O-fish-al Art Recap

This Month the #SundayFishSketch on twitter hosted some fantastic entries. Let’s go over the themes and highlight some of the artwork that was posted in September. The themes focused on subjects including cavefishes, hard to draw dark-colored fishes, and just in time for fall, cold water or cryptic leaf-shaped fishes. Continue reading for some brief background information on each along with some associated art posts.


Fish that are considered ‘cave’ fish are those which have adapted to a subterranean life within caves. Cavefishes are not one singular closely related group, instead the over 200 described species come from many independent lineages that have invaded caves world-wide. Many of these groups share unique morphological features and adaptations to the conditions found in caves. Loss of pigmentation is common, as the production of pigments in the skin can be energetically costly and protection from the sun and UV radiation is unneeded in cave-dwelling organisms. Similar to the loss of pigmentation is the reduction or loss of eyes, which are unnecessary in habitats with no light. Some better known cavefish lineages represented by the #SundayFishSketch artists include the cyprinids, in this case the species Caecobarbus geertsi, the African blind barb.

There were also some characids, in this submission the species Astyanax mexicanus, the Mexican blind cavefish,

and the ictalurids, represented here by Prietella phreatophila, the Mexican blindcat.

Dark-colored fishes

The wide variety of colors and patterns displayed by fishes have many behavioral uses. The evolution of dark pigmentation may be useful for camouflage in some fishes and inter- and intrasexual interactions in others. Many deep-sea fishes have adapted a dark coloration to hide from predators while living in the low-light conditions of the deep-sea. Some deep-sea fishes have even evolved complicated nanostructures in their skin that trap light instead of reflecting it. Despite any biological reasons behind the evolution and display of dark colors, darkly pigmented fish can sometimes be extremely hard to draw. One example (there were many more submitted) of a darkly pigmented deep-sea fish sketch from this theme was of a lantern shark, Etmopterus benchleyi.

Others artists chose a more pet-related theme, sketching some of dark-colored fish well known in the aquarium trade.

A fan favorite with multiple sketches by various artists was a Pacific Ocean native, the black rockfish Sebastes melanops.

Coldwater or Leaf-shaped fishes

With the official first day of autumn being September 23rd, crisp air and color-changing leaves were on the mind. Whether by falling from trees or in the form of living seagrasses, seaweeds, and algal kelps, leaves inevitably find their way into water sources. Many fishes evolved to take advantage of these sources of refuge by displaying similar body shapes/protrusions, patterns, and colors to hide from predators. Seadragons were a popular choice in the leaf-shaped category as their cryptic colorations and leaf-like appendages help them blend in perfectly with seaweeds and seagrasses. 

Found in both freshwater and marine environments, fish that live in cold water have evolved a wide array of adaptations that allow them to live in these extreme conditions. In the marine realm, the Antarctic notothens (cod icefishes) have evolved antifreeze glycoproteins that prevent the formation of ice crystals in blood and other body fluids. The freshwater burbot (Lota lota), is a well known cold water fish. It is circumpolar in its distribution and restricted to areas 40 N of the equator. It is the only member of the genus Lota and well known to coldwater anglers. It even has a yearly International Eelpout Festival in Minnesota. This fish made multiple appearances by artists for this theme.


Stay tuned for next month’s O-fish-al Art Recap and be sure to tune in to the #SundayFishSketch on twitter. We are always looking for more participants and suggestions for weekly themes.


What is it like to participate in the #SundayFishSketch? Just ask our artist of the month, Sam Jones (@samjones801), whose artistic mediums range from crayon to watercolor. 

How long have you been participating in the #SundayFishSketch?

My first #SundayFishSketch was June 18, 2017.

What made you choose to participate and has it been difficult to sketch on a semi-regular basis?

I wanted a reason to draw more often. I used to draw all the time as a kid and up through high school, but that dropped a bit in college and after graduation I did almost none. When I discovered #SundayFishSketch through Brian Engh (thanks to Brian; @BrianEngh_Art), it seemed like the perfect way to get back into drawing. I’ve generally found it pretty easy to get my sketches done during my kids’ nap times on Saturday or Sunday, though that is definitely starting to get trickier now that they’re napping less and less.

Do you believe your art has improved since joining the hashtag? 

Absolutely, and especially looking back to my earlier sketches! I really stayed in my comfort zone earlier on, drawing fish I already knew in pencil on white paper. Since then, I’ve really tried branching out a bit. I worked with colored charcoal on colored paper, and seeing you (@Lampichthys) make some amazing art with watercolors convinced me to give that a shot. Watercolors were so much fun that I’ve mostly worked in that medium since November of last year, with no intention of stopping any time soon.

What was your favorite theme and why?

I’ll take any excuse to paint another shark, but I think my favorite all-time theme was to draw a fish in Pokémon style, since I’ve been a fan of Pokémon since I was a kid. I submitted 3 that week, since I couldn’t get the idea out of my head!

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