Posted by: bluelanternstudio | June 20, 2011

Catch of the day: Opah

Opahs are a kind of miracle fish to me. I mean, I grew up thinking fish were pretty small, swam in schools and didn’t necessarily travel that far. The Opah is completely different: thin as a pancake, taller than me, and a loner crossing the open ocean. I don’t know how big the Opah’s brain is or what she might think about during her journeys, but I still think she’s pretty cool. You may know her by one of her aliases: moon-fish, mariposa or Jerusalem haddock.

Opah (Robi Smith, Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 24 inches, $1200)

In my artwork, I like to paint fish I’ve never seen or heard about before.  I have a copy of a guidebook to BC coastal fish published in the 1940s by the Canadian department of fisheries. The black and white image of the Opah jumped out at me and I knew I had to paint her. For fun, I used the written description of the fish to figure out what colours to paint her. While I’m pretty confident I got the markings right, I’ve since learned that her side fins should be a bright red colour, similar to her lips.

When I was painting this piece, I also got hung up on the question of scale: how could I show how big the Opah is when the canvas is relatively small (I would love to paint a life-sized version at some point!). I solved this problem when I added the symbols of the floating  plastic bottles. This painting is part of a series and the other paintings show life-sized bottles. In this one I shrunk the bottles down to be more in scale with the Opah.

Because Opahs are loners, it’s hard to know how healthy their stocks are and whether they are threatened by overfishing or not. They are caught as by-catch by long-line tuna fisheries, which are decimating tuna stocks around the world. A good resource for learning more about them is the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) FishWatch website or Wikipedia.

You can see more of my paintings from the same series here on my website. And be sure to check back next Monday for another ‘Catch of the Day’!

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