Taxidermy Training

Why would I want to learn fish taxidermy or painting fish replicas? Fish taxidermy and/or painting fish replicas can be a very rewarding hobby or a fantastic way to use your artistic talents to earn extra income! It’s a great feeling bringing your own trophy or your customer’s trophy back to life. A fun hobby or a perfect fit for retirees, freelance Artists or Art teachers looking for summer employment and great part-time income.  With minimal space needed and very low up-front costs along with offering a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home, why not consider Fish Taxidermy as a fun hobby or part-time job or even a full-time career?

Our Instructors:

Any training program is only as good as its instructors. At Fish Specialties Taxidermy we offer two training locations and two proven, experienced instructors who also happen to be two of the best fish taxidermists in the industry! With our training courses you’ll learn 1 on 1 from either Marty Shimkus or Doug Petrousek with courses custom tailored to your needs. Doug has trained hundreds of students, (including Marty) in the Art of Fish Taxidermy. Marty has done his fair share of teaching and earned his Secondary Teaching Degree in Art and Education from Cornell College ’85. We believe individual, hands-on training with full attention from a qualified instructor is the best way to learn. Our 1 on 1 approach maximizes the use of your time, giving you the best possible learning environment and bang for your buck. We teach all levels of experience, from beginners to those with fish taxidermy experience simply looking to up their game!

Our Locations:

We offer two training locations. You have your choice of training 1 on 1 with Doug Petrousek just west of Chicago in Elburn, Illinois. Or, for a unique 1 on 1 training experience with Marty Shimkus at his Apple River/Apple Canyon Lake (lakefront) location in northwest Illinois. With either route you choose we customize your training to your needs and abilities.

1 on 1 Workshops & Courses:

Intro to Original Skin Mounts – Traditional Taxidermy (3 days):

Day 1 involves skinning, preserving and mounting your original skin from your fish. You’ll learn how to take proper measurements and hand carve your custom fit form. We teach you how to remove the skin and flesh, de-grease and preserve the skin step by step. To finish up a long first day you’ll learn how to mount your fish on your hand-carved form and back all of your fins along with properly securing everything to keep things from moving while drying.

Day 2 You’ll spend much of your second day modelling/rebuilding shrunken areas, setting the all important eyes and prepping your original skin mount for the painting stage. We’ll also teach you our unique fin backing technique that separates our mounts from the rest of the industry with nice, cleanly finished fins. Focusing on good reference photos we’ll help you see the musculature/anatomy that you need to replicate to create the realism we all strive for. Lastly, you’ll seal your fish mount and let dry for the really fun part on day 3 – PAINTING!!!

Day 3 is where all your hard work comes to fruition! You’ll learn how to use the airbrush and other hand painting techniques. We also teach you many other methods in order to create the killer paint jobs we’re known for! We use all sorts of unorthodox methods including colored ink pencils, charcoals, paint sticks, cold waxes and pearlescent powders – you name it And different ways to apply them – we don’t hold back anything! We teach you to read reference so that you can paint from photos and NOT just learn a generic “paint schedule”.  Once you learn how to read reference and see and replicate and mix colors you will have the confidence and foundation to build upon with other species in the future!

Intro to Painting Replicas (1 Day):

We teach you how to prep and paint a replica/species of your choice. (Note: Extra large species and some cold water or saltwater species may be longer than a 1 day course). You’ll learn how to attach and blend fins and set the all important eyes. We teach you how to read reference photos and how to see and replicate/mix colors matching your reference photos. Learning to paint on a white canvas (replica) can be intimidating and challenging for some. But, we break things down into an easy to learn, step-by-step process with great results that will give you the confidence you need to to take on other replicas (species) in the future!

Our Full Apprenticeship Training Course (14 Days)

Our full training program covers every facet of fish taxidermy, fish replicas, original skin mounts, warm water and cold water species, restorations and repaints, custom molding of fish parts and creating, small custom habitats. This is the fastest way to teach you everything you’ll need to know to get started in the Art of Fish Taxidermy. Upon course completion we also follow up with ongoing support as you hone your skills on your own. Providing feedback and qualified critiques so that you can continually improve and learn. With our Full Apprenticeship program you actually get a lifetime of on-going, free technical support! With us you are only a phone call or email away. And with our experience you also know that your questions will be answered correctly! Come train with the best Fish Artists and the best instructors!

