wirth: You’ve gained notoriety for your wild and wacky cartoon illustrations of bass fishing characters and situations. How did you develop your unique sense of humor? Who or what influ- enced your hilariously off-kilter perspective on life while you were growing up?
arMStroNG: The irreverent satire of Mad Magazine was a major influence, and made me realize it could be funny and hip to poke fun at the establishment. Mad’s illustrators – Dave Berg, Will Elder, Don Martin -- were the absolute best! Sixties record albums by standup comedians like Jonathan Winters, Brother Dave Gardner and Bob Newhart also made a big impact. But it was my Grandpa Armstrong who really taught me to obser ve the hu- man element. He’d say, “Chris, keep your mouth shut and your eyes open!” That proved to be the best advice a future illustrator like me could ever get. In school, I learned more about what makes people tick by hanging out with oddballs and misfits than by spend- ing time with future insurance salesmen.
wirth: You’re a graduate of the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, one of the most pres-
wirth: What is it about fishing, and bass fishing in particular, that captures your imagination and inspires you as an artist?
arMStroNG: For me, fishing is all about the thrill of the hunt, the beauty and mystery of the outdoors and the friends I’m sharing the experience with. I enjoy almost every type of angling, but my passion is saltwater fishing. I grew up on the Ribault River in Jacksonville, Florida, fishing from the bank for bream, croakers and anything else that swam by. We threw cast nets for shrimp – how many kids today would get their face out of a computer long enough to learn how to throw a cast net? Live bait ruled – we used worms, crickets, grasshoppers, whatever we could dig out from under a rock and stick on a hook. Even as a kid, I found fishing to be a time to sit and think about stuff. I think too many bass fishermen today overlook the contempla- tive benefits of fishing – they’re always in a huge hurry to catch something.
wirth: So did you fish for bass as a kid as well?
arMStroNG: You can’t not fish for bass if you grow up in Florida. Bass were, and are, great fun to catch, but I didn’t know too much about their haunts and habits back then. I learned a lot more about bass when I started doing freelance work for outdoor magazines. Because this species is so popular, most of my illustra- tion assignments centered around some aspect of bass fishing, so I made a point to study up on them, both from natural his- tory books and on-the-water observation.
wirth: I knew I was going to be a writer from the second grade, when the teacher had me stand up in class and read the little story I’d written. What’s your earliest recollection of your displaying artistic talent?
arMStroNG: I remember watching this 1950s TV show called “Romper Room.” They had a drawing con- test every week where the host would draw a line or circle or something and challenge the kiddies to make their own drawing out of it. I won the contest one week -- I think I got an Ovaltine mug for a prize. I used to love coloring books and got a good vibe early on from being able to color inside the lines. Of course, later on, I learned it was more fun coloring outside the lines.