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Fish #166 Yarrell's Blenny Chirolophis ascanii ~ Chris Rolph
Oil on board 60 x 60 cm
The blenny is a fish from my childhood: the dark flitting shadow caught by the corner of your eye, seldom trapped in a net and transferred to a plastic bucket, before being released to its rockpool again. But blenny is used as a generic term, and I've since found that Yarrell's blenny is even more elusive than its intertidal cousins, choosing to live at depths of 20m or more and therefore rarely found in coastal rockpools.
I based my painting on a number of photographs; I wanted to capture its beady eye, downturned mouth, and of course its antler-like tentacles. Like the blennies I've caught on a crabline it has tiny razor-sharp teeth which you can see peeping behind its lips, and the dorsal fin runs the length of its long dappled body. Though this fish will fit comfortably in the palm of your hand I've exaggerated its size to emphasise the features of its face.
Yarrell's blenny is named after the publisher and naturalist William Yarrell (1784-1856), a colleague of Charles Darwin, with whom he helped to found the Zoological Society of London. His eponymous fish can be found all around the UK, where it hides among weedy rocks and shelters in crevices. Each fish's patterns are thought to be unique, like a fingerprint, and it can rest on its front fins on the sea bottom, where it feeds on tiny invertebrates.
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