Waldoboro artist Jean Kigel knows her lobsters. Her two red lobsters embracing in a “claw shake” were featured in last year’s Maine Lobster Festival poster. But this year, Kigel decided to paint one of the rarest-colored lobsters for the 2024 poster — a blue lobster.

Here’s what one looks like in real life. To recap from one of our past blogs, “The Rarest Colors of Lobsters,” lobsters are born with pigments called astaxanthin, which determine their shell color (the normal mottled greenish to blackish-brown typically seen). However, mutations sometimes occur in those pigments. According to oceanographers, only an estimated 1 in 2 million lobsters is blue!

Kigel was inspired to paint this year’s poster concept from her own experience. “I happened to see this beautiful blue lobster out of a lobsterman’s trap in Friendship a few years ago and as they are rare, I thought I’d paint one crawling around on the bottom of the ocean,” she said. Asked what happened to that lobster, she said, “The lobsterman said he was going to release it to an aquarium.”

Indeed, many rare-colored lobsters are donated by lobstermen to the Maine State Aquarium or the New England Aquarium.  “They’re special even to fishermen,” she said. “And also, because they’re so different, they become easy prey to predators, so lobstermen do them a favor to take them out and donate them. Of course, if you cooked one, it would turn red, just like any other lobster.”

Kigel’s painted blue lobster, as you’ll notice, has some lovely accents of red all around the joints. 

“The shells can have traces of red-orange, or they can be entirely dark blue, light blue, or even mottled,” she said, “I wanted to paint this one with teal and an ultramarine with those reddish accents. First, I had to draw it and then I do the whole thing in layers. The initial sketch was this faint aqua at first. Then I kept letting it dry, adding color, water, and layers. It took at least a week to paint.”

Kigel was on hand to discuss her poster last year at the Festival. She said it was a fun experience with people coming up to her, asking if she’d autograph their posters. “People wanted to know if my red lobsters were fighting and I’d say ‘No, they’re shaking hands!’ ” she said. “I met people from Texas and Oklahoma who’d never been to the Maine coast, so they had a lot of questions about how lobsters were caught.”

Kigel specializes in Asian brush painting, watercolors and oils in her studio in coastal Waldoboro. She also has a few art shows coming up this spring and summer, where you can meet her in person. View her work by visiting her website.

Did you know? In the last 15 years, four festival posters have featured blue lobsters! Check out our poster store and buy this year’s (or any previous years’ posters) for only $10. Proceeds help fund the Festival and to keep it free for everyone.

The Maine Lobster Festival is offering free admission again from July 31 to Aug. 4, 2024! It’s wise to make travel and lodging reservations now, before high season. Make plans to visit: www.mainelobsterfestival.com