This month, I wanted to reach out to a Midwestern artist focusing on different types of fish themed art, Jonathan Marquardt of BadAxe Design. I've had the pleasure of knowing Jonathan for a number of years now, back in the days before the name BadAxe was just a great trout stream in Wisconsin. Since that time, I've been lucky enough to have a great seat to watch someone take a passion and turn it in to something so cool. We enjoy each others company on the stream as often as possible, and have shared a ton of laughs and lots of good times. He's a fishy dude with a great family and passion for the outdoors. He's really living his art.
I'm sure many of you know his art, so now sit back and get to know the artist. And if you've got an open spot on your office wall, be sure to swing by his Etsy shop and grab yourself a print.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I love Wisconsin for so many reasons and love living here with my family. We love the outdoors and this state has it all. I am married with two boys and we are expecting a little girl this fall and we are very excited.
Is art your full time job? If not, what do you do 9-5?
It is not and I am thankful for that. I have a great circle of work, life, passion going with a full time gig at YETI coolers that has me traveling a lot and meeting all kinds of great people. My spare time finds me in my home studio or out fishing with my wife Megan.
How long have you been fishing? Fly fishing?
My dad took me to the Blue Quill in Evergreen, CO when I was 16 or 17 for an Orvis school. I fished throughout college, but my skills really developed after school when I moved to Wisconsin and started fishing here.
What got you interested in fly fishing?
I’d be lying if I didn’t credit A River Runs Through It. It think that inspired lots of people, but they’re afraid to say it. More than the movie is the person who took me to see it, my dad. My dad is an obsessed fisherman and fishing is his single passion. I grew up fishing with him all the time and eventually became curious about fly fishing.
Tell me a bit more about BadAxe Design.
BadAxeDesign is my studio and takes its name from the stream in southwestern Wisconsin. It wasn’t meant to be a play on words.
How does someone as good looking as you, end up as an artist and not a model? Did you ever consider using your good looks for financial gain?
Ha ha. I’m not sure what to make of this question other than to say that after a very lucrative career modeling in Europe I decided to throw in the towel and start a career making art and selling coolers.
It seems that you’ve risen to stardom pretty quickly, including landing the cover of The Fly Fish Journal, how has it been growing you studio and getting out there?
I am very grateful for the opportunities that have come from it and am thankful for the friends I have made. The fly fishing world is a small one and the people in it are very supportive. It also helps that most everyone is addicted to fish and whether they are catching fish or thinking about fish they usually like to cover their walls with pictures of fish.
What’s been your favorite piece or project you’ve done so far?
I recently fished a commission piece entitled “Brook Trout Rising” and I am very proud of it. Measuring 16x16,” it was one of the larger pieces that I have printed by hand.
What’s been the coolest thing to come from your art work so far? i.e. accolades, sponsorships, donated pieces, etc.
I guess it would be that I was always making these prints and they were just piling up in my basement studio. The coolest experience has been putting myself out there and getting such a warm reception. I will never get tired of sharing my work with others. The best compliment an artist can receive is to have someone purchase their work and display it proudly.
What are your favorite art mediums to work in, other than finger paints?
When I am not finger painting or drawing in crayon, my favorite medium is block printmaking. I have been following some other artists on Instagram who are working in large format. I am going to attempt my largest piece yet this summer. More to come on that.
How much of your work is linocuts verse painting these days?
I would say 80% printmaking and 20% painting. I sketch in pencil and watercolor. Changing mediums is good to clear the head sometimes.
Tell me how you go about creating a piece? Do you start with a photo?
I start with a couple reference photos and use those to compose a sketch of the final piece. Once the sketch is done I add a few color references so I can keep the layers in order for full color prints. Single color pieces are not as complex in the planning phase. I hand draw the image onto the face of the block in reverse and then start carving.
If I told you to close your eyes, and picture your perfect fishing scenario, what we are we looking at? Streamers in a deep pool? Risers up and down a long stretch of river?
Small stream, fish rising. I love rising trout on a small stream with a small rod. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Dragging mice across the surface to massive rainbows? Bonefish on the flats? - What are you doing and where?
We just got back from Florida where my wife got her first tarpon on the fly. I backed her up with a nice tarpon myself. Both fish ate within 25 feet of the boat which was sweet.
I know your job and fishing have taken you all over, but what’s been your favorite trip/place to wet a line?
There are so many great places that we enjoy fishing. If I had to pick a favorite, it will always be Montana. I went to school in Bozeman and it is a special place to me. Megan and I head out there every year to fish the small streams and float the Yellowstone.
For all the groupies out there, where can we go to buy a print, learn more about your different projects or get a bit more Jonathan?