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  • Michelle Fleur

Whales for a Wild World


Since finishing the 200 Whales Project last year I have felt that I needed something else to balance out the love received/love given ratio of my art practice. I needed to do something that gave my studio practice more meaning. Inspiration came recently when I attended a talk by the legendary primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall. There was much that moved me about her message, but what struck me most was the idea that we all need to be contributing when it comes to healing the planet. There is no room for excuses - our very future depends on us all working together to find alternatives to the lifestyle and behaviours that have led us to where we are. Over the past two years I have become more and more concerned for the future of this planet and the wonders that exist upon it. What kind of world are we creating?

In the past I have found it easy to throw up my hands and say "It's all too much! What can I do that will make any difference? Nothing!" But this response was lazy and useless, and completely devoid of hope. How terrible to feel so hopeless. How easy to slip into uselessness. No, that approach will not do. Whilst we exist on this planet we must try harder to care for and respect our life source. The disrespect we show for the earth is like spitting on our own mothers, and if you think this analogy distasteful, please rest assured that I do to. It is distasteful. But the hard truth is that much of humanity has been very, very unkind to the earth.

So in light of all of the above, what CAN I do? I am not a scientist, or a politician, a person of influence or great wealth. I am just one human in a sea of 7 billion. I am but one person who knows little else but that I am an artist. I may not be a Picasso, or even a very good artist, but I am an artist nonetheless. How do I know this? Because every day I make art. My work is my life, my heart, my joy, and my release. It is meaningful and true to me. It gives my life purpose and sustains me through all of life's chaos. So it is essential that I continue to make art.

How then can I use this lust and love of art making to do some good for this planet? This was a question I recently asked myself. I mulled and stewed over this question for a long time, thinking up complicated projects and pulling out ideas grander than I had the capabilities of actualising. After having heard Jane Goodall speak the answer became clear - just roll up your sleeves, use your strengths and contribute the best and truest way you know how. Hence, the 'Whales for a Wild World 'project was born! It was simple! I love whales, other people love whales, I paint whales, people buy paintings of whales - so, sell more whale paintings and raise money for projects run by people who want to help heal this planet. Yeah! There are no complex concepts behind the project at all. I am simply using the whale as a potent symbol of the natural world to raise funds for conservation groups so that they can do their important work.

I'm so excited about the Whales for a Wide World Project and am stoked to say that in its first stages $200 has already been raised for the Jane Goodall Institute. Yay!! Way to go whale lovers! Granted, this is not a particularly ambitious project, nor is it going to raise huge amounts, but it is something, and I feel good about integrating it into my broader practice.

Unlike the 200 Whales Project, there is no limit on the number of whales I will paint in this project. Depending on how it goes it could be 50 or 500! We shall see - it really depends on the support that the project receives. I am hopeful that given some traction it will make good headway. I am committed to developing the project for at least 6 months and will reevaluate its effectiveness in the new year. I intend to develop the project to include creative community actions via social media to help spread the message of the importance of conservation. If you have any ideas please get in touch and share them with me! I'm all ears. :)

Each painting in this series is a standard size of approximately 11 x 7.5 inches. Each painting is on artist quality 300gsm watercolour paper and painted with artist grade archival watercolours and inks. A certificate of authenticity will accompany each whale sold. I am using up my stockpile of plastic archival art slips to package the whales until I run out and am currently in the process of looking for a more environmentally friendly alternative. If you know of any please let me know!

You can find the whales for sale under the hashtag #whalesforawildworld on Instagram, or in my profile @michellefleurphoto . They are also listed on my Facebook page (click the link in the navigation bar above this page). Contributions to conservation groups will be made monthly or bimonthly (I will decide based on sales).

Some Frequently Asked Questions I have encountered so far:

1. Why Whales?

Because they are potent symbols of the natural world, easily identifiable and loved almost universally. I am endlessly fascinated by them so they endure as an interesting subject for me to paint.

2. An orca is a dolphin. A dolphin is not a whale. What are you doing?

I'm including all cetaceans in the project. The word Whale is more widely known than cetacean and it serves a purpose in that regard. Also, from what I've read, there are all kinds of ambiguities in cetacean taxonomy. In any case I'm asking you to just go along with me on this! ;)

3. Do you take requests?

Yes! If there is a cetacean that you love let me know about it and I'll put it on my list of creatures to paint!

4. What happens with the other 50% of the cost of the painting?

It goes straight back into studio costs - materials like paint and paper, packaging, and printing. Any left over funds may be spent on books or sweet treats. Hehe. I'm human after all!

If you have any other questions please feel free to ask and I'll add them to the list. :)

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