The Flylords met Steven Weinberg, a talented painter, and angler located in the Catskill Mountains. Steven creates stunning artwork that captures the beauty of the natural world. Along with his wife, Casey Scieszka, Steven runs the Spruceton Inn in West Kill, New York, where he hosts guests and artist residents. Learn more about Steven, his artwork, and the Spruceton Inn below!
Flylords: Where did you grow up?
Steven: Washington D.C. and Bethesda, MD. Those cities are not exactly the fly fishing hotbed of the country, but I spent a lot of time on the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River as a kid and have been fascinated by any kind of water ever since.
As a kid, I felt like a rug was pulled out from under me and somehow outside time was replaced by sports time. When I was around ten, the time I spent wandering around the woods or my backyard was replaced by a controlled series of practices, tournaments, and coaches yelling at me. I was not a fan! Luckily, I discovered rock climbing in high school and fell deeply into that. I think climbing was my gateway drug into fly fishing. It’s the same bunch of weirdos who love talking about nature and gear and completely reject most rules except for safety. I mean, Yvon Chouinard started out as a climber, so maybe I’m onto something!
Flylords: How did you first become interested in art?
Steven: I was one of those kids who always had a crayon in his hands (and probably mouth, too). Then, growing up in the D.C. area, I had all of the free Smithsonian museums right in my backyard! If I wasn’t outside on a Saturday morning, I was probably at one of those. There’s nothing like being able to walk into a place and know exactly where to find your favorite Sargent, O’Keeffe, Homer, dinosaur skeleton, etc. I had plenty of inspiration!
I was very lucky to have an amazing art teacher in high school and outstanding painting and art history professors at Colby College in Waterville, ME. They provided an unbelievably helpful foundation. From there I’ve traveled across the world, made a whole bunch of children’s books, and just kept painting and sketching. I’m constantly trying new approaches and watching what my friends and fellow artists are making.
Traveling right out of college and spending time in Morocco, China, and West Africa was very formative in terms of using watercolor. Most of my training had been in oil paints up till then. Oils are very hard to travel with, and I’ve tried. Watercolor dries quickly and is unforgiving, but when you nail it there’s nothing like it.
Flylords: What inspired you to start painting fish?
Steven: The fish have come directly from my love for fly fishing. Living in the Catskills now, with a fishing stream in my backyard, I spend a lot of time on the water fishing for brookies. I dare anyone to take a long look at the colors on a brook trout and not consider picking up a paintbrush.
Just about every fish I paint is one I caught, so that’s a nice part of the process. What I’ve treasured most about painting fish is getting to meet so many other anglers. I really like us! My paintings have let me do things like provide can-art for my neighbor West Kill Brewing’s Brookie Lager and illustrate the cover of Thomas McGuane’s fly fishing classic The Longest Silence. They’ve taken me from the somewhat-secretive Angler’s Club in NYC to Jimmy Kimmel’s fishing lodge in Idaho, The South Fork Lodge. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Flylords: What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your work?
Steven: It’s just like fly fishing: I’m taking the same set of tools, a similar approach, and fresh eyes to do the same thing again and again. If I do it right, it feels like I’m conjuring some set of magical powers. If not, I just need to walk up to the next pool.
Flylords: What advice would you give to folks interested in an artistic career, but don’t know where to start?
Steven: Through writing and illustrating children’s books, I talk to little kids often and I get the same question. I have the same answer! Keep making art. Beyond that, seek out teachers and learn about the history of whatever art you’re making. At its most basic it’s just like fly fishing: put in the time on the water and in the studio. Everything else flows from there.
Flylords: How did the Spruceton Inn get started?
Steven: A while back my wife Casey Scieszka and I had this wild idea that we should move from Brooklyn to the Catskills and open an inn. On day two of looking for spots we stumbled upon what had been Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cousin’s hotel. It’s tucked into the back of a quiet valley with stunning views and quite the trout stream in the backyard. A fair amount of elbow grease later, we opened and have been written up in places like the NY Times and Conde Nast Traveller. We are now in our tenth year and a friend opened an award-winning brewery down next door. It’s been a pretty nice run.
Flylords: What inspired you to create the inn’s residency program?
Steven: My wife and I are both artists (she is a writer and designer), so we knew from day one that, on top of running an inn, we wanted to share this amazing space with other creative people. We’ve now hosted 79 artists and look forward to many more!
I love getting to peek into how other artists work, and get a chance to have a beer with people whose work I love! Less selfishly, I love seeing all the artists get to know each other and start to cross-pollinate amazing ideas. Especially coming out of the pandemic, when so many of us spent so much time in our own heads and studios, this really warms my heart! Applications open in August for the coming winter residency in November. You can apply here.
Flylords: How can folks best get in touch with you to purchase prints and originals or request commissions?
Photo Courtesy of Steven Weinberg
Flylords: Is there anything else you’d like to share about fishing, artwork, or otherwise?
Steven: I love what the fly fishing community is doing to encourage more inclusivity within the sport these days. I’ve learned a lot from Erica Nelson, Eeland Stribling, and everyone at Brown Folks Fishing to name just a few. Fly fishing belongs to all of us!