James Prosek visits Miquon

By Kristin Sanderson

prosek (12) -crop On a chilly morning in early December, Miquon students listened intently to artist and naturalist James Prosek describing his world travels in search of unusual species of fish and other fauna. Prosek was in Philadelphia to receive the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Gold Medal for Distinction in Natural History Art. His new book Ocean Fishes contains hundreds of detailed and exquisitely wrought watercolor paintings of fish from around the world. An exhibit currently showing at the Academy features many of the book’s arresting, life-size works.

Prosek is the author of twelve books, the first of which, Trout: An Illustrated History, was published while he was still an undergraduate at Yale University. Introduced to the natural world by his father, an avid birder, Prosek honed his observation and drawing skills through studying the drawings of John James Audubon. His fascination with fish began when a friend introduced him to fishing, and he described the challenge of capturing in paint the iridescent colors of a fish, colors which fade rapidly just moments after the fish leaves the water. His satisfaction comes from painting not just any beautiful fish, but the very creature that he has caught or watched being caught, and with whom he feels a relationship.

Miquon students were given food for thought as Prosek alluded to the ethical conflict of killing animals for the very purposes of scientific study. They were entranced by his whimsical renderings of “hybrid” animals such as a turtle-dove, a parrot-fish, and a flying fox. And they made obvious connections with their own experiences at Miquon, where all students spend time playing, observing, drawing, and learning from the 11 acres of woods, fields, and creek that make up the school’s campus.