Realtree Mourns Passing of Outdoor Illustrator Chris Armstrong
Guest Post by Scott Hughes, Realtree Director of Digital Media
The hunting and fishing industries lost a good friend on April 23rd when illustrator Chris Armstrong passed away after a brief illness at the age of 66. I had the pleasure of working with Armstrong during an 8-year stint at B.A.S.S., Inc., and later after moving to Realtree.
If you've read many hunting and fishing magazines over the past three decades, you've more than likely seen Armstrong's masterful artwork. Whether it was a detailed rendering of a lunker bass zeroing in on a diving crankbait or an aerial view of a big buck's bedding and feeding patterns, Armstrong's art brought written stories to life with amazing visual detail. Armstrong was a master of realism, but he was equally comfortable depicting outlandish and comical characters from tall tales and outdoor adventures published by outdoor writers from across the country.
Armstrong grew up in Florida and spent much of his time exploring its woods and waters. He was an avid angler. He earned his degree from the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota. In the late '70s, while employed as a editorial illustrator for the Jacksonville (Florida) Times-Union newspaper, Armstrong was asked to illustrate some deer-hunting tips for the now-defunct Southern Outdoors magazine, which was published by B.A.S.S., Inc.
With an upstairs studio in his home, Armstrong was a one-man, art-producing machine. He was as fast and efficient as he was good. I don't recall him ever missing a deadline.
After that initial assignment, requests for his work grew to cover topics in Bassmaster, Southern Saltwater, B.A.S.S. Times and several other publications. Eventually, Armstrong left his full-time job to devote his time and talents entirely to freelance artwork (his business was later named Smackwater Studio, Inc).
With an upstairs studio in his home, Armstrong was a one-man, art-producing machine. He was as fast and efficient as he was good. I don't recall him ever missing a deadline. And his work pace totally contradicted his calm, cool and collected personality. He never seemed rattled by tight deadlines or work-intensive assignments. He often would take a 2- to 3-day deadline and turn the work around in 24 hours or less. I still believe Armstrong was a founding member of the Sleepless Elite!
When I accepted a position with Realtree in 1996, I made sure that the Armstrong's Smackwater Studio business card was in my pocket. We utilized his talents for a number of marketing initiatives that needed creative visuals, from comps and proposal mock-ups to finished art.
Armstrong's talents later reached even larger audiences when he was commissioned to illustrate a walking mural at the headquarters of the National Estuarine Research Reserve at Guana Tolomato Matanzas on Florida's Atlantic Coast, as well as another for the state of Florida that details the pre-Columbian lives of American Indians who lived near Okeechobee.
Chris Armstrong will be laid to rest in Jacksonville this afternoon, (Friday, May 2, 2014) and will be dearly missed by many. But his friendship and extraordinary talents will never be forgotten.
See more on Chris Armstrong and his career with Bassmaster Magazine here.