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WD Sea Shore | Willow Draws

WD Sea Shore

Some images on this page are available as cards, prints and t-shirts.
Click here to see what is available on my ‘Sea and Shore’ shop page.

Whales

As a child, I lived in Saudi Arabia and Panama. Living next to the ocean, I swam in shark-infested waters and explored the diverse array of sea creatures that live near the surface and near the coast, so it’s only natural that whales have been a part of my art repertoire since I began drawing.

I find whales – and how traditional coastal and island peoples have related to them over time – endlessly fascinating! That’s why I am so pleased to have been invited to sell my art cards at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and at Herman Melville’s home, Arrowhead Museum.

Here are my favorite whale drawings.

 

Willow Pattern Whale

Willow Pattern Whale

The Willow Pattern originated in China to memorialize the story of star-crossed lovers who fled the wrath of the girl’s father, only to die and be reborn as lovebirds. Today, the Willow Pattern is found on fine china dishes produced in England, most often in shades of blue.

A more modern poem describes the pattern without telling the old Chinese story:

A Chinese vessel sailing by. / A bridge with three people, sometimes four; / a willow tree, hanging o’er. / A Chinese temple, there is stands, / built upon the river sands. / An apple tree, with apples on, / a crooked fence to end my song.

 

Japanese Whale in Yukata Ocean

Japanese Whale in a Yukata Ocean

In this image I use several motifs to celebrate Japanese art. The waves, shaped in the traditional Japanese way, are filled with design elements found in informal men’s “house kimonos,” called Yukata.

The cranes that pattern the whale are Japanese symbols of happiness and long life.

So I think of this whale as blissfully swimming in an ocean of harmony and comfort.

 

Oceania Whales

Oceania whales

“Oceania” describes the region of tropical islands between Asia, Australia, and the Americas. As you can imagine, the peoples of Oceania are very ocean-oriented. I saw these designs on paddles and cookware photographed for a book on the art of Oceania, and tucked the images away in a cupboard of my mind.

Then, when I later saw a photo of a Blue Whale nursery off the coast of Costa Rica – where there is a warm current, perfect for nurturing baby whales – I had my flash of inspiration!

Oceania is a term that variously refers to (1) the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean, (2) the Australasian ecozone, (3) the Pacific ecozone, or (4) the entire region of islands between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago. 

I use the term in the last sense, in recognition of the tradition of living with the ocean, and artistically interpreting their world, that is shared by the peoples of those widely-flung islands.

 

Mola patterned Whales

Mola whales swim in a yellow sea

Every year, humpback whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres gather in the waters off of Panama, where I grew up, to breed and give birth.

My drawing of these whales reflects the strong influence Kuna women have had on my art. I drew these whales in the style of Kuna molas – the colorful fabric panels made by the Kuna women of Panama for their blouses. Their panels are hand made by both appliqueing on top of and cutting back through layered cloth, using fine, tightly spaced stitches.

Traditionally, a Kuna woman was expected to produce 13 pair of mola blouse panels before she could marry.

 

Scrimshaw Whales

Scrimshaw whales

I was introduced to scrimshaw by my father, who was a ship captain and port pilot in Saudi Arabia and Panama from the early 1960s through the mid-1980s.

Scrimshaw dates to the nineteenth century, when whaling ships sailed all of the world’s oceans. The art, often called “the folk art of American Whalers,” was the practice of carving and engraving images and scenes on the whale teeth and bones that were left over from the hard work of harvesting blubber. (Blubber was used for making lamp oil.) The work of delicately carving scrimshaw was a way for sailors to spend their limited leisure time in restful and mind-stimulating creativity.

To protect whales, contemporary scrimshaw artists now use wood, nuts, and shells as their base material.

Check out the whale cards, prints, and t-shirts available on my Sea and Shore shop page.

 

More Sea and Shore

Scrimshaw Sea Creatures

I first drew this example of scrimshaw for the letter S in Paisley Pig & Friends: A Multicultural ABC. Since then, it has taken on a life of its own as one of my most popular cards and images.

Scrimshaw dates to the nineteenth century, when whaling ships sailed all of the world’s oceans. The art, often called “the folk art of American Whalers,” was the practice of carving and engraving images and scenes on the whale teeth and bones that were left over from the hard work of harvesting blubber. (Blubber was used for making lamp oil.) The work of delicately carving scrimshaw was a way for sailors to spend their limited leisure time in restful and mind-stimulating creativity.

To protect whales, contemporary scrimshaw artists now use wood, nuts, and shells as their base material.

 

Turtle Square

Flounders in a SquareI drew these two Mola style sea creatures as companion pieces.

The turtle is patterned after a Loggerhead. I am going to use it as the cover of a forthcoming book on turtles in world myth and mythology.

The fish are Flounders.

 

 

 

 

More Turtles

It has been a lot of fun exploring and drawing turtles for the last year and more! Here are a few of my favorites.

