Rockfish Trails
By Jeffrey Jacobs and Rockfish(s)

Started on: 05/26/09 03:29:57
Medium: Visual

Rockfish Trails

I began this project with the goal of collaborating with the rockfish in the UCSB REEF in order to create some sort of visual artwork that was an expression of the way in which the fish move about their environment. On my first visit to the REEF I learned that rockfish are very territorial creatures, even when they are forced to live in close proximity to one another, as in the case of the tank in the REEF. I decided to come back to the tank and spend more time with the fish, mapping out the ways they moved about the tank over the course of an hour. I drew a circle in my sketchbook to represent the circular tank from a birds-eye view. I then assigned a different colored pencil to each of the six fish that live in the tank. I had to create a key in order to remember which fish corresponded with each color. In doing so, I was about to assign each of the fish in the tank a number, one through six, but then I remembered that this was an artistic collaboration, not a science project, and my collaborators deserved to go by more than just a number. So I named each of the fish; Greg, Marsha, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy, respectively. Then I traced the paths of the fish over the course of the hour, using thicker lines to represent fish closer to the surface of the water and thinner lines to represent the fish on the bottom of the tank. Three of the fish didnít move at all during the entire hour and to represent this I drew a dot on the circle where the fish stood and drew circles around the dot for each consecutive ten minutes that the fish stayed still. The end result showed that the fish did in fact stay out of each others way and respected each others space. The only times that any of the lines overlapped was when one of them was skinny and the other fat, meaning that one fish had been at the bottom and the other at the top of the tank. I then created a three foot by three foot painted version of the drawing I had made.

When I first presented this project idea to the class, the one suggestion that I got was to maybe do some sort of human mapping as well in order to make it more of collaboration between humans and rockfish. I thought about about creating a map of the way in which people move about the University Center or the way my roommate and I move about our apartment for comparison. However, the more I thought about it, I realized that this would actually be less of collaboration, as the rockfish would have no say whatsoever as to what these other drawings look like. I do see the original drawing as collaboration though because the pencil strokes I was making were directly affected by the way the rockfish swam. The color choices and brush strokes were done by me, but the movement of the lines was purely rockfish.

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Project Updates
06/08/09 12:29:39 - Final Product

So I finally worked out a time to spend with the rockfish and watch them swim around for an hour. It turns out there are only six rockfish in the tank, not eight. They were easy to pay attention to all at once though because they don't move around very quickly, In fact, three of the fish didn't move at all. The three fish that did move only went about three feet over the course of the hour.
My original drawing was simple and I wanted to make it more visually appealing and on a larger scale for the gallery exhibition. I decided to paint it on a three foot by three foot canvas using bright colors. I then added details to the background and lines I had painted just to make it a little more interesting. Created a legend to let viewers know what the different marks on the canvas meant so that they could use the painting to understand something about the animal. It was quite simple, wider lines represented shallow swimmers, thinner lines represented deep swimmers and circles represented the fish that stood still. I was pleased with the final product because I was able to do just what I had originally intended on.

Legend Detail

Painting Detail 2

Painting Detail 1

Final Painting

Original drawing in my sketchbook

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