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Meet Wildlife Artist Leslie McDonald, Jr.

September 1st, 2019

MG 3948 625x400 Meet Wildlife Artist Leslie McDonald, Jr.

Born in Victoria, Texas Leslie McDoanld, Jr. has been painting wildlife art for over 33 years.

Surf Wreck 625x400 Meet Wildlife Artist Leslie McDonald, Jr.

Surf Wreck

Interview by Kelly Groce

Where are you from and when did you start painting?
I was born in Victoria, Texas on December 22, 1943, a war baby. The Texas Gulf Coast was my domain. The warm waters of Matagorda Bay became my playground. My mother says, “Les was born in the water with a shotgun in one hand and a rod and reel in the other”. In 1954, when my grandmother died, the family moved from Victoria to Port O’Connor. I was 11 years old.

I started painting when I was in the sixth grade. As most artists starting out, I painted in oils and pencil sketches. One evening after a day of hunting, having finished dinner, I decided to sketch one of the ducks I had seen that day, a Pintail launching itself off the water into flight. I guess I was being too quiet and my mother came in and saw what I was doing. She looked at the scene I was sketching in colored pencil and said, “I didn’t know you could do that”. I said I didn’t either. She went back to the kitchen and I went back to my sketching.

In junior high school, I started entering local art competitions in the mall and the county fair. I immediately started winning awards and placing in competitions. I did take a few painting classes when I was in the 8th grade. The lady lived 19 miles away in Seadrift, so it was a chore getting to her class. There were no art classes in my high school in Port Lavaca, Texas. My senior year I was the editor of our high school yearbook. So, art was in my blood from the start. Then it was off to college where I majored in Commercial Art. I graduated near the top of major. I then went to Houston and got a job right off the bat as a production artist in one of the top advertising agencies. I was in advertising for almost 20 years.

I continued to paint, but mainly in oils. My studio was in a bedroom at our home. Without good ventilation, the oils, turpentine, linseed oil, etc. was driving me nuts. I made the decision to try another medium, watercolor. I immediately fell in love with it. It was so light and fresh, and you could do so many things with it. I never went back to oil paints. I find that you can do more with watercolor than all other mediums combined. You can paint drool, scratch, dab, mop, salt, plus a wide variety of other techniques. I mainly paint in high detail.

Tidal Flat Roseates

Watercolor is now my passion. I concentrate more on the outdoors, wildlife, birds, landscapes, seascapes, and sporting art. I do paint lots of birds, mainly from the coast. I like capturing their color, their action, their moods, and their subtle mannerisms.

I find myself working on several pieces at a time. Sometimes it’s out of necessity of having to let a piece dry, so I go work on something else for a while. I did try teaching classes for a while, but I found it to constraining on my time. I have done a couple of workshops, but that way I’m done in a week.

Many honors and awards have come my way down through the years. I was the Sponsor Print Artist for Texas Ducks Unlimited in 1992-’93, and Artist of the Year in 1993-94. Also, Artist of the Year for Waterfowl U.S.A. in 1990, 1991 and 1996, and the Sponsor Print Artist in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005. In 2002, Les was selected by Quail Unlimited as the stamp print artist for 2002, and The Dove Sportsman’s Society stamp print artist for 2003. I am in several art galleries and have exhibited with many of the nation’s top artists in national wildlife art shows across the country. Some of these shows include: The Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland, The National Wildlife Art Show in Kansas City, Kansas, The Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, South Carolina, Nature Works in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Florida Wildlife Expo in Orlando, Florida.

My painting “Alaska Crab Traps” has received honors everywhere I have entered it. It was a 5-month obsession where it was the only thing I worked on. I shot the original photo 20 years ago in Cordova Harbor in Alaska. I would run across that photo and say to myself, “One of these days I’m going to paint that thing”, so I did, and it was worth every minute. Getting into the American Watercolor Society International Show is a great honor. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Break Out

How did you get into painting wildlife and nature?
I guess growing up in Port O’Connor. I was surrounded with wildlife. Ducks, fishing and hunting, it was all my passion.

What is your favorite fish to catch?
Speckled trout is my favorite of all. There was an old man, Mr. Bradshaw, that had an old rowboat tied to a stake in the bay. He would fish almost every day and take his fish to Clark’s Seafood and sell them for $.10 a pound. We started fishing together. He taught me a lot. Many times I would give him my fish to sell. He taught me how to tie knots and rig spoons. A silver spoon with a yellow bucktail and a trailer about 10” long with a treble hook and a white bucktail. We caught at lot of trout.

