Sometimes the opportunity arises to get involved with something utterly brilliant that really motivates you as an artist, and that happened to me today: I got to meet Wyland!
When you’re into marine life, Wyland’s art is difficult to miss. His influence is remarkable and the scale at which he often works is astounding – I got to see one of his Whaling Walls (#33) in Long Beach, California in 2007. His dedication to conservation and outreach through the Wyland Foundation is truly remarkable and extremely inspiring; I felt honoured to be able to witness it in action today. He was in Atlanta to unveil a massive canvas – his largest to date at 8 x 24 feet! – at Georgia Aquarium and kick off the National “Water Is Life” Mural and Art Challenge. Local schoolkids and art teachers were there to help emphasise the importance of art in schools and Wyland even held an art lesson for the students. It was a joy to watch him share his passion for his marine subjects with the kids and encourage them to express themselves through painting. I particularly enjoyed hearing him suggest they draw their ocean, their image of how the ocean should be – “Hopefully clean!”
As an Ocean Artists Society member I was especially eager to meet and thank one of our founders, and no sooner were the words “Ocean Artists Society” out of my mouth when he exclaimed “You’re one of us!” There was a lot of high fiving. I was blown away by his friendliness and encouragement. I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing when he asked me if I’d come and paint with him and the kids on a large collaborative mural; it’s kind of something you can’t refuse. And so I did! I added a little blacktip reef shark that was soon joined by lots of fish, jellies, dolphins and many other animals, which were topped off by Wyland’s signature tail flukes. These collaborative murals are such a wonderful concept for community events like this and I loved how many little AND big kids had a go! It was a real treat to see, throughout the whole day, how easily art, conservation and fun could be brought together and inspire so many to get involved. Myself included!
A little shout out goes to Fredrix Artist Canvas, who co-sponsored the event and were amazingly lovely.