Sea Life began to percolate as an idea one summer, well before I had begun actually making collections for Dover Publications. The month was December, but I was in Venezuela, so summer was just beginning. I was there making marketing films for an eco-tourism company of which I was a part-owner. I had a partner named Antonio who was the head guide on our trips into the Venezuelan jungle; he'd spent a lot of time in that jungle–perhaps too much. His idea of a good time was to fill all of our heads with visions of exotic and scary things to come, up river: jaguars, muta-muta snakes, 24-hour ants, tarantulas and pythons. The one vision that really got to me was his promise that we would all go swimming in a river where the piranha would playfully 'kiss our legs'. To my protestations that that sounded like an insane and unlikely idea Antonio insisted that I not worry–"...they're not going to hurt you–they're going to make love to you..."
|Not quite a piranha, but close.|
As luck (or Antonio's machinations) would have it, we never did get to the piranha place—unforeseen circumstances steered us away from that part of Canaima National Park, and the pleasures of gently nibbling piranha is still outside of my repertoire of experiences. However, there was this one meal before the end of the trip, at which we were served a fish dish which had a very peculiar flavor, and which Antonio refused to identify. During the meal he kept laughing and asking–"now who's kissing who?" (his English, not mine).
The net result of this experience, from the vantage point of many years out, is an amplification of my fascination with what might be lying just below the surface. After a while this interest became perhaps a little fetishistic, and mannered–a little like your crazy neighbor who collects anything with an elephant on it...
As I became more professionally involved with graphics all of this fantastic sea life content started to surface around me, and to feed this burgeoning obsession. John Riess at Dover began showing me rare collections of color plates of fish he was collecting; in the Archive I found very old natural history encyclopedias with fantastic sea life engravings in them. We found a copy of Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, and a collection of Ernst Haeckel's Art Forms in Nature.
The resulting collection ranges from microscopic animals, to shellfish, jellyfish, corals, mollusks, sea mammals, and sea birds.
But really, the stars of the collection are the fish...