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Years of Deep Curiosity, The Art of Ray Troll
Paintings © Ray Troll
Ray Troll and his first t-shirt design
Ray in his studio in the summer of 1984. Photo © Ray Troll
Feburary 2012

What’s in a name?
If your name is Ray Troll, it could be that living with the name Troll for years would begin to exert an influence in some way – as in trolling for fish. But not literally.  When Ray’s art career began to take off it was fueled by a love of fish: painting fish, drawing fish, catching fish, eating fish. With an insanely popular hand silkscreened t-shirt covered in fish with the words “Let's Spawn”, a career was launched.

Ray at his sister's fish shop in 1983
Ray as a dock vendor at his sister’s business, summer of
1983. Photo © Hall Anderson.

You could say that it was fate, or destiny, or just the natural ability to do the right thing that caused Ray to move to Ketchikan in 1983. He moved north to help his sister start a seafood retail shop. In those early days he also spent time on the “slime line” at a fish processing plant (something of a prerequisite for Ketchiturians) and taught drawing classes at the community college. It was a time when the pulp and paper industry was winding down and tourism was on the rise – and the tourists (as well as locals, and folks all over the country) needed lots of t-shirts. That was over 2 million t-shirts ago.

Spawn til you die

Early Ray Troll T-shirt designs
Alaska, The Last Great Adventure is available as a T-shirt as Alaska Snacktime. The Bassackwards T-shirt and The Baitful Dead and The Baitful Dead tie-die T's are also available. View this selection larger. © Ray Troll

More fabulous images.

Ray’s first major traveling exhibit, Dancing to the Fossil Record, opened at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1995. By the time the tour ended in 1999 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it had grown to 14,000 square feet. He followed that tour with Sharkabet, a Sea of Sharks from A to Z. His latest touring show is Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway with Paleontologist Kirk Johnson, which is currently at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, FL (the schedule through 2013).

The Fish of the Salish Sea
Fishes of the Salish Sea Mural at University of Washington. The painting is 7 by 15 feet, acrylic on canvas and took about a year to paint. Completed in 2011, It hangs prominently in the lobby of the Fisheries Sciences Building. © Ray Troll
Dinosaur Highway
© Ray Troll

Today Ray is traveling all over the West Coast with paleontologist Kirk Johnson working on their new book, Cruisin' the Eternal Coastline: the Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow. In 2011, Ray and Kirk received a joint grant in Science Writing from the Guggenheim Foundation to support this project. This is a follow-up to their last award-winning collaboration, Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip.

Ages of Rock
Ages of Rock © Ray Troll

A self proclaimed “paleonerd” he is fascinated by the amazing critters of the deep past: “buzz-saw” sharks, salmon over 12 feet long, hippo-like creatures along the US west coast, surprising saber-toothed creatures (salmon, squirrels, cats), and of course, the incredible array of dinosaurs.

Through his artwork he addresses the human condition and our place in the history of this planet with a sense of humor. Sometimes important work happens to be good fun too.

Ray’s books are available through the SoHo CoHo
(owned by Ray and his wife, Michelle) as well as the main line bookstores.

Something Fishy This Way Comes   Crusin'the Fossil Freeway   Rapture of the Deep  
Sharkabet   Raptors, Fossils, Fins and Fangs

Ray also writes and performs music – check out this video as well as the Ratfish Rule video here. Buy CDs here.

Ray earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas in 1977 and an MFA in studio arts from Washington State University in 1981. In 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the University of Alaska Southeast. In 2007 he was given a gold medal for “distinction in the natural history arts” by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and in 2006 was given the Alaska Governor’s award for the arts. In addition to the Guggenheim Foundation grant, he also received Rasmuson Distinguished Artist Award in 2011. And last but not least, Ray has even had a species of ratfish named after him: Hydrolagus trolli. There are many more images and cool stuff to buy on Ray’s website:
His artwork adorns the bags, t-shirts, mugs, posters and postcards at Raven’s Brew Coffee (and, of course, here at Deadman’s Reach) and he also illustrated the novellette Deadman's Reach: The World's First Coffee Inspired Supernatural Murder Mystery by John Straley.
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