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Who Needs a Paintbrush When You Can Use a Dead Fish?

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James Prosek is a person who continually challenges the neat categories we create to delineate where one discipline ends and another begins. In his own words:

I want to be able to be a writer and a painter and an illustrator and a sculptor and not have to be confined by the taxonomies of art making or of literature… Why are we so eager to draw these disciplinary walls?

One of his latest projects embodies this philosophy as he combines extensive research, a conservationist agenda, fierce artistic talent and skilled writing in a multimedia tribute to the humble eel.

There is a book, titled Eels: An Exploration, From New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish, which the New York Times reviews favorably (link below).

There are paintings, done in a traditional Japanese style known as gyotaku (fish printing), where paint is applied directly to a dead fish and subsequently applied to the paper.

And there is a documentary called The Mystery of Eels airing tonight on PBS at 8pm (but check your local listings). Catch it if you can. If not, the program will be available for streaming from PBS shortly after the broadcast.

James Prosek: Gyotaku Eels

James Prosek and the eel painting he created using the traditional Japanese art form called Gyotaku. Photo ©THIRTEEN

Related links:

James Prosek online portfolio, including current exhibits and upcoming lectures

The New York Times’ review of Prosek’s book, Eels: An Exploration, From New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish

An Interview with Prosek about his eel painting project

Watch James Prosek: Painting with Eels on PBS. See more from Nature.

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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