Every 60 seconds on average 200 sharks are lost from our oceans due to human impact. My mission for the 200 sharks project is to raise awareness about the incredible and venerable species before it is too late. Collecting a library of my own experiences, photographs and paintings to highlight the beauty of each individual shark I dive with and paint. The final outcome turning into a variety of educational materials such as a ‘200 sharks’ book, posters, an archive of photos, paintings and exhibitions to showcase the project’s works. As the project develops I will be writing blog posts on each shark and ray I paint, my own experiences diving with these creatures, conservation projects I work on, inspirational people who are saving sharks along with facts I learn along the way. I hope this project allows me to combine my passions of the ocean and art together, exploring new oceans, species and communicating them through my camera and paint brushes.
I want to illustrate that sharks are not mindless killers but complex, intelligent beings who are more than just a set of jaws. Hunting is only a very small part of the sharks life, new discoveries are showing a new side to their character. They have an intricate social life, complex courtship rituals, surprising ways of bringing up their young, intelligent ways of catching their prey, extraordinary powers of navigation and symbiotic relationships with the most unique creatures, even with us. Not to mention they come in the most beautiful different shapes, colours and sizes: there is more to them that meets the eye. There are over 500 species of sharks, but the shark family tree has two branches. The other half of the family is the Rays, these are flattened sharks, who share the same flexible cartilage Skelton as the sharks. Many still have the tail tale dorsal fin but their pectoral fins have developed into enormous wings, some glide on ocean currents, whilst others fly by moving their wings in a wave like motion. Diving with Manta Rays in Komodo this year inspired me to include this amazing species into the project.
For me my art gives me a voice, a voice for nature. It is a conversation started and an extension of who I am as a person. Imagery draws people in, captivates your imagination, spirit and heart that in effect allows you to start falling in love. Art is my passion and conservation is my purpose, the two are inseparable. My mission as an artist is to allow people to see the world from another perspective. And that perspective is one that not many people get to experience, the ocean. As a passionate diver, who has worked in the dive industry and has 100’s of dives under my belt, I have seen and dived with the most amazing creatures. The more I dive the more passionate and curious I become about the ocean. This curiosity inspired my project and is why one of my aims is to dive with each shark and ray I paint. Only when you have dived with the creature can you truly communicate and paint it. A photo can’t capture the spirit, personality and feeling that you get when you are sharing the waters with these intelligent beings. The golden blue shimmer that is painted along the back of a blue shark, the sliver glow that bounces off a scalloped hammerhead in the blue and the feeling you get when a shark or ray stares directly into your eyes is something you just can’t capture. This is why diving and painting for me comes hand in hand. For me to paint I need emotion and diving allows me to experience all the senses which combined with my own photos, videos and memories provides the perfect potion for creating meaningful art.
I am so excited to embark on this 200 Sharks Journey. I can’t wait to get painting and to see where the project takes me around the world. This project may take 5 years or 10 years or the rest of my life. However long it takes me I am ready for the ride and can’t wait to get started! I currently have 17 different sharks and rays I have dived with so far this year to get started on, wish me luck! Scalloped hammerhead are up first! Each painting I do will be sold as prints, a percentage of each print will go towards different amazing ocean conservation groups and the rest will go back into funding this project. Thank you for the support, each like, comment and share you do gets the shark word out there which hopefully will help inspire others to strive to save and protect our fragile ocean.