Where do you mostly fish and with who?
I fish a lot with Hollis Forrester out of Sargent in East Matagorda Bay. Also with Steve Hillman out of Topwater Grill in San Leon in the Galveston Bay system.

Where can our readers purchase and enjoy your artwork?
My work is currently available on my website www.lesmcdonald.com. My artwork is displayed in some galleries such as Port Aransas Art Center, Lattitude’s Gallery in Rockport and the Gallery at Round Top. Also, they may come by my studio in Houston. They just need to call first and set a time. I’m in and out.

Taking Flight

How long have you been partnering with Laguna Madre Clothing Co.?
Just in the last month. Taylor is very excited I’m with his program. My pelican piece “Taking Flight” is featured on one of his performance fishing shirts.

Do you work with any organizations or foundations that you would like to tell our readers about?
I am a big supporter of many charities and conservation organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, Coastal Conservation Association, Quail Unlimited, Waterfowl U.S.A, and many others. I was the Texas Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year in 1993-94, and my print “Pintail Pair” was featured in all the Texas chapter banquets as well as on all the program covers. I was also a Sponsor Print Artist for Texas Ducks Unlimited in 1992-93. I’ve been the Artist of the Year for Waterfowl U.S.A. in 1990, 1991 and 1996, and the Sponsor Print Artist in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005. In 2002, I was selected by Quail Unlimited as the stamp print artist for 2002, and The Dove Sportsman’s Society stamp print artist for 2003.

Any other news or info you would like to share?
I get the opportunity to showcase in national wildlife art shows across the country. Some of these shows include: The Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland, The National Wildlife Art Show in Kansas City, Kansas, The Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, South Carolina, Nature Works in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Florida Wildlife Expo in Orlando, Florida.

For me, there is nothing more important than being in the great outdoors. It’s the inspiration that generates my desire to paint. When I’m not hunting or fishing, you can find me working in my studio.

Dragging for Bait

Which One to Choose

Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

May 1st, 2019

bart me2 1024x700 Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

Capt. Bartt Caron and myself doubled-up on slot redfish while drifitng Land Cut. D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Brian Barrera

UPPER LAGUNA MADRE – BAFFIN BAY – LAND CUT

By Kelly Groce

DSC 0237 746x1024 Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

Bill Carson of Humminbird, was all smiles and laughs while catching trout on D.O.A. 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Kelly Groce

Early in April, I got a call from talented fishing guide, surfer and all around waterman, Capt. Joey Farah, that reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Texas country singer, Gary P. Nunn, “Meet Me Down in Corpus.” Joey invited me to fish the Upper Laguna Madre area with D.O.A. Fishing Lures for their spring Outdoor Writers Event. Baffin Bay and Land Cut are places that I’ve dreamed of fishing for quite awhile and these writers events are always a blast, so without hesitation I was in.

Let me familiarize you with the Land Cut if you don’t know already. Land Cut is a 25-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway between Padre Island and Port Mansfield. On one side you have the Padre Island National Seashore and on the other side is the Kenedy Ranch. It’s a beautiful and remote area that takes about an hour by boat to get to. The fishing is phenomenal there and without a doubt one of the prettiest stretches of the Texas coast I’ve laid eyes on.

My fishing buddies for the event were Bill Carson, Field Marketing Manager of Humminbird, and Capt. Brian Barrera, D.O.A. Fishing Lures’ Manager of Marketing and Business Development, and a fishing guide on South Padre Island that specializes in catching snook and tarpon. Our fishing guide was Capt. Bartt Caron. Bartt is an extremely knowledgeable big trout fisherman that knows the Upper Laguna Madre like the back of his hand. When he speaks about fishing, you listen. Bartt owns a beautiful 25’ Haynie Bigfoot with a 350HP Mercury on the back. That thing hauls ‘tater!

Not only does Capt. Brian Barrera like throwing a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin, but trout like eating it too. Photo: Kelly Groce

DAY 1 OF FISHING
When I say a front blew in that morning, I mean a front blew in that morning. There were wind gusts up to 53 mph and it was raining sideways by 5:15 a.m. After the front passed, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and everyone met at Marker 37 Marina, which is on Padre Island right beside the JFK Causway.

Bartt, Bill, Brian and myself loaded up the boat and ran towards the King Ranch Shoreline. Bartt threw out the drift sock and we started doing some pretty fast drifts since the wind was still howling in the 30mph range. We fished hard til about 4:30 p.m. Everyone caught fish, but Bill was on top of the leader board catching some chunky trout throughout the breezy day. The 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker was definitely the ticket.

