A profile on marine illustrator DiverMonArt...
Q: Tell us about your background: how did you get into creating art?
“Growing up in Northland, I was always close to the ocean. I used to surf a lot as a teenager, but when I was about 20, I started to get into freediving and spearfishing. I was so passionate about everything under the sea that I decided to become a scuba instructor for a while. I just wanted to be in and around the water as much as I possibly could! I’ve been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until Covid hit that I really started focusing on my ocean art. I was stuck in French Polynesia at the time on a pearl farm, so I was always surrounded by warm blue water and vibrant tropical fish. Inspired by my surroundings I started posting my work on Instagram, and someone asked me to create a commissioned piece for them. Having an iPad to draw on was awesome because I could take it anywhere and I had unlimited colours and brushes to choose from. From there, things just took off. I never thought that I could make a career out of my art, but with the power of technology, it’s become a lot easier to reach people all over the world.”
Q: What’s your favourite method of fishing/diving?
“Spearfishing has got to be my favourite form of fishing. I love it because you’re only targeting the fish that you want to eat. When I’m spearfishing, I feel like I’m a part of the ecosystem. I have to be aware of my surroundings, pay attention to the behaviour of the fish, and be respectful of their habitat. Spearfishing always makes me feel more connected to the ocean and grateful for my catch, even if I don’t get anything I always feel stoked that I got to spend time in the water.”
Q: What’s your relationship with the ocean?
“My relationship with the ocean is one of respect, admiration, and appreciation for its beauty, power, and the many ways it can provide for us. Diving has allowed me to explore the underwater world and experience the thrill of catching my own food. At the same time, I’m careful to do so in a sustainable and responsible manner, taking care not to harm the ocean’s delicate ecosystem. I’m also passionate about ocean conservation and doing my part to protect this important natural resource.”
Q: How would you describe your style, and what other artists have influenced you?
“I would say my art style at the moment is realism. I have more recently started doing a lot of scientific illustrations for a fish ID guide I have been helping with, but I also enjoy exploring surrealism in my pieces. Some of my favourite artists include Mark Ryden, Robin Velg, Jon Ching, and Susan Visser.”
Q: What’s your favourite art medium?
“Digital art would have to be my favourite medium to work with at the moment. You have an unlimited number of colours and brushes to use, and I have really been enjoying creating different kinds of fish scale brushes to help illustrate different species of fish! You’d be surprised how many different-shaped fish scales there are. Plus, digital art allows you to easily make changes and adjustments to your work, which can be especially helpful when you’re creating a complex ocean scene.”
Q: Can you describe the process you go through when creating an art piece?
“When I’m creating a fish artwork, I usually start by going through my spreadsheet of fish species – I have a long list, so I just pick whichever one I feel like drawing that day. I usually have a few reference photos that people have sent me, or photos I’ve taken myself that I use for inspiration. Once I have an idea of what I want to create, I draw the outline on my iPad. This is where I really get to explore the details of the fish. After I’ve finished the outline, I start to render in all the colours. This is one of my favourite parts of the process because it’s where the fish really starts to come to life. Sometimes I really have to force myself to slow down because I get so excited about finishing the fish, it’s good to just take your time, have a break, and come back to it with fresh eyes. Overall, my art process is all about taking my time and really exploring the details of the fish.”
Q: When you’re underwater and you see a fish, do you ever look at it and think of making artwork, or vice versa: does making art make you want to go diving?
“Yes, when I’m underwater and see a fish, I often think about how it looks so different at depth compared to at the surface. It really helps me, especially with the scientific drawings to decide how I want to display the fish. I love the way fish move and look underwater, and it’s really inspiring to see them in their natural habitat. On the other hand, when I’m creating art, I’m always thinking about the fish I’m drawing, and it makes me feel like going out for a dive!”
Q: What’s your favourite species to draw, and why?
“I’m really drawn to drawing rays at the moment because each one has such a unique beautiful shape and pattern! I love the way their wings flow and move underwater, and it’s really fun to try to capture that movement in my artwork. I’m currently working on a new ray design so I’ve kind of been down a rabbit hole obsessing with researching all the different rays. There are so many to choose from it kind of gets overwhelming, so I try to just do the ones that really inspire me, or I could spend forever drawing them!”
Q: Do you see any similarities between diving and art?
“Yes, I do! I believe that both diving and art require a certain level of creativity, imagination, and focus. When I’m diving in a dive spot I haven’t been to before, I need to be able to think creatively and adapt to my surroundings to navigate it. Similarly, when I’m creating art, I need to be able to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative ideas to bring my vision to life. In both cases, I need to be able to focus intently on the task at hand in order to achieve my goals. So, while diving and art may seem like very different activities, I think they both require similar skills and mindsets.”
Q: What role do you think art can play in conservation?
“Art can be a particularly effective tool for raising awareness and promoting action. By creating works of art that depict the beauty and diversity of marine life, we can help people to connect emotionally with the ocean and to recognise the importance of protecting it. Art can also be used to highlight threats facing the ocean, such as pollution, overfishing, and climate change, and can inspire people to take action to address these issues. Through the power of social media, we can engage people all over the world in conversations about ocean conservation and encourage them to get involved in efforts to protect our oceans.”
August 2023 - Nick Jones
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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