'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tetras and the problems painting them.

The pet shop in which I am Artist in Residence has Neon Tetras.  These were the first fish I ever saw when I was about six, and I immediately fell in love with them.  We were on a class trip to the Napier aquarium.  I could hardly pull myself away from their tank.  The only thing that worked was the shout 'octopus!' from the others.

They are South American tropical fresh water fish, and live in very shady waters overhung with jungle vegetation, and they are genetically adapted to this kind of waters.  I suggest their iridescence is cryptic coloration, very much like the tiny, infrequent  patches and flickers of spots of sunshine that are able to make it down into the water from the canopy high above.  In fact, I read that their eggs will not be viable if exposed to too much light.  They are apparently quite tricky to breed in captivity.
The fish love to move in a school, and sweep away from any movement in front of the tank - like me trying to photograph them!
And there is hardly any light on the tank, so the exposure time needs to be longish...  so they are usually blurred.

And of course, the silvery turquoise is really hard to depict in a painting too!

Neon Tetras - my attempt to photograph. Speedy little critters!
 Using white conte chalk on black paper, and soft colored pencils, my result:
Neon Tetras painting*.
 There are lots of different species named 'tetra'.  These neons are only about 1.5 cm long - an inch or so.

image off the internet...


* I know it's confusing, but in art parlance, using coloured pencil, pastel, etc, is all called 'painting'.  
"Painting is the application of paint, color or other medium to a surface or 'support'"


  1. I cannot distinguish your photograph of neon tetras from your painting of neon tetras. This is meant as an extreme high compliment.

    My rapidly deteriorating math skills tell me there are 2.54 centimeters per inch, 25.4 millimeters per inch.

  2. Well, thank y'all Robert!
    Re. the length conversion, I took a wild guess. I was caught out.

  3. Love the 'painting'! As for getting a photo, I imagine the lack of light helps. Would a video work to get a still from?

  4. Thanks SP. I have taken some clips, but not of the tetras. I'll try it. Good thought, Buck.

  5. I can't think of anything to say. So I won't be commenting on this post. This is a shame 'cos the little tetras you painted are jolly spiffing.

    1. Awe shucks. You're too kind. I'm blushing.

  6. I think you're doing a fine job of depicting the tetra.... they've also long been a favourite of mine - they're so "flashy" and "shiny" I can only begin to imagine the difficulties and frustrations involved in trying to reproduce the colours and effects.

    1. Well, thank AF. They are not dissimilar to the iridescent beetles I started my Dip studies with... I seem to like a challenge sigh.

  7. the first fish I ever bought as a geeky teen!
    4 for 1£

    1. Really? What a coincidence John.
      I am amazed how little it costs even today for a shimmering, alive, moving, creature like a neon tetra, that has possibly been transported half way around the world.