In 2012, Richie Gudzan was a corporate executive who set out on a side venture that has now become his passion.

Gudzan started a rootsy little clothing brand using his artwork on T-shirts, which he called Paddle Out, built around his passion for surfing, fishing and paddling. This artistic endeavor enabled Gudzan to tap his creative side and to have some fun. When Gudzan and his wife had a little girl later that year his world changed.

“Suddenly that corporate ladder didn’t really seem to lead anywhere, and I decided I wanted my life’s work to be something my little girl could be proud of, something that influenced other people and allowed me to effectively use the creativity I’d been given.”

In May 2013, Gudzan made the bold move to cash in his 401k and embrace becoming an artist.A fisherman, paddler, surfer and painter, the water moves the artist to express what he experiences in his artwork.

“There is no place more inspiring than the Emerald Coast,” he said. “It’s where I fish, play and find the clarity to create the work I’m most proud of.”

Gudzan has spent the last few years painting, looking for opportunities to showcase his work and growing his Paddle Out brand.

 “I am living by my faith, and finally understanding what it means to be free,” he said.

Seaside gallery owner Anne Hunter was introduced to Gudzan by a mutual friend and was impressed. “He has young energy,” said Hunter. “His inspiration is coming from depth, and his passion shows. There seemed to be something more to him than meets the eye and it made me curious.” Hunter thought Gudzan and his art would be perfect for one of her special exhibits.”He’s an outdoorsman in a community of nature lovers,” she said of her decision to feature Gudzan.

The exhibit, entitled “Moved By Water,” is a series of life-sized paintings of fish, caught by the artist, and covered in oil-based pigment on handmade rice paper. Gudzan goes out in the Gulf fishing, then transforms his catch into works of art.

Hunter opened Anne Hunter Gallery on Central Square last year and hosts special shows when the right combination comes along.

Moved By Water will be up through Oct. 15.The gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Written by Deborah Wheeler for The Walton Sun, Thursday, September 22, 2016

Photography by Jack Gardner

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