2012-11-14 / Family

Artist lures in art lovers

By Joan Tupponce

Chesterfield artist Bill Grossman works on a lure for his Nov. 2-Dec.4 show at the main branch of the Richmond Library. 
John Beebe /Chesterfield Observer Chesterfield artist Bill Grossman works on a lure for his Nov. 2-Dec.4 show at the main branch of the Richmond Library. John Beebe /Chesterfield Observer Artist Bill Grossman has found a way to combine his love of fishing with his penchant for art.

Grossman, who retired after 32 years of teaching art in Bronx, N.Y., and now lives in Chesterfield, crafts working fishing lures and traditional fish decoys that many art lovers collect. His work will be displayed at the Richmond Public Library’s main branch second floor gallery in Richmond through Dec. 4.

Grossman became interested in fishing when he was a youngster. He began making fishing tackle when he was teenager but put that endeavor aside to pursue his love of art. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree, he enjoyed a long career in art and art education. As he neared retirement age, he became disillusioned with painting and trying to sell his paintings.

“I had hoped for more,” he said. “It was time to retire.”

Fifteen years ago at the age of 47 he decided to go back to his fishing roots.

“I stopped painting on a canvas and began making fishing lures and traditional fish decoys. I went from two-dimensional art to three-dimensional art,” he said. “Everything seemed to flow. I found a lot of success in it.”

His work has been included in several books and publications such as “Fishing Lure Collectables, Vol. II,” “Folk Art Fishing Collectables,” and “The History of Fishing Lures.” He also has been highlighted in Bassmaster magazine, Virginia Wildlife magazine and the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club Magazine.

Grossman made his first lure in 1997 and fell in love with the process of carving and painting. His creations can be used for fishing but many people see them as art and would rather collect or display them.

“They are intricately painted,” Grossman said. “They look realistic.”

Grossman brush paints all of his art and uses a multilayered glazing process in addition to unusual materials to create depth and detail. Most fish artists, he said, air brush their work.

All of his work is hand-carved from hardwoods such as maple, walnut, mahogany and cherry unlike many fish artists who use soft woods.

“The hardwoods work better in the water,” he said. “They are more durable. The hooks will not pull out of them.”

He makes several lures at one time.

“It’s too difficult to make one at a time,” he said. “I work on 10 to 15 at a time. They take me a couple of hours apiece.”

His lures represent all types of creatures, from mice to crayfish.

“Anything a fish will eat, I will make, except bugs,” he said. “With frogs I try to achieve a folk art look.”

Most of the fish decoys that he makes are display pieces even though they can be used in fishing.

“There is not much call for fish decoys anymore,” he said, noting that the decoys are used for spearing fish through the ice. “In most states they have been banned.”

Grossman has participated in the National Folk Festival in Richmond and also the Richmond Folk Festival. His work has been displayed in local galleries in Petersburg.

“I have a nice following,” he said. “Most of it is through word of mouth.”

Grossman now tries to fish 150 days a year. Most days he fishes on Swift Creek Reservoir.

“I try to get out every other day,” he said, adding that he always uses the lures he makes. “They do very well. I catch a lot with them. The biggest fish that I caught on the reservoir was over 12 pounds.”

The Richmond Public Library is at 101 E. Franklin St.

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