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An artist’s tribute to the ocean

James Prosek chronicles his experiences with Atlantic fishes through life-size paintings. (Image courtesy of the artist)

James Prosek chronicles his experiences with Atlantic fishes through life-size paintings. (Image courtesy of the artist)

Like a heart that pumps blood through a body, the oceans support life on Earth. Oceans help regulate our climate, produce oxygen for us to breathe, provide a home for a wonderful array of life, and supply food for millions of people.

It’s easy to take the oceans for granted, but 8 June – World Oceans Day – is a perfect opportunity to recognize how important the oceans are to our daily lives.

If you ever met a girl with eyes the color of a swordfish, you’d leave whoever you were with and go with her

Ocean Fishes, a book of detailed watercolour paintings, showcases some of James Prosek’s individual experiences with life in the Atlantic Ocean. Having travelled from Nova Scotia to Cape Verde to witness fishes as they came out of the water, the book is his personal tribute to marine beauty. With his paintings, Prosek urges readers to observe and preserve what exists in the oceans before it is lost forever.

“In a way, the paintings are my conservation statement, just showing the fish, many of which we are rapidly losing from our oceans,” Prosek says.

Bonefish (Image courtesy of artist)

Bonefish (Image courtesy of artist)

The paintings give readers a privileged view that is normally reserved just for fishermen – fish as they look immediately after coming from the ocean, before their colours begin to change.

“There was a fair amount of luck, goodwill, and serendipity involved in finding those who shared this common understanding about fish and fish shapes and colors,” says Prosek.

In his acknowledgements, Prosek pays particular tribute to Gilbert Devine of Woods Harbour, Nova Scotia. The captain of a harpoon boat, Prosek says Devine offered to take him out on a seven-day excursion after just a brief conversation on the dock.

“When I told him why I had driven 22 hours… to paint a swordfish life-size in its living colors, he responded with a line that I will remember the rest of my life:

Close up of a swordfish (Image courtesy of the artist)

Close up of a swordfish (Image courtesy of the artist)

‘You’ll never see a color blue on land like the color of a swordfish. If you ever met a girl with eyes the color of a swordfish, you’d leave whoever you were with and go with her.’”

The book features not only the portrait of that Nova Scotia swordfish, but also 34 more of the world’s most pursued fish – from striped bass to tarpon to bonefish – as well as other creatures that share their habitat with fish, like lobsters, shells and beach plants.

Prosek was kind enough to grant Rustik permission to share a few additional portraits from his amazing book:

Summer flounder (Image courtesy of the artist)

Summer flounder (Image courtesy of the artist)

Dorado (Image courtesy of the artist)

Dorado (Image courtesy of the artist)

Cod (Image courtesy of the artist)

Cod (Image courtesy of the artist)

Blue crab (Image courtesy of the artist)

Blue crab (Image courtesy of the artist)

Black sea bass (Image courtesy of the artist)

Black sea bass (Image courtesy of the artist)

Barracuda (Image courtesy of the artist)

Barracuda (Image courtesy of the artist)

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