AN OLD ADAGE SAYS THAT THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN FOOD AND ART. BUT FOR NOKOMIS-BASED ARTIST BRENDAN COUDAL, THE SUBJECT OF THE ART HAS BEEN KNOWN TO BECOME THE FOOD.
It starts with a composition or sketch of a fish or other marine life. That sketch becomes a lifelike oil painting. The subjects of his paintings depend on what fish are running and how much he is fishing. But often, if that fish is edible, it ends up being used in a recipe by his wife (and business partner), Nicole, who has her own coastal-cuisine-inspired food blog.
“If we can honor it in either a painting or photography, and maybe Nicole can create a recipe or something like that, it’s kind of like that fish is immortalized,” says Brendan.
“We just have access to amazing, beautiful fish … we go out and catch a trout or a redfish and we honor every aspect of that fish,” adds Nicole.
Brendan makes his success look easy, but he’s quick to point out that it was only by way of other entrepreneurial pursuits that he realized his art might just be able to sustain him.
In 2000, while he was managing a beachfront hotel on Casey Key, the hotel owner commissioned him to do a watercolor painting for one of the rooms. Her only parameter: something blue.
“So I did this little beach scene with a dude fly fishing on a horizon and that was it,” says Brendan.
His first commission made him $50; today his sought-after paintings have been purchased by some famous names [Stephen King and Linda Hamilton] as well as locals, and they sell for much more.
“At one point early on in my career, Nicole said to me ‘If you are an artist, you have to own it.’”
That encouragement transformed Brendan from someone who did art on the side into a full-time artist.
Even though his creative talent is raw and self-taught, he credits mentor John Seerey-Lester, a well-known wildlife painter who lives in Osprey, for giving him great direction and accelerating his learning curve.
A love of fishing and scuba diving is what initially brought game and sport fish to Brendan’s canvas. Tarpon, although not edible, is one of his favorite fish to catch and paint; redfish and mahi-mahi round out his favorite edible fish to paint. Often, though, he is just inspired by whatever fish is in season.
“I go every chance I get, but sometimes this work thing gets in the way,” he says.
His marine life paintings put him on the map, but after encountering an original painting by renowned pinup artist Gil Elvgren in 2006, he expanded into the mid-century modern genre.
In the spring of 2007 Brendan Coudal released five paintings in his first series of “retro gals.”
Most of the “retro gal” paintings still incorporate fishing in some way, though recently he has incorporated mermaids into the mix with a painting that was used for the Florida Winefest Auction.
“Half girl, half fish,” he says. “I mean, what could be better than that?”
Brendan’s renaissance nature keeps him constantly moving and growing in his art, and he has no plans to slow down any time soon. In addition to his marine life and “retro gal” paintings, he also does illustrations based on his two cats, Phoebe and Max. And he has a private-label apparel line in the works.
“We are constantly amazed that we made it this far,” he says, “but even more excited about the opportunities and blessings ahead.”
Brendan’s work can be purchased in various fine retail stores from Longboat Key to Boca Grande and he has art showcased in various restaurants like the Casey Key Fish House, Pelican Alley, Paradise Grill, and Left Coast Seafood. He also accepts commission work.
“I am really grateful for all of the customers we’ve had and more than anything I just like to stand back and watch the response when they are looking at my artwork,” he says. “It’s fun to see.”