Last month I launched my ocean collection at the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail. This collection of work was inspired by my love of and fascination with the seas. It comprises art prints of three of my favourite sea animals, one abstract ocean print, four laser cut badges and one screen printed tote bag. As this is my first *proper* collection, I thought it deserved a bit of explanation and insight into my process. This post sets out the story of the collection, from inspiration to the finished pieces. It’s a bit of a long one, so grab a cuppa (or a wine) and find a comfy seat… Or just scroll through for the pictures!
As I mentioned above, I’ve always loved the sea. We went on a lot of holidays to Cornwall when I was growing up and I don’t think a year has passed without me swimming in the sea at least once. The ocean covers so much of our planet and is such a powerful force, yet we know more about the surface of the moon than we do the depths of our oceans. The sheer size and scale of the big blue is something that I find both frightening and comforting.
Like many people, I’m a massive fan of documentaries and David Attenborough, so I was an avid viewer of the amazing Blue Planet II over the winter. The strong moral message was a definite prompt for me to take a break from painting galaxies and turn my eyes towards the sea. So the oceans were firmly on my mind when I sat down and created my first paintings of 2018, which formed the basis for all of the pieces in this collection.
The very first painting that I did in 2018, aside from some commissions, was this manta ray. Rays have always been one of my favourite animals to draw; they’re somewhere between bird, fish and spaceship. This painting was inspired by a photograph in the wonderful book by the Manta Trust, Manta: secret life of devil rays. The final piece was painted using India ink for the black parts of the underside of the ray and watercolours for the sea bubble background, which is a method I used to paint the other animals in the collection. This painting has been reproduced as a limited edition A4 art print and laser cut badge.
Sharks are jawsome. There we go, can’t believe I made it this far without a fishy pun! Seriously though, sharks are amazing creatures and just so much fun to draw because they have bags of character. I’ve had an idea of a hammerhead shark painting in my mind for ages, so this one flowed on nicely from the manta ray. This painting has been reproduced as a limited edition A4 art print and laser cut badge.
Well, it wouldn’t be an ocean collection without a whale. I draw whales A LOT. When I sit down at my sketchbook and want to draw something to warm up, odds are it’s a bear or a whale. Humpback whales are my favourite kind of whale, so this one was an easy choice for the third and final sea animal of the collection. This painting has been reproduced as a limited edition A4 art print and laser cut badge.
This piece was really exciting for me as I usually paint animals or *things*, whereas with this one I wanted to paint the feeling of the oceans. It started out as an India ink painting when I was experimenting with the idea of a screen printed tote bag. I knew once I’d finished the three animals that I wanted to make laser cut badges and I liked the idea of making a tote bag for them to go on with an oceanic pattern, so that people could make up their own underwater scene. The shape turned out so well that I couldn’t resist turning it into a watercolour painting. This painting has been reproduced as a limited edition A5 art print, screen printed tote bag and mini laser cut badge.
The overwhelming moral message from Blue Planet II was playing on my mind while I was creating this collection, so I wanted to produce items in as sustainable a way as possible. People are becoming more and more conscious about plastic waste as consumers, so I felt a responsibility to reflect that in my business as a maker.
It felt horribly hypocritical to paint these beautiful animals and oceans, then sell prints in plastic wrappings. This led to the decision to package all four of the art prints in this collection in biodegradable wrappings made using corn and potato starch. These wrappings can be composted at home or in food waste collections, even if they do end up in landfill they will break down in the ground. The board backings for the prints are made of recycled board and can be recycled, plus each print includes instructions on how to dispose of the packaging in an ocean-friendly way. The backings for the laser cut badges are also made of recycled and recyclable card; I also opted to package the totes and free badge in a biodegradable wrapping.
Swapping plastic bags for reusable alternatives, like the cotton tote bag from the collection, is another way for people to make a small change to their lives to reduce plastic waste. I’ve been using one for weeks to cart my stuff around and you really can jam a lot in them (sketchbooks, lunch, snacks, camera, suncream), plus they’re comfy to carry.
Photos from the collection
So that’s it folks! If you’re looking for ways to get your hands on any of the pieces from the collection, you can find them at one of my fine Bristol stockists. The original paintings are also for sale, just get in touch if you’re interested.