That evening back at the condo, we all congregated around as Capt. Joey Farah and Capt. Braeden Thomas fried some drum, redfish, and trout from the day’s fishing trips. Bill Carson made his famous key lime pie for us, which was a real treat. It’s always a good time talking and hanging out with the D.O.A. crew; Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, Ruby Delgado, and Taylor Garcia. Also in good company was Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Taylor Winzeler, Robert Sloan, Dustin Cartrett, Bartt Caron, Bill Blodgett, Andrew Lassiter, Rocky Guerra and his wife Silver.

Good Friday was a perfect morning of fishing. Photo: Kelly Groce

Capt. Bartt Caron with a healthy Land Cut trout caught on a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse.
Photo: Kelly Groce

DAY 2 OF FISHING
Good Friday was blissful with warm temps and blue skies. Everyone was at Marker 37 Marina by 6:15 a.m. Red Bull, cold beer, D.O.A. lures, great people – check! We got to Land Cut in no time, thanks to Capt. Bartt’s Haynie, and began our drift. Since Land Cut is part of the ICW, it has shallow flats on each side with a drop off to about 12 feet of water in the middle. I was positioned at the back of the boat and started working my 4” C.A.L. Texas Croaker Jerk Bait on a 1/4 oz. D.O.A. jig head on the flats through grass and patches of sand. Before long I was hooked up on a slot redfish. Bartt and Brian were both sticking some nice trout where the flat dropped off to deeper water. They were using the 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker. We drifted for 2 hours and steadily caught nice fish. At one point Bartt and myself doubled up on slot redfish. It doesn’t get much more fun that that. Capt. Bartt also scored a bonus flounder shortly after. We got to a slough where Bart caught a solid trout. Brian switched up to a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin. I took photos and watched the guys as they caught trout back-to-back and had double hookups. Bartt finished the day off with an upper slot redfish that we all watched charge at a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartruese on the flats. Seeing the wake from a hungry redfish is always a cool sight to see.

Another guide on the trip, Capt. Braeden Thomas, invited everyone to meet at his family’s fishing cabin on Baffin Bay. We pull up to the dock and I’m looking at a piece of Texas paradise. Joey and Braeden gave me a tour of his place that has been in the family for over 80 years. It was like a time warp to the 50’s inside. Old fishing lures, maps, catch of the day photos, and all types of other nautical nick-knacks covered the ceiling and walls. I’ve never seen a place more perfect in all of my life. From inside the cabin you can see the crystal clear water of Baffin Bay through the windows. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than at Braeden’s fishing cabin.

This fishing cabin, overlooking the pristine waters of Baffin Bay, has been in Capt. Braeden Thomas’ family for over 80 years. Photo: Kelly Groce

Our delicious meal prepared by Chef Jeff at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. Photo: Kelly Groce

Cindy Nguyen, Ruby Delgado and myself ended the day at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. It was very nice walking straight off the boat to a restaurant on the water. We enjoyed a cold Modelo and conversated as Chef Jeff prepared our post-fishing meal. Chef Jeff graduated from Johnson & Wales College, which is one of the leading culinary institutions in the country and he has 30 years of culinary experience. He prepared grilled Gulf shrimp over basmati rice with baby spinach topped with a rich cilantro butter sauce and fresh roma tomatos in addition with a side of lemon scented asparagus and guacamole with lump crab topped with perfectly fried tortilla strips. I was blown away by the aromas and colors from my plate. It was almost too pretty to eat. But I did and it was the best post-fishing meal I have ever had. Delicious food combined with a view of the Upper Laguna Madre, your best buds, and a cold beverage is about all you can ask for after a day of fishing.

My first fish of the day and it was a pretty one.
Photo: Brian Barrera

I want to give a big thanks to Joey Farah for the invitation to the D.O.A. Lures Outdoor Writers Event. Thank you for the great memories while testing these fish-catching lures in your backyard. Next time we’re surfing too! I’m forever grateful to Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, and Ruby Delgado of D.O.A., you guys are amazing. Also, thank you Taylor Winzeler from Laguna Madre Clothing Co. for supplying us with top notch fishing apparel. As for Chef Jeff and Marker 37 Marina, I can’t say enough good things about how well they treated us. I will be back soon!

The weather is only getting better and the Upper Laguna Madre fishery is phenomenal, so if you would like to fish this area, contact any of these knowledgable and upstanding guides; Capt. Joey Farah, Capt. Bartt Caron, Capt. Braeden Thomas and Capt. Andrew Lassiter.

Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina is the perfect place to enjoy a meal by Chef Jeff after a day on the water. Photos: Kelly Groce