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We’ve been waiting to share this with you for months now: You’re looking at the first cover of the brand-new Field & Stream journal! Our goal with this cover was simple: Create a modern classic. The “classic” half began with drawing inspiration from our cover archives—specifically, the April 1938 cover of a lone fly angler wet-wading a stream for native brook trout. Next, we enlisted the talents of wildlife artist Ryan Kirby to bring the original artwork to life for the modern version shown here.

If you think the cover looks sharp, just wait till you see what’s inside. The first issue of the F&S journal is at the printer now and will ship to homes soon. If you’re not a member of the 1871 Club, be sure to join today to get your own copy of this modern classic.

Back to the cover: For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ryan Kirby’s work, you can see some of his stunning waterfowl, turkey, whitetail, and other wildlife paintings on his website. Kirby has done illustrations for Field & Stream before—but this is his first cover. After he completed the project, we sat down with him to discuss the painting, his creative process, and his shared excitement for the revitalized Field & Stream journal.

F&S: What inspired you to become a wildlife artist?  

RK: Growing up in a small farm town, I was surrounded by livestock and wildlife. We had acreage and could hunt out of our back door. Later, I found out I had a certain amount of artistic ability and a great high-school art teacher to help me get started. Wildlife was my first love and passion, and art came later. Eventually, I combined them into a career.  

F&S: When did you start painting hunting and fishing scenes?  

RK: My high-school art teacher got me involved in the junior duck stamp program in the late ‘90s. That’s where I started, and I ended up winning the national competition when I was a junior in high school. After that, the older guys at our local gun club would bring photos of their bird dogs for me to paint. I would go to the club every Thursday to shoot trap with my high school team, and the older gentlemen there would hand me 5X7 glossy photos of their labs and pointers for me to reference. That’s where I got my first real commission and sold my first pieces.  

F&S: How do you describe your painting style?  

RK: I like to capture moments in time, and I like to paint from the viewpoint of the hunter or angler. I really like to focus on the subject matter and let some of the minor details fade away. I don’t paint every leaf and every blade of grass. The viewer can piece those smaller details together themselves. Then I try to paint realistic and simplified and tight on the subject matter. 

F&S: Did you read Field & Stream as a kid?   

RK: I was born in ’82, so back in my formative years, there wasn’t the internet and there wasn’t YouTube. But there was Field & Stream. I looked forward to getting F&S in the mail like a kid in a candy store. I learned so many tips, tactics, and techniques from magazines growing up. Unless you had someone to show you, magazines were how you learned, and I had Field & Stream to help me.  

F&S: How’s it feel to land the first cover of the new Field & Stream?   

RK: Awesome. I love the retro vibe that the brand has leaned into. Across the outdoor industry, we’ve seen a return to the idea of getting back to our roots, like with original camo patterns. And I think it’s cool to see Field & Stream go back to print and tap into that.  

F&S: Did this assignment tap into that vibe for you?  

RK: Oh, yeah. Growing up, I remember seeing old F&S covers of hunting and fishing scenes and thinking, Man, that’s awesome. I never thought I’d have the chance to paint an F&S cover myself.   

F&S: What’s your favorite part about that original painting?  

RK: I think that it’s got a cool perspective. Obviously, it has a vintage, kind of a retro vibe and feel to it. Around here, in North Carolina, pursuing native trout is a big thing. There are guys hiking two or three miles up into a stream to catch a trout that’s six inches long. This cover has a connection to that and taps into solo backcountry adventures. It has an independent spirit about it too, and I really like that.  

F&S: How do you recreate the work of another artist while still making it your own?   

RK: No matter what I paint, my style will find its way into it. I evaluate the other artist’s work with a critical eye, figure out what I would change, and go from there. Once I have the concept on the easel, it takes on a life of its own.    

F&S: Did you get to do any fishing for research purposes? 

RK: Ha! No. But I did spend hours photographing streams and having friends pose as anglers for this cover. I’ll remember to do more hands-on prep if there’s a next one. Hint, hint. 

Learn how to get the all-new Field & Stream journal!