Course and Program Pricing:

All courses include all supplies necessary other than specimens for original skin mount training or the cost of replica/blanks for replica training (blanks are unfinished replicas). Please ask if you need help acquiring specimens or blanks. Note: We also offer a cost-effective option for replica training (vs. purchasing your blanks) with our replica/blank rental program. We offer several common specie blanks available for rent for a nominal fee. This way our students get photos of their finished, painted replica(s) without the expense of having to purchase their blanks. Of course you’re welcome to purchase your blanks if you wish as many of our students do!

*Full 1-3 day courses Custom tailored to whatever you wish to learn. $300 per day at our Elburn location, you are responsible for living and food arrangements.  And $395 per day at our Apple Canyon Lake location (All inclusive. You are our guest at ACL. Meals, non-alcoholic drinks and clean, private room and bath included in pricing. You are also welcome to use all of our ACL amenities (fishing, swimming, golf, etc.). A great way to gather specimens and have a fun time before and/or after we’re done for the day with training! (Note: you are also welcome to make your own living and meal arrangements for training at our ACL location for only $300/day.)

*Complete Full Training/Apprenticeship Program (14 days). Includes everything you need to know to start your own fish taxidermy business! And, free lifetime support from the best in the business! $3,995 training with Doug Petrousek in Elburn, Illinois.  Or, $4,995 training with Marty Shimkus in Apple River, Illinois, living arrangements, meals and non-alcoholic drinks included!

Course Schedule/Available Dates/Payment Terms and Conditions:

We offer our custom training and individual courses on a first come, first served basis. We also work with you around YOUR schedule! For instance, you do not have to take our 14 day course 14 days in a row. You can break your course(s) up any way you wish as long as we have openings and can accommodate your schedule. Payment is required in full up front for all 1-3 day courses. For longer durations like our 14 day course, 30% down is required up front to secure your dates. Then, we can make payment arrangements with you for the final balance which is due in full prior to your first day of training.

What if I cannot make it, can I get a refund? The quick answer is “no” for our shorter courses, and “maybe” for our longer 14 day class. Because all of our 1 on 1 courses take time for us to prepare uniquely for you (and typically we also cannot book another student in such a short time frame), we cannot offer refunds on our 1-3 day courses. Instead, If for some reason you cannot make your scheduled date(s), we will take it on a case by case basis (stuff happens) and we will offer you a one time opportunity to reschedule your training for another date(s).

For our full apprenticeship/14 day course we do offer a partial refund if you finish early or decide along the way for whatever reason that fish taxidermy is not for you. We will refund you the prorated remaining amount based on the amount of days you have not used (with a 7 day minimum charge). For example, if you pay for the full 14 day course for training at our Elburn location and finish early or decide to call it quits after 7 days of training (for whatever reason) you are only responsible for the 7 days of training or $1999 total. We would refund you for the remaining 7 days not used ($1999). You would receive a prorated refund for each day not used with a minimum 7 day charge. Please contact Marty if you have any questions or would like to book a class custom fit for you!

Coming from out of town?

No problem. We can help you with all of your trip arrangements and accommodations. Our Elburn, Illinois location is less than an hour drive from Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway Airports with numerous hotels and places to eat within a short drive from Doug’s studio. Marty’s Apple River/Apple Canyon Lake location is approximately a 2 hour “country” drive northwest from Chicago’s O’hare Airport and offers a much more remote, unique experience on a private, 480 acre lake 20 minutes east of Galena, Illinois. At Apple Canyon Lake you can train with inspiration with one of the best views on the lake while you learn! And as our guest you can also experience one of the cleanest, top bass fishing private lakes in Illinois!

Career Opportunities with Fish Specialties – What about after training?

If you have the right stuff, why not consider becoming one of our Fish Specialties Fish Artists/Taxidermists? We’re always looking for new talent. Artists interested in learning the Art of Fish Taxidermy and/or painting Fish Replicas, being their own boss and running their own part-time business from their homes. Or, supporting our online replica team part-time. If this sounds like something that you may be interested in and you have an artistic background, feel free to send your resume’ and brief explanation of why you’d like to join our team!