O-fish-al Art Recap

With long days in isolation that seem to blend together, there is no better time than now to join the #SundayFishSketch. If you are hesitant to draw and post fishes on Twitter because of inexperience or self consciousness, rest assured that our community is very supportive. Also, be sure to check out the ‘How to draw a fish’ post from a few months back to kick-start your skills. In this week’s Fisheries Blog Post, I recap some of the latest themes and the art that resulted from them. 

Leaping Fishes

The year 2020 is a leap year. Occurring every four years, we add one calendar day to the end of February to keep our calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year. To celebrate, one of our recent themes focused on ‘leaping fishes.’ With such a wide range of species to choose from, the #SundayFishSketch artists did not disappoint. 

One example of fishes that leap are flying fishes (Family Exocoetidae). They are marine fishes that possess pectoral fins adapted for gliding through the air. These fishes propel themselves out of the water, usually to escape from predators. They can glide around 50 m, but are known to glide up to 400 m, using updrafts coming from the surface of the water.

Another example includes Tarpon (Family Megalopidae). These fish come to the water surface to gulp air, and are known to make incredible leaps, especially after being hooked by anglers.

Additionally, Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) are a well known invasive species in North America. They are sometimes called ‘flying carp’ due to their tendency to leap into the air when startled (predominantly seen in the North American introduced populations). If in large groups, this can be a sight to see and a potential danger to anyone on the water.

Saint Patrick’s Day

This holiday is thoroughly enjoyed by Irish and non-Irish alike and thought to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. For St. Patty’s Day we turned our sights to the country of Ireland, and artists depicted some of the fishes that can be found on or near the island.

The marine Basking shark (Family Cetorhinidae) made multiple appearances. This large gentle giant is a migrating filter feeder that can be found around in the pelagic zone over the continental shelf of Ireland. They feed on plankton and are known to grow up to 40 ft. in length.

The Tench (with the fun binomial Tinca tinca), is a fresh and brackish water fish found on Ireland. It is a hardy fish that loves muddy water and vegetation. It can also tolerate water with low oxygen conditions. Tench have small scales and exhibit a greenish-golden hue.

One Ireland specialty, the Killarney shad, was also depicted. The Killarney shad is endemic to Lough Leane in Ireland and is considered critically endangered. It is thought to be a landlocked subspecies of the more widespread twait shad. The Killarney shad’s population is imperiled due to the eutrophication of its endemic lake and by being outcompeted by introduced species.

Folding Fun

Initially introduced by Squidge and @bagofmoons, this theme prompted artists to use paper folds to enhance their fish drawings from a small and closed-mouth fish, to large ferocious feeder.

The folding theme gained traction as artists found creative ways to enhance their folds. Some artists went with the original suggestion, with a fish (here a pike) going from a small mouth to a large mouth.

Other artists tried to enhance their fish’s already unique features. Here is a representation of the sarcastic fringehead, a species that can open its mouth extremely wide. Fringeheads use their mouths to ‘battle’ over territory by pressing their distended mouths against one another. The larger fish is usually the one to establish dominance.

Disregarding mouths altogether, some artists used the fold to further emphasize the length to which some of these fish species can grow. The oarfish (Family Regalecidae) is a compressed and extremely elongate fish, thought to be able to reach over 30 ft. in length.

Wrap Up

These themes brought some much needed fun as people hunkered down in isolation due to Covid-19. There were so many fantastic pieces of art that weren’t included in this post, so please check out the #SundayFishSketch on twitter to see more! If you are going stir-crazy due to isolation, you should try your hand at sketching a fish. Practicing art has multiple benefits, including increasing your illustration skills and helping fill the time. It certainly has for many of us.


What is it like to participate in the #SundayFishSketch? Just ask our artist of the month, Justin Waraniak (@Marathon_Rana), who’s fantastic artwork continues to inspire others.

How long have you been participating in the #SundayFishSketch?

It has been about a year since I started joining in on the #SundayFishSketch. Seeing everybody’s art was actually one of the things that convinced me to create a Twitter account in the first place!

Why did you decide to participate and has it been difficult to sketch on a semi-regular basis?

I did a fair bit of sketching before participating, so seeing community where I could share my art (and people would enjoy it) and where I could see how other people were using art to communicate science was too good of an opportunity to pass up! As a very busy graduate student researcher, there are certainly some times when finding time to draw is a bit of a challenge, but for the most part, drawing is a great hobby to get through the long, harsh North Dakota winters.

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

Absolutely, aside from just providing additional motivation to practice, some of the challenges have provided inspiration for experimentation with different styles and techniques for drawing, and it has been helpful to see what kinds of drawings and fish facts capture people’s attention when communicating science.

What has been your favorite theme thus far and why? 

This is a tough question. I always like the holiday themes because it’s usually pretty easy to find a fish fact that works well with the theme and makes for a good cartoon, bonus points if I end up learning something new. I think my example of one from the past year was the Thanksgiving theme (draw a fish that would have been eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner) where I learned what a hogshead of eels is. (Fair warning, a hogshead of eels could also fit into a creepy Halloween theme, so don’t look it up unless you’re prepared for some deeply disconcerting images).

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