Q&A With David Danforth of REEL LOCAL

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By Justin Pickett

David Danforth is a talented artist residing in Tampa, Florida and is known for boldly colorful renderings of fish species featured on his website Reel Local (www.relogear.com).

Owning a piece of his art myself, it is one of the most complimented pieces hanging on my walls. I was able exchange some words with David recently in order to learn a little more about his art and where he came from. As with many artists, the road to David’s success hasn’t been easy, but eventually zig-zagged to where he is today. 

Give us a little background about yourself. Where are you from? When did you first become interested in art and how was Reel Local conceived?

I’m a Tampa Native. Third generation Florida angler. Rare, I know to talk to a Florida non-transplant, but there are some of us around! As soon as I was able to hold something to draw with, I have always enjoyed art. It is just part of my personality to design and create. Reel Local actually started as a joke on a napkin between me and my wife. I got back into fishing after taking a break and wanted a sun protective shirt to keep me from charring on the water. After shopping around, I was a little unimpressed with what the market had to offer, especially at their prices. I said to my wife, “I want something Real, and Local. Not a Big Name that charges you $65.”  So it began, a UV Protective Shirt, for anglers, by anglers. From apparel company to also branching out as an umbrella company called Danforth Art where we also license the art to other brands for use in their product lines.

How did you develop your artistic skills? 

It was just trial and error. I never had an art school degree or any formal training.  I usually just imagine an image and then make it come to life.  From a youngster I would tattoo with markers on kids in elementary school for their lunch money. It was probably then that I realized you can make money off of drawing. I wish I would have pounced on it faster instead of working in the corporate world for ten years, although the nine-to-five sales world did teach me a lot about customer interaction, marketing, sales, how to run a business, and what not to do to be successful. I did do a stint of Cad design in high school for Yacht Designing and Architecture. I realized that art school was not reachable for me at the time, so I painted motorcycles in Texas for a few years. There may have also been some street art mixed in there that helped me grow a passion for the bright colors I use in my art now.

It’s apparent that you draw a lot of your inspiration from saltwater fishing… How long have you been fishing? Are you a “fly-or-die” angler?

I have been fishing since I was a little kid just like a lot of other fishing nuts.  I spent my childhood spending many nights on isolated islands, sleeping in hammocks, cooking our catch all the while watching my dad and his buds eat oysters, play guitar by a fire and tell fish stories.  When I first started fly fishing yes, it was “fly or die.”  As I travel more, spending time mixing it up and chasing other species, not so much. It just is not realistic. If we are offshore and spend hundreds of dollars in fuel and travel 60 miles out, and we cannot find pelagics to throw a fly at (which is our first mission), then I am definitely going to drop to the bottom with conventional gear and bring home some dinner.  Although, I did have an epic time off of Clearwater beach with good friends Mathew (Taylor Fly Fishing) and Josh (Aussie Fly Fisher).  Somehow we managed to go out on Mike Wilhites boat, vertical strip with a really heavy line and pulled in American red snapper, tuna, AJ’s and some mangrove snapper.  It is gnarly getting a nice fish to eat a fly fifty feet below a boat over a reef. Unforgettable actually!

Is there someone that is responsible for motivating you to become an artist?

Myself and my family. Art is what I love to do and I pushed myself to figure out a way to be happy every day. I had several jobs I hated and jumped around on, just like we all do until we find something that is satisfying. I quit my job and my wife said, “go for it, you have ambition, go be the best.”  It was scary at first. I was used to being comfortable with a salary, 3 kids depending on me, to just start blindfolded was nerve-racking, but motivating at the same time. My other motivation is time. Time is very valuable and it is constantly taken away from us. To me, success is knowing that the short time I have is spent how I want to spend it. Not locked in a room for eight hours every day, and that fear pushed me to put my back against the wall and force myself to figure it out.

How did you find your style of art? It’s rather unique!

I wanted to stand out. I can choose any style to paint in, however I specifically chose to have a style that when you saw it, you would recognize it as Danforth Art.  

It’s no secret that social media is king these days. In what ways has social media positively impacted your business?

Very Positive! The more people you know, the more you can network. The more assets you have, the more room you have to move and negotiate. Social Media has made us all “friends” that we talk to but never have met, and when we do end up meeting, I have had the best times and adventures with people I have met online.

I see a lot of art being “high jacked” and popping up on social feeds and the internet. Everything from photos, artistic styles, and original paintings… nothing seems safe. Has this happened to you? What kind of recourse is there for the artist?

Yes it happens to us all. There is nothing you can do about it. Some are mistakes, and some are purposely stolen with bad intention. The only way to truly protect yourself is to stay innovative. People can copy your work, but not your process because it is always adapting and changing.

What’s next for you and Reel Local? 

TRAVEL! We started doing smaller fishing shows and outdoor expos in Florida last year, which then turned into a full blown USA tour.  It was a great way to meet new people and network while also getting to fish while traveling in new spots as well. It went so well that this year we have several international shows in Australia, the UK, Germany, UAE and Canada!  This year we will be bringing the Danforth Art style to species and fishing cultures from all over the world. 

Give David and Reel Local a looksee over on his website (www.relogear.com). Also, be sure to check out some of more recent works of art on Instagram at @reellocal! Aside from some awesome art prints and canvases, he also offers high performance apparel featuring some of his most popular art work for a very reasonable price!

Check it out at www.relogear.com!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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