Saturday, February 23, 2008

People ask me, "Are you crazy??"

The 3 women that I regularly scuba dive with and I, (the Viking Women), will be taking a Shark School workshop with our friend, Dr. Erich Ritter in May 2008. Dr. Ritter gives these workshops in the Bahamas, South Africa and the Maldives. The purpose of the workshop is to focus on the behavior of sharks with a special emphasis on interacting with them.

We have dove many times with
sharks. In fact, when we schedule diving trips, we like to make sure that we are going where we will see sharks.

Dr. Erich Ritter is a shark behaviorist and the senior scientist of Green Marine. He has a PhD in Behavioral Ecology and his expertise is to work with sharks to try to find out what their body language means. His main interest is shark attacks and their causes. He has spent the last 8 years collecting data from the oceans around the world, but his primary focus is on bull sharks, lemon sharks and great whites.

If you have ever watch "
Shark Week" on Discovery channel, you have seen him. He, himself, was attacked by a female bull shark in Walkers Cay, Bahamas in 2002, while standing in 3 feet of water researching the sharks. The already frequently performed experiment was to show that sharks do not pay attention to people when there is food in the water. The water was murky that day and there were more than the usual amount of sharks gathered. As a chunk of food was thrown into the water, a remora (shark sucker) grabbed at the food and headed in Erich's direction. A bull shark snatched at the remora and caught Erich's left calf in the process. Although it took several hours of surgery to reattach the muscles, he will never have normal use of his leg. He forgave the shark and he clearly saw this as a case of mistaken identity in this situation.

Erich Ritter: "... there is no such thing as dangerous sharks, only dangerous situations. This fact must be made public... for the sake of the animals and our children... once mankind can get rid of its fear from sharks, then sharks can be protected... the over fishing and slaughtering of sharks is one of the biggest ecological time bombs of our time and the consequences will have a devastating effect - not just for nature but mankind as well... the conscious interaction with sharks is an important tool for their better understanding..."

I have a love for sharks that makes my family think I'm just plain crazy!! I like to lay on the ocean bottom with my camera and wait for the sharks to get close enough for me to get that "ultimate shot." (I'm still waiting for it). I guess you could say I'm a little too adventurous for my own good sometimes. But my love for sharks goes beyond the camera. I see a very real potential of our harming the balance of our oceans by allowing things like "finning" to happen.
Finning is a practice in certain countries and cultures that uses longlines in fishing to catch many sharks at once, bring them on board the fishing boats, remove and keep the fins and throw the rest of the carcass back into the sea. Shark meat is considered low value and of no purpose. The sharks are most often alive when they are tossed back in and not being able to swim, they sink to the bottom to die a miserable death. The fins are then transported back to market to be used mainly in shark fin soup. One pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more, making it a multi-billion dollar industry. This practice has increased over the past decade, causing the shark population to dwindle yearly.

Practices like long-lining doesn't just affect the sharks, but sea turtles, dolphins and other bird and sea creatures who get caught in these lines.

The shark's only natural enemy is man. Man is destroying our oceans day by day, year by year. We have to be educated and aware and stop these barbaric practices, for the sake of, not only the sharks, but of our oceans.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My friend, Liz

My newest friend, Liz, whom I met through the Antioch Fine Art Foundation, is having a wonderful showing of her pressed botanicals at the Genoa City Library, Genoa City, Wi. She had a nice article published about her and her work, but her last name was spelled wrong in every mention of it! She is going crazy about this because for such a simple name as WANK, it seems it is never spelled right. But despite the misspelling, her work is beautiful. She grows her own flowers and makes her own paper to create delicate botanical artwork.
We talked yesterday, and she has been contacted by Ryan Garrett Fine Art Consulting in Cardiff, CA, about putting her pieces into a hotel in Utah !!! Way to go, Liz!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Our World Underwater Show a Success

Well, the weekend was, what I would call, a success for me at Our World Underwater consumer scuba dive show, Donald Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Il.

I had a good booth spot, right on the corner near the concession area, so people sitting and eating/ drinking could view my work, and people walking to and from that area had to pass by me. I had a giveaway drawing of my TURTLE print, (people love freebies!), and a lovely lady in Muskego, WI. was the winner. She was thrilled.

I met many wonderful people........divers/non-divers. Had great feedback on my art; gathered information on what art divers want to see next in my work (whales, nudibranchs, etc), which I will take into consideration for my next paintings, got two possible commissions, and I made some sales.

It was a long weekend out on the "floor", but well worth it. I already have my booth reserved for Feb 20-22, 2009! Hope to see you there.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our World Underwater

I am furiously preparing to show my artwork in booth # 1011 at Our World Underwater, a scuba diving trade show, in Rosemont Il. The show runs from Friday, Febr. 15 thru Sunday, Febr 17.

