O-fish-al Art Recap

There’s a myriad of reasons that fishes are beloved by people. Whether you’re an angler, a naturalist, or an aquarist, the love of fish brings people together. The #SundayFishSketch on Twitter brings together fish enthusiasts through art. A weekly prompt to get the creative juices flowing, the paintbrushes wetted, and the pencils sharpened. Below I highlight a few of the most recent #FishyThemes and the art, artists, and fish species that were posted. 


#SILVERFISH

Many fish of the world have a silvery sheen. This metallic look is created by something called ‘guanine crystals’ and is useful for a variety of reasons in the fish world. A silver sheen can dazzle and confuse predators, it can also reflect the surrounding environment, acting as a camouflage. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to capture the beauty of many of these silvery fish species on film, so this weekend artists tried to illustrate a range of silvery fish.

Shana drew a tarpon (Megalops), a large charismatic coastal fish. Beloved by anglers, they put up a good fight and commonly leap out of the water while being reeled in. 

Sam illustrated a silver moony (Monodactylus argenteus). This mostly silver fish with a bright yellow dorsal fin and black stripes on the head is known to have a high tolerance to a range of salinities. These fish are also sometimes used in aquaria.

Ray sketched a silverside (Atheriniformes). Silversides, like their name suggests, have long silvery bodies and are usually small. Many species are semitransparent and host a broad and distinct silver stripe down the length of the body. Many species also have upturned mouths with which they eat zooplankton and small aquatic arthropods like copepods.

#IRISHFISH

Longtime art poster E and his dad recently began a project called the Map of Life (#MapOfLife2022). This aimed to better understand and record the biodiversity of Sallins, Ireland by encouraging the community to sketch their surrounding biodiversity and to learn through art. In order to honor both the project and to get some entries into it, we sketched Irish fishes.

Alejandra painted an Irish arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). This fish species is rare on Ireland and, depending on different populations in different locations, they can come in a variety of morphs. The arctic char is also thought to be the freshwater fish that can be found furthest north.

Titus drew another salmonid, the Pollan (Coregonus). This fish is endemic to Ireland and stays relatively small. Similar to other species of whitefish, have a silvery body with a multitude of scales.

E illustrated a pike (Esox lucius). These large predatory fish are well known across the northern hemisphere. They have long bodies covered in bar-like spots and can become cannibalistic when food becomes scarce.

#MEXICOFISH

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates Mexico’s victory after the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although it is arguably a more popular holiday in the United States, it is still an energetic and colorful holiday that celebrates Mexico, her culture, and her people. To celebrate, I had our artists sketch Mexican fishes.

Bruce illustrated a sailfish (Istiophorus) which can be found off the coast of Mexico. Named after their iconically large dorsal fin that looks like a sail, these fish are one of the fastest in the ocean. Raising their dorsal fin while attacking prey, this behavior is thought to reduce sideways oscillations of their head. As one of the top predators in the ocean, large adult sailfish are only known to be eaten by things like large sharks and orcas.

Heather drew the threatened Barred splitfin (Chapalichthys encaustus). This small fish has a robust body that is covered in barring and spots. They are endemic to Mexico, and their small size makes them prey for a variety of organisms. These fish are also livebearers, giving birth to live young instead of laying eggs.

Taryn painted an Orangeside triggerfish (Sufflamen verres). This brightly colored coral reef fish boasts a large orange patch on its side and is known to feed on urchins and small crustaceans/mollusks. 


Are you interested in joining the #SundayFishSketch? It is free to participate and hosts an open and welcoming community. Don’t know how to start drawing? Check out my previous blogpost  on how to draw a fish. This post gives you step-by-step instructions on what to look for when illustrating fishes, how to start, and provides other online resources.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH

What is it like to participate in the #SundayFishSketch? Just ask our artist of the month, Cathy (@CatharticOutlet), who illustrates fishes among many other wonderful organisms.

How long have you been participating in the #SundayFishSketch?

I started participating in March 2020.

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

I decided to participate because fish are one of my favorite artistic subjects and I had been producing fish-related artwork for years at that point. However, I never really had the opportunity to share it with others as I had virtually no social media presence and people in my immediate environment weren’t especially interested in it. Therefore, when I happened to discover this little online community based on creating and sharing fish art, I knew I had to get involved. At the beginning it was not too difficult to participate regularly as I had a large backlog of older artwork that I was able to share. Furthermore, I started participating during the COVID lockdown period here in France (where I live) so I was trapped at home for multiple months which allowed me to consistently take part in both the Sunday and midweek fish sketches.

Unfortunately, as a PhD candidate, this period of artistic productivity ended in the summer of 2020, when I was allowed back into the labs. From that point onwards my work-life balance, along with my health and well-being, began to deteriorate as most of my time and energy were directed towards my project. It became very difficult for me to produce any kind of art, and I believe that over the last year or so, the only way I participated in the hashtag was through an occasional repost of an older piece. Now that I am finally done with everything I am trying to get back into art but it’s a gradual process.

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

I feel like it allowed me to improve as an artist in two distinct ways. Firstly, due to the weekly nature of the hashtag, it has sped up my artistic process. As someone who is a bit of a perfectionist and tends to get bogged down in minor details no-one apart from me will notice, challenging myself to produce something in “only” a few hours allowed me to become more efficient, and some of my favourite works to date (such as my wolf eel drawing) have been created in such a manner. On the other hand, some of my most time-consuming and elaborate pieces, such as the goosefish and fat catfish paintings, were also created in relation to the #SundayFishSketch. Regarding the latter category, I was very proud of myself for pulling through and rendering an entire piece featuring not only a fish but also a background from start to finish, even if it took up a lot of time and things got a bit tedious towards the end. In summary, this hashtag helped me become more efficient but also more thorough in certain aspects of my art.

What has been your favorite theme thus far and why? 

The “spark fish” theme, in which people depicted the fish that got them into fish and ichthyology in the first place. Not only did I enjoy the art, I also enjoyed reading everyone’s anecdotes. For me personally, my childhood aquarium sparked my interest in fish, which was rekindled in my 20s as I became more serious about art. However, I always remained a “casual fish enjoyer”, as I never studied ichthyology (I am a plant biologist). Therefore, I love hearing the stories of those who decided to pursue fish research professionally, and I think it’s really cool that a large proportion of the community is so artistic. I can’t think of any other fields that have a weekly art hashtag. 

You can find Cathy at @CatharticOutlet on Twitter, Cathy Outlet on Youtube.

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