under each piece. Exhibitors had the option to write a story to go along with the piece and offer their own interpretation, one aspect of art I adore as everyone sees something different.
Flylords: What is Sophia Noel’s artistic process?
Sophia: My artistic process usually starts with a theme. I create art in themes and get pulled deep into them. Trout was the latest theme. I find a lot of inspiration from nature like most artists. I am always conscious of my surroundings and mentally exploring how I can flatten the 3D world to really emphasize the more subtle beautiful elements.
Flylords: Since you are newer to fishing, what is your fondest fishing memory?
Sophia: While living in Florida, my dad’s best friend was a charter boat captain. He took us out one day and I landed my first fish when I was around 10. It was a hearty yellow jack from the Gulf of Mexico. I think everyone at least can remember their first fish, even more so since it wasn’t the stereotypical sunfish. But my fondest memory is rather new. I only picked up a fly rod for the first time in 2020 on a trip to Colorado. I loved everything about fly fishing: the timing, reading the river, the wait, the fight, and the incredible scenery. As I mentioned before, this really lit a spark and changed my art for the moment. My brother and I now regularly fish the Au Sable river, it’s quite nostalgic.
Flylords: Some artists like to paint outdoors, others inside, what is your method?
Sophia: My roommates typically loathe me because I turn our living room space into a full-blown makeshift art studio very quickly. I love to paint outside in the summer and fall. But being in Michigan, where it is currently negative degrees Fahrenheit when I find time outside to paint, it is a luxury. One summer, when I lived in Maine, prior to Michigan, I brought four massive canvases to an island off the mainland called Perks island by ferry and spent a week painting on the back porch all day.
Flylords: What is your craziest fishing story?
Sophia: When I was young, my brother and I set up two lines in our backyard pond in Florida. I went inside for a quick moment but soon heard my brother screaming at the top of his lungs. As I returned, I see a monstrous black catfish thrashing about followed by my brother getting pulled face first, fully dressed nonetheless, into the murky brown pond. I ran to him, grabbed his arm, and began pulling him out of the water before the gators ate him for dinner. At that moment, the fishing pole snaps clean in half and sadly this story ends without catfish for dinner. It has been a family favorite ever since it happened.
Flylords: Any other hobbies besides fishing and art?
Sophia: Music is a big hobby of mine. I am the singer of an R&B Rock band based in Ann Arbor. I play gigs at local bars and venues, as well as private parties. I’m not sure if this counts as a hobby but I love to travel to random, exciting destinations for bargain prices. I am always perusing for cheap stays on Airbnb and airline flights. Other than that, the usual outdoor activities shared by most: surfing, hiking, mountain biking, four-wheeling, and pretty much anything that moves fast.
Flylords: What is next for Sophia Noel?
Sophia: The recent body of work is only the beginning of my fly-fishing art journey! My next experiments will be with landscape backgrounds, followed by some half-underwater compositions. I’m always amazed by this type of photography where you can see the fish in its natural element followed by the beautiful scenery it was caught in. Imagine bringing these to art! But currently, I got commissioned to create some more trout images followed by some saltwater fish. I want to build a body of saltwater work that is particularly tropical and lively.
Flylords: How can someone get in touch with you if interested in your art?