Sundays are for Fish Sketchin' (or, Drawing to Learn)

This morning I got up, ate some pancakes, and drew a fish. Because y'know, Sunday.

Meet the Iowa darter—or at least my best approximation of one.

Pencil crayon drawing of long, thin fish with bright red and blue markings

My weekends haven't always been this way. Back in February I went to the Royal Ontario Museum for a one-day workshop called "Ontario Underwater: Freshwater Fishes of the Great Lakes". This was—and I cannot stress this enough—for fun. 

A nametag from a fish workshop sits on top of a fish guide book

I've had a good handle on Ontario mammals since I was a kid. I started casually birding in my twenties (although I still have a lot to learn) and more recently, my knowledge of local reptiles and amphibians has progressed nicely.

But fish, fish! For the most part, fish remained a mystery.

As I hoped, the workshop was a great introduction, but it was also a lot to take in in just a few hours. Luckily we were all sent home with a copy of the Freshwater Fishes of Ontario guide book, but what to do with it? With birding, you take your book and your binoculars and head out into the world. Hooking a fish just to get a look at isn't really my thing, but I didn't think sitting on a rock and staring hard at the waters of Lake Ontario was going to get me very far. 

Solving a Fish-tery

Enter the internet, and a bit of serendipity. Right around the time of the workshop, a hand drawn fish tagged #SundayFishSketch showed up in my Twitter feed. It turns out the hashtag was started by University of Kansas PhD candidate Rene P. Martin who, according to her website, has been posting fish sketches on Sundays since October 2016. 

Every week she announces a theme a few days before the weekend, and enthusiastic fish-sketchers from all skill levels reach for their paintbrushes or makers or computers and get to it.

Now, one of the horticulturalists at work once told me that she learned to identify plants by drawing them. It forces you to engage on a deeper level as you observe and recreate small details, and really take your time with the subject. So with my fish guide and Google image search by my side, I dove in.  

I haven't been able to finish a drawing every week—the Iowa darter is only my sixth sketch so far—but I'm enjoying getting to know our local fish one hand-drawn species at a time.

(I'm also enjoying getting to know all of the colours in the pencil case of miscellany that's been moving around with me for twenty years.)

A strip of paper filled with colour squares with names written beside them

Related Reading/Viewing: