Art in an Ocean World

Art in an Ocean World

Photo courtesy of Britt Sweeting.

Before I ever set foot in the ocean, I was painting it. The ocean materialized itself in my world as a child, long before I ever experienced it for myself. I would paint ocean sunsets and underwater scenes, always mesmerized by the blue tones and a world so far away from me.

Art was my way of experiencing the world and sharing it through my lens. It allowed me to explore ideas and translate the emotion and inspiration I felt so that others could share it too.

Photo courtesy of Britt Sweeting.

When I began exploring the ocean world at age fifteen as a new diver, the blue world that had always been a backdrop that inspired me, now became the centrepiece of my world. I had been awarded a scholarship as a high school student - to spend three weeks studying marine science and learning to dive. From that moment on, I was seeing the ocean in my waking moments and in my dreams and I was determined that I wanted to study marine science.

When I turned 18, I entered the world of professional diving when I completed my Scuba Instructor’s course. I went to teach diving in the summers to high school students, with the same program I had first learned to dive with when I was fifteen. All the while, I was completing my undergraduate degree in the cold temperate waters off Vancouver Island, Canada. My goal was to work in marine conservation and to inspire future ocean leaders.

Photo courtesy of Lenny Rossenfeld.

As I dove wholeheartedly into the marine world, the more I learned about the oceans, the more I learned about the challenges they faced. The ocean ecosystems I had only just begun to explore were in peril. Our actions upon the world were making their negative impact and showing themselves in ocean acidification, sea level rise, coral bleaching, overfishing, and pollution. I was determined to find solutions for these global problems and to inspire others to take action

This desire led me back to painting. Instead of painting just the marine world, and underwater life, I began painting our interactions with the marine world. Both the beautiful and the challenging. I wanted people to understand that we are intricately connected to the oceans. That our fate is tied together.

Photo courtesy of Rosie Poirier.

I began several series inspired by different styles of art. I focused in particular on plastic pollution. I painted pieces that showed the duality of land and oceans, or simply painted the marine life I encountered, to share the beauty of the oceans with the world. I wanted people who may not have the chance to interact with the oceans to see the ocean as valuable and connected to their everyday lives.

Using painting to convey a message of ocean conservation. Image courtesy of Rosie Poirier.

This past year, I was awarded the Our-World Underwater scholarship that allowed me to work with communities around the world who are developing ocean solutions to the challenges their communities are facing. I worked alongside many projects, learning about the different approaches to marine resource management and community science.

Photo courtesy of Rosie Poirier.

During my year, I painted a piece for every experience, highlighting the unique beauty of each environment and the learnings. Being on the road, I could only carry watercolour paints with me, but I made the most of the materials I had. The opportunity to paint as I went, inspired me to use art in real time to capture moments and experiences.

Comparing Rosie's video screen shot of a seahorse she filmed with the painting that was inspired by the footage. Using live experiences and images taken to inspire the paintings. Photo courtesy of Rosie Poirier.

Art became my superpower, my way of connecting to others and of bridging cultural and language barriers. I would paint with people I would meet around the world and learn about other perspectives and ways of communicating ocean conservation. Pairing real time experiences with art is a powerful combination. It brings stories to life. The result of which can be seen in this short film where the conservation initiatives, the art, and my journey through the scholarship year, are all told as one.

The most important thing I’ve learned in marine conservation is that we need all skill sets and areas of expertise in order to protect the oceans that we love and rely on. Coupling art with my work in the marine science field has opened meaningful doors for collaboration. Science often needs strong communication to champion its stories, and as a result, I’ve had the opportunity to focus on expedition art and community art, sharing impactful stories from around the world.

Arts are an important communication tool and a vessel for inspiring action. It allows us to convey a message and to influence the way people see the world. I strive to encourage more combined efforts between arts and sciences, to ensure that the meaningful work of conservation has the broadest impact.



Written by Rosie Poirier

Rosie is a marine scientist, underwater photographer, and an artist. She works primarily in the field of sustainable resource management and conservation. Rosie has spent many years doing field work with a variety of marine animals from sharks to whales to fish. She recently completed a year as the North American Our-World Underwater Scholar studying marine resource management projects around the world. Now she focuses on conservation strategy and accelerating programs of action in the sustainability sector. Working with both non-profits and industry to help communities improve the ways they interact with the ocean. Profile headshot courtesy of Sara Shoemaker-Lind.