A Mother's Abandonment and a Life in Art, Nature

Cover of 'The Day My Mother Left'

James Prosek's young-adult novel tells the story of a young boy who discovers art and nature after his mother abandons the family. hide caption

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James Prosek is a master at bringing the outdoors into people's lives through art. He is a celebrated fly-fisherman, a critically acclaimed author and a wildlife artist often described as a modern-day John James Audubon.

How he developed his artistic gift and his love of nature is chronicled in his latest project, a young-adult book called The Day My Mother Left.

Although billed as fiction, Prosek's book is largely autobiographical. It follows the life of 9-year-old Jeremy as his parents go through a bitter divorce. His mother, Phoebe, drowns her depression with alcohol and eventually leaves the family without saying goodbye.

Jeremy copes with the loss by losing himself in the surrounding fields and streams. He finds solace fishing and sketching the wildlife he encounters.

Prosek says he wrote the book as fiction rather than as a memoir because memories from that difficult period of his life were fuzzy. He discusses the book, and how the experience of being abandoned by his mother helped him discover his gifts for art and nature.

Creative Spaces: Artist James Prosek's Studio

Trout Illustrator Finds Sanctuary in a Renovated Schoolhouse

James Prosek, with trout in hand.

James Prosek, with trout in hand. Courtesy James Prosek hide caption

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Prosek's renovated Wilson Street schoolhouse.

Prosek's renovated Wilson Street schoolhouse. Jeff Rogers, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Rogers, NPR

What John James Audubon did for birds, James Prosek is doing for trout in bestselling books such as The Complete Angler and Trout: An Illustrated History. His detailed and vivid watercolors capture the vibrancy of the fish.

Prosek has traveled the world in search of rare trout, but the 29-year-old settled two doors down from his boyhood home on a quiet country lane in Easton, Conn. He still fishes in the same pond he trolled as a child, and he paints in a building that he has been drawn to all his life. For Creative Spaces, an All Things Considered series that explores the studios, offices, hideaways and hamlets of artists, NPR's Michele Norris talks with Prosek about the one-room schoolhouse he renovated to inspire his work.

The schoolhouse, built in 1850, has been part of Prosek's life since a teacher interrupted class to let students watch it roll by on a truck as it was relocated across town to Prosek's street. When he came home that day and saw it, "I almost felt like a celebrity," he tells Norris.

In 1991, a house was built around the schoolhouse, and a few years later Prosek bought the property.

His Yankee farmhouse is a model of order, with a prized collection of antique farm and fishing tools placed as if in a museum. But his studio in the schoolhouse is a separate world — somewhere between a bachelor pad and a boyhood fort.

"It's my little room," he says. "All of my stuff is here and no one can get at me."

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The cozy, slightly rustic space is about the size of a two-car garage. It has a potbellied stove and sleeping loft beneath a pitched roof made from wide planks of chestnut wood. Six low-hung windows usher in an abundance of natural light.

"I want it to be a humble space," Prosek says. "Humility is a big part of it, it's part of being open and receptive to everything you see."

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The Day My Mother Left
The Day My Mother Left

by James Prosek

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