About Philip

What got me into fly fishing and tying?

I never enjoyed fishing as a kid. I found it rather boring putting a worm on a hook, then sitting there waiting for the bobber to move. I tried spin casting, but I didn’t really like it, either.

I’ve always been more of a learner and thinker, and thought fishing was just a bunch of doing nothing. You just sat on shore bored or mindlessly and repeatedly cast a lure. I needed things to stoke my love of learning and love of the visual arts to keep me interested.

It wasn’t until I walked into The Woodsman in Fort Smith Arkansas that I found fly fishing. And it was fascinating! Fly fishing involved learning about aquatic insects, casting a fly line, tying beautiful flies, and plenty of other stuff. I was in heaven.

It wasn’t long before I walked out with a new rod, reel, and fly line. But I didn’t stop there. Luckily for me, Fly Fishing Guide and Artist Duane Hada was in the shop that day. Duane showed me how to tie a simple dry fly and set me up with some cheap, basic fly tying equipment, too. 

I quickly learned that I loved fly tying as much (or more) than the fishing

I enjoyed learning new flies and filling my fly box full of imitations. And there was nothing as satisfying as catching a fish on a fly you created yourself.

This was the big difference between worm fishing and lure fishing. I was learning about aquatic insects, how fish live and feed on them, and how to tie patterns to imitate each insect through all their life stages. 

And I went even further by building my own fly rod. Well, it was more like putting lego together than any high craftsmanship. But I still love taking my custom Scott 3-weight fly rod to alpine lakes for native cutthroat trout.

Those trips, as well as others, have inspired cartoons on this site

Have I always been a cartoonist? 

No. I’ve always wanted to draw cartoons, but never learned how. 

Portrait of Philip Riggs with some cartoons he's drawn in the background.

Me with just a few of the cartoons I drew while learning cartooning skills.

Growing up, I loved Snoopy and Peanuts, Looney Tunes cartoons, Frank & Ernest, The Far Side, and any cartoons that made things look fun. Those and many other cartoons inspired me to want to draw cartoons. I loved the absurdity of situations in cartoons, I loved the bold colorful look of cartoons, I loved how they expressed ideas in funny ways, and I loved exaggeration.

So, why did I never learn to draw cartoons? It’s the same thing that happens to many of us. One day in school I was drawing and a classmate laughed at me. So, I stopped trying.

But that desire to express myself visually never went away. I  have always been known for drawing ideas while explaining. I’ve always had an interest in photography, graphic design, woodcarving, art, and many, many other visual arts and design subjects. Yet, none captured my attention like cartoons.

I finally took the plunge and learned how to draw cartoons.

Cartoon of father absorbed in music with headphones not paying attention to children.

What else do I do?

My favorite place to travel for vacation is Europe. I love the old buildings, all the art, and walking along the narrow streets filled with classic architecture.

Raise four kids. They are finally getting interested in fishing, so I’m looking forward to new adventures (and new cartoons) with the kids.

What do I do for a living?

Actually, many things. My career has revolved around numbers, data, and graphics. 

Mainly, I work as a Data Scientist. That means I create programs for data processing and analysis using databases, the Python programming language, the R statistics package, and geographic information systems (GIS). 

I use my artistic and design skills to create data graphics and information graphics.

I’m known as a creative problem solver who can seemingly do anything with data. A lot of that has to do with creative ways to clean data, join lots of different data sets together, and provide data in nearly whatever format anybody needs.

CartoonsAboutRiggsKids2

I also draw cartoons about things our kids do.

The job I have loved most in my career was teaching applied statistics for a semester at the University of Colorado at Denver. The subject that interests me most is limnology, the study of freshwater lakes and streams. I especially like the chemical and physical properties of water bodies.

These two interests led me to begin a new project joining teaching statistics with fish and limnological examples. The project is still under development, but it’s called FishyStats.

I also help people who struggle with writing articles for publication on websites, blogs, and magazines write faster. Writing was always both frustrating and interesting. I never really enjoyed writing until I learned a system that made organizing material easier. Now I help others learn that system. I keep writing—and public speaking—information on a website called Unpretzel.

What makes me who I am?

My main strengths are love of learning, creativity, appreciation of beauty and excellence, humor, and curiosity. 

Cartoon of Jake being distracted by a fishing lure, then chasing it.

Yes, I have many interests (my curiosity) that can easily distract me. But my main loves are drawing cartoons and fly fishing/fly tying.

I think these strengths show in my cartoons. I bring in things I learn as new ideas, work and imagine to create unexpected cartoons ideas, am always learning and practicing to improve the visual appeal of my cartoons, love to add a touch of humor to everything I do, and am curious about many topics.

(If you’d like to learn more about your strengths, I recommend taking the strengths survey at VIA-Me. It’s free to take the survey and it can give great insights into your life and what makes you happy. I’ve found it so helpful I have a webpage about it.)


If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.

© Philip Riggs 2014