Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors Cover Art Is a Singular Story
It is often the first comment I hear when I hand someone a copy of Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors: “What a beautiful cover.”
The cover illustration is the work of Michigan artist Glenn Wolff. The images include fishermen at Wasque Rip, a deer under a holly tree, a big striped bass I caught in the Squibnocket surf, my beloved dog Tashmoo and his duck hunting companion Emmet, longtime Chilmark selectman and decoy carver Herbert Hancock, and a fisherman in the surf at Gay Head Light.
Glenn and I met only once. It was twenty-three years ago on his first and only visit to Martha’s Vineyard. But in thinking about a book cover that would reflect the themes I wanted to convey I knew he was the man to ask to do the job.
Our friendship began with a reporting assignment and a late night fishing trip to Tashmoo Pond.
From 1967 to his retirement in 1998, Nelson Bryant wrote the Wood, Field and Stream column, later called Outdoors, in The New York Times. Beginning in 1979, Glenn’s pen-and-ink illustrations accompanied the column. Over time the two spoke on the phone and exchanged letters but never met face-to-face.
Glenn was living in New York and later returned to Michigan. Nelson Bryant lived in West Tisbury, home base for his many travels.
In July 1994, Peter Conway, a fan of both men, arranged a show of Glenn’s original and limited edition prints at the West Chop Club. On the porch of the Cedars, writer and illustrator met for the first and only time. I reported on the event in The MV Times.
During his brief Island stay, Glenn, a trout fisherman, accepted my invitation to fly fish for striped bass. Late at night, with the illumination cast by a starlit sky, he and I stood on a sandbar in Lake Tashmoo and cast to stripers slurping sand eels on the surface of the water.
I was fishing with a new fly I had tied using a balsa wood insert to keep the fly up on the surface. The fish were finicky, but the fly was effective, and I continued to catch fish until one particularly violent strike fractured my sand eel imitation.
At one point in the night, I told Glenn that no camera could ever capture the beauty of an evening like the one we were experiencing. Only an artist could do that, I said.
Months later, an unexpected package arrived from Michigan. Inside was a watercolor of a fly fisherman under a night sky in Tashmoo. Under the image was a detailed drawing of the slightly fractured fly I had used with some success that evening.
Glenn and I would not reconnect again until October 2012. I had asked Nelson Bryant to write about deer hunting over the years and on Martha’s Vineyard, for the Thanksgiving issue in The MV Times.
It was hunting season and sitting in a tree stand in Chilmark waiting for a deer to come within bow range gave me time to think. I thought about Nelson Bryant’s essay and wondered how we might illustrate it. Then I thought about the watercolor on my wall.
I had not been in contact with Glenn Wolff for a long time. Google helped me answer the most immediate question. He was alive, well, and continuing at his profession.
I emailed the artist at his studio in Michigan. I asked if he remembered an evening fly fishing for striped bass on Martha’s Vineyard. I said that Nelson Bryant is approaching 90 and added, “Not bad for a guy who jumped into Normandy and Holland.”
Glenn responded immediately. “I would be happy and honored to illustrate the piece,” he said.
I did not tell Nelson Bryant about the Glenn Wolff illustration. I wanted the reunion of sorts to be a surprise. The biggest challenge for me was getting Nelson Bryant to reveal the approximate location that was the focus of his hunting essay so I could send Glenn a photo that he could use to get the landscape correct. Writer Nelson Bryant Recalls a Lifetime in the Hunt appeared with an illustration by Glenn Wolff in The MV Times on Nov. 20, 2012.
Seven years later, Glenn responded just as enthusiastically to my request to create the cover illustration for Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors. I could not have been happier with the result.
For more about Glenn Wolff or to view his original fine art and prints go to www.glennwolff.com.