Barkcloth Turtles

Mola style turtle shell

I drew the two turtles on the left in the barkcloth style. Barkcloth is made, from the inner bark of certain trees that grow in the tropics, by soaking and beating the bark until it forms a sturdy, flexible fabric that feels like felt. Preparing the cloth is hard work usually undertaken by men. Women then stencil and paint the finished cloth, using tree sap and mud.

The turtle on the right is in the style of the Kuna women of Panama, who reflect the world around them in their traditional fabric art, called mola. Molas are colorful, hand sewn cloth panels that Kuna women incorporate into their blouses. Their technique involves both appliqueing on top of and cutting back through layered cloth.

 

 

tortoiseshell pattern from the Japanese Edo period (1603-1868)
Tortoise shell pattern from the Japanese Edo period (1603-1868)

wayamba-turtle

I found this sample of Kikkou, the Japanese Edo era (1603-1868) tortoise shell pattern, on a costume that was used in an ancient Japanese theatrical play form called Noh. I changed the colors from rusts, gold, and copper to the soothing colors of the sea.

Turtles feature prominently in ancient Australian petroglyphs and wall paintings. The story of Wayamba, the First Turtle, is an old Australian “origins” story that explains how turtles came to be. In the story, Wayamba originally stood upright and walked on the land. But after behaving anti-socially, he ran away and dove into the river to avoid his fellow tribesmen. He stayed down so long that he transformed into the turtle we know today. He is still a solitary creature.

Australian examples of turtle art date back 40,000 years. My rendition (right) was inspired by this beautiful example from Kakadu National Park:

Wayamba Rock Art

 

Explore the turtle cards, prints, and t-shirts available on my Sea and Shore shop page.

 

Fish

F: Filligree Fish

This fish from Paisley Pig (letter F) reflects the fine art of filigree. Filigree is a technique that uses strands of gold or silver wire to make beautifully delicate lacy and curly jewelry. The same technique is used with thread to stitch fine decorations onto eveything from slippers to headdresses.

 

 

 

 

X: Xray Fish (yep, they are real!)

The original people of northern Australia drew in the “x-ray style.” That is, their animal paintings depicted bones and internal organs, just like modern x-rays. 40,000 years ago, people painted in this art style to decorate rock walls and their own bodies.

These fish, that I drew in the Australian x-ray style, are themselves known as x-ray fish because they are so transparent that you can clearly see their bones and organs through their skin! (You can find and purchase x-ray fish for your home aquarium at your local fish pet store.)

This image is featured in my book, Paisley Pig and Friends, for (can you guess it?) the letter X.

 

 

 

Pre-Colombian style fish

I drew these fish for my Zodiac series in the pre-Colombian art style. The term “pre-Colombian” refers to art produced in Central and South America before Columbus landed in the Americas.

I found the original inspiration for these fish in a stack of rubbings and tracings of pre-Colombian pottery from Panama (where I grew up) that were gifted to me by a long-time family friend.

 

 

 

fish-fantasticalHere are some tropical fish, just for fun.

I just love the bright colors and stimulating patterns Nature provides for her underwater children. Don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See the selection of fish cards, prints, and t-shirts on my Sea and Shore shop page.

 

Everything Else

Opart Octopusoctopus-bluesI originally drew this octopus (left) in the Op-Art style of the 1960s for the letter O in Paisley Pig. Later, as I learned more about octopuses and developed a deeper knowledge of and respect for their intelligence, ability to express emotion through displays of skin color and texture, to manipulate their environment, and to practice sly behavior, I drew the blue version to show an octopus in her more natural ocean environment, skillfully blending into her background.

Despite how they look, and how they have been portrayed in movies and books, the octopus is both graceful and intelligent. It is, however, also a wild animal, and will eat just about anything – and because it can change the color of its skin with far more agility than a chamelon, it can easily fade into any background to sneak up on its prey.

 

 

Cancer

I drew this crab, surrounded by a constellation of starfish, in the mola style for the season of Cancer in my Zodiac series. Although I only had to color the tiny ovals in the background, I developed a new appreciation for the many hours of work put in by the Kuna women who create the same effect by making tiny slits in the top one or two of 3 layers of variously colored fabric, and then fold the edges under and use tiny, tight hand-stitches to create this effect.

 

 

 

penguins-holidayI love penguins dressed in their formal, black-and-white attire – but even penguins deserve a little down time!

These penguins are nattily dressed down for some fun in the Hawaiian sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to visit my ‘Sea and Shore’ shopping page.

Wholesale and Licensing inquiries.

Activity Pages

Here are 2 free pages for you to download, print, and color! Click on either image to open a printable PDF file of both pages.

These images are drawn in the Mola style of the Kuna people who live along the coast of Panama, and on the coastal islands on the Atlantic side of Panama. The Kuna like bright colors, so consider using lots of bright colors in these pictures!

Mola fish, crab coloring pagemola fish, marine turtle coloring page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will you show me how your artwork turned out? You can scan your finished page and email it to me: willow@willowdraws.com.

 

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