Since childhood I have drawn nature, what I saw, not what I imagined, and as I drew, I learned. I had to pay close attention to my subject. How does the frog's leg move? How do birds' feet look when they're perched? Does that flower have 5 or 6 petals? I wanted to learn more about nature, and I did so through drawing it.
Most of my early works were land-based - birds, frogs, flowers, seed-pods, shells - but I've been in love with the ocean since my first look underwater in the Oslofjord as a kid. When the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 I realized I could use my art to "draw" attention to our one ocean's inhabitants and their importance to our very survival.
Born in Sweden, raised in Norway and Canada, with many years in Japan and Hilo, Hawaii, and moving far too often with my son, I have become a traveling artistic conservationist, using my art, languages, music and passion to be part of saving what's left and inspiring others to do the same. We're losing way too much, way too fast.
Someone said, "The best way to learn about nature is through the hand and a pencil."
Here's what happens: the more you draw, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you love; the more you love, the more you want to protect...and there's the golden ring.
It all starts with a clean line drawing done from either a photo or real life. (When I started drawing underwater stuff, pleine aire became a challenge yet to be overcome, underwater tablets notwithstanding...)
This is a self-taught, slo-mo art form, honed over decades. Starting with the transferred line drawing onto fine-toothed archival paper (so far this has been mostly paper, but silks are beckoning...) I gently cross-hatch the first two layers , creating a smooth, velvety texture. With more pencil pressure I slowly darken, shade and layer, creating contours, leaving air space in the softest layers and deep, rich colors in the shadows. The pencils need constant sharpening, especially to crisp up the edges at the end. The finished image has a texture so unusual that viewers are amazed to find that it was done with color pencils. They also like the water drops.
(The kittens were ours, rescued from the beach in Japan we lived by. They came back to Canada with us and had 14 years of the good life. They were never in Hawaii, except in my heart.)
Since we humans lived in caves, the artists among us have illustrated nature to share valuable information about the world we live in and what we share it with. Until the advent of photography and long after, nature illustration by hand was how scientific information and discoveries were shared globally.
These were also stunningly beautiful works of art with incredibly rich detail, done with endless patience, a keen eye and a steady hand. Scientific names and facts were carefully added, making the finished pieces a wonderful meld of art, science and education - which is what it still is today.
Interestingly, there are positive inner benefits as well. Having studied karate for many years, I find the mind-set similar to training in the dojo. You develop patience, focus and careful observation. It is calming and meditative. It hones your fine motor skills. It creates beautiful pictures. The artist, having created, adds some fun facts and becomes a teacher, gets confidence. Nature wins, artist wins, viewer wins.
In a world that too often moves too fast, it can also be a much-needed haven of peace, beauty and awe. It can remind us that we still have this left to appreciate. Taking the time to illustrate it honors it and us, and shows our love.