Nate Karnes: An Artist’s Fire Rekindled


“Brook Trout” from the “Heads or Tails” Series.
All works by Nate Karnes

Growing up in South Knoxville, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Nate Karnes had always loved the outdoors, and he had loved fishing since his dad first took him. He spent countless hours exploring nearby creeks, ponds, and rivers. But when he discovered fly fishing, Nate knew that he had found the perfect outlet for both his love of the outdoors and his creativity.

Karnes says he’s fascinated with the concept of taking natural elements and using them to create pieces of art that portray other natural things, specifically fish. His work is a unique combination of styles and media—somewhat of a fusion of painting and woodworking—and each work has a dimensional aspect that makes it a one of a kind. Some pieces combine woodworking with staining and painting, giving them a texture and warmth that only wood conveys. Other pieces are multi-layered paintings that offer a different perspective of angling and the outdoor experience. Karnes says that he considers it a compliment when someone asks to touch one of his paintings because that is confirmation that they’ve felt draw in by his multi-layered approach.


Brown Trout Skin

Working from his an old wine-cellar basement in Joplin, Missouri, Karnes launched Scalefish Studio in January, 2103. In fact, it was the tragic Joplin tornado of 2011 that finally drove him to become a full-time artist. Although his home was spared by the storm, seeing first-hand how fragile life and security are caused Karnes to do some soul-searching and explore what he should be doing with his life.


The Pig Series is available as stickers or on T shirts.

In 2012, he finally sat down to complete a painting—of a native brook trout from the mountains where he was raised—and his artists fire was rekindled. As he worked on that first painting, his mind was flooded with ideas for other works and other ways to explore the media. Aside from his complete painting, Karnes also sells cards and tee shirts. His fascination with fish scales and skin lead to some gorgeous, colorful paintings that capture the abstract beauty of the fish we love. To see more of his work, visit his website, or follow him on Facebook.


“Abstract Brown,” made from oak dowel rods, stain, and acrylic.

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