There are many booths with scuba equipment, underwater cameras, resorts that offer diving packages, seminars on a multitude of dive relates subjects, a Saturday evening film festival, Scuba Radio will be broadcasting, Team Scuba Nascar will be there...........and so much more. It promises to be a great time!!

I will report on how the weekend was next week.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pink Ribbon Angelfish

I have added my Pink Ribbon Angelfish to my blog because I want to remind women to do self-exams and yearly mammograms as a way to maintain the delicate balance of our lives.
I have partnered with the
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Milwaukee Affiliate, through a written agreement that I may use their name on my website and any promotional materials I use.
Ten percent of the sales of my marine art is donated to them.
I have made the fight against breast cancer a personal battle. My daughter-in-law and niece are both battling this disease and I would like to see an advancement in breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment to someday eradicate it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Scuba diving and my art

Art has been something that has been a part of my life since childhood. I would fill up school notebooks with doodling and spend hours drawing objects around the house. I never had a formal art lesson until Senior year of high school, at which time I learned to use different mediums.........paints, pastels, charcoal. I continued to play with these mediums for years drawing and painting mostly landscapes, and then at the age of 37, I went to college and received a degree in fine art.

During that same time, I received my scuba certification which also took my art down a different avenue. On seeing the iridescent blues and greens of the Queen Angelfish, the brilliant yellows of a Butterfly Fish, and the purples, oranges, pinks and reds of sea fans, corals and sea stars, it reminded me of a child's scattered box of crayons and I knew that I had to get what I was seeing onto canvas.

My husband bought me a Nikonos V camera and I started to take tons of photos, not for their quality, but for reference. I always keep a sketchbook packed in with my diving equipment and on coming up from dives, I do quick ink sketches to keep myself refreshed of what I have just seen underwater. Back from my trips and in the comfort of my sun lit studio, I transfer my sketches and underwater photos into brilliantly colored watercolors or oil paintings. I don't paint in an Impressionistic, Realistic or Abstract style. I think of "style" as a relative term and I have developed one that allows me to "recreate" the underwater world as I see it in my mind.

I am an adventure seeker by nature. I like to invite challenge and conquest to my life. My marine art is a celebration of the sea. I hope to draw attention through my art to the health and survival of our oceans for future generations to enjoy. I hope that I can make a increasing awareness and education through my art the delicate balance that exists between our lives with that of the oceans.

Life is precious.......on land or under the sea.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Diving in the Bahamas

Water and being around it has always held a fascination for me since I was a child, but at the age of forty, what started out as something to do with my sons on a vacation to Grand Cayman, has now become a passion to me.

The sport of scuba diving has taken over my life, so to speak. No longer subscribing to Country Living and Good Housekeeping,
Scuba Diver and Diver Alert magazines now fill my mailbox. I ask for new diving and underwater photography equipment for birthdays and Christmas. I dream of my next destination for a dive trip, and am packed weeks in advance. On a dive trip, my underwater camera is always loaded with fresh film and new batteries in readiness for that "perfect" photo. I don't care if I am diving in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, the turbid Pacific Ocean or the forty degree lakes and quarries of my native state of Wisconsin. Just so I am diving !!!

On getting certified, I met on my first Bahamian trip, three other women divers. We have since become best of friends and have been dubbed by the other divers in our circle, the "Viking Women", for the mere fact that the four of us out dive everyone else on our trips, including the men. On a four day trip, it is not uncommon for us to get in 18 dives.

On this first Bahamian trip, the "Viking Women" chose the island of Providence, (its capital being Nassau). The resort is called Dive,Dive,Dive and is on a remote side of the island, away from the bright lights of the city. We have since returned there to dive because of the beautiful reefs on what is called the Tongue of the Ocean.....a crevice that reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean and drops to 6000 feet. But what really draws us there is the incredible shark diving.
For whatever reason, the population of
sharks is more abundant: Gray Reef, Caribbean Reef, Bull, Silky and an occasional Hammerhead. Despite what Hollywood has instilled into our psychics, sharks do not as a general rule attack people and use them as lunch. Sharks can be an aggressive animal, but if one is careful and does nothing to threaten them or their territory, then observing them can be a very pleasant experience. Their long streamlined silvery-gray bodies glide through the water in silence, and their elliptical unstaring eyes penetrate your very soul as they pass by you.

Diving on a shipwreck, such as the Bahama Mama with the sharks, makes for an unforgettable dive. The wreck looms up out of the abyss like a ghostly figure, and the silhouetted sharks add to the eeriness of the scene. Some of the shipwrecks in these waters are sunken cargo ships, rum-runners and Haitian escapee boats. Pirating is still alive and well in the Caribbean.