The single most asked question I receive about my work is ‘Why whales?’ Why indeed! I mean, I could be painting birds, or marsupials, or bears. But no, my subject of choice is whales and cetaceans – the big, buoyant giants of the seas!
Firstly, let it be known that I love whales. I mean, I am really taken with these creatures. I have fallen for their charms hook, line and sinker. And the wonderful thing is, that the more I learn about them, the more I fall for them. They are fascinating, complex, and humbling animals that hold such mystery. What is not to love?
The whale was not a random choice of subject. When I started painting humpback whales, a little over 18 months ago, they held symbolic meaning for me. I saw them as symbols of the positive results of conservation efforts. In the late 1960’s there were only a few hundred humpbacks migrating up the Australian East and West coasts, their numbers having been decimated by the whaling industry. Concerned with the small population of humpbacks left in the Southern Hemisphere the International Whaling Commission banned the hunting of humpbacks in 1963. Since that time the population of humpbacks on each coastline has risen to over 20,000. This is a conservation ‘good news story’, there is no doubt about it! I find it incredibly inspiring and an indication that we can right wrongs we have created on our planet if we act globally and with a clear, certain directive to enact change.
Since starting my humpback paintings back then, I have painted literally hundreds and hundreds of whales of all kinds. Cetaceans both big and small have emerged on blank pages and I have loved the process of learning about each and every one of them. The most intriguing thing about whales is how little we actually know about them. Blue whales, the largest animals to have ever graced planet earth, are still largely a mystery to us. Male humpbacks sing the most hauntingly beautiful songs in the sea and yet we don’t know what they mean. Sperm whales travel to parts of the planet that we have never seen! Bowhead whales elude us with their shyness.
The things we do know are equally as fascinating. Sperm whales are the loudest animals on earth. Orcas form matrilineal communities that develop their own culture over generations. Humpbacks have been recorded working together with other whales in a hunting technique known as bubble net fishing. A baby blue whale is around 8 metres long at birth. Narwhals are real!
All that being said, perhaps what most strongly draws me to whales, is a sense of wonder and curiosity, a ‘feeling’ of wanting to connect with a world very different to my own. If you ever think that there is no mystery left in the world, no ‘magic’, if you no longer feel curious about life, if something within you craves for intrigue, real awe and sheer majesty, then I urge you to look to the whale. I hope they capture your heart and enrapture your soul as much as they have my own.