A mother humpback whale with her calf embark on a remarkable migration.
As you look closer, a thousand tiny details reveal themselves; the ocean animals making their home in the coral reefs that have established on her colossal body.
Whaley McWhaleface provides sanctuary for the ocean life inhabiting the thriving ecosystems and vibrant habitats she carries, kept safe from humanity's impact on the sea.
She is mother and protector of the oceans of our world.
Started and completed in 2021, Whaley McWhaleface took 6 months to create and measures 2.2 x 1.2 metres. To help tackle the scale and complexity, I made a small plan of the composition and sketched the outline onto my drawing board.
Then the ideas and details evolved as I worked my way inch-by-inch across the drawing, worked with fine-tipped pen (0.03mm) and ink.
Unlike my previous drawings on paper, this piece is created on a gessoed board. Whereas paper is unforgiving, this surface allowed me to smudge, sand, scratch, and render in new ways. I broke some rules I realised I had set myself and I loved it!
Watch a short video about my inspiration & processes behind Whaley McWhaleface
The world’s humpback whale populations are making an extraordinary come back after being hunted almost to extinction by commercial whaling up until the mid-1980s.
But the wildlife in our oceans faces a multitude of human threats – entanglement in fishing nets, rising sea temperatures, hunting, chemical, plastic and noise pollution, and poor fisheries management. There is still a long way to go.
The humpback whales' recovery gives hope that our oceans can be restored.
Whaley McWhaleface is a symbol of that hope.
Within her sphere, ocean life thrives; turtles congregate around flourishing coral gardens, a squadron of manta rays hitch a ride on the current and hammerhead sharks school in the shallows.
A recent review in the journal Nature suggests that if the oceans are protected now, marine life could start making a rebound within our lifetime. How wonderful to imagine… how wonderful to achieve.
An ominous tide looms. A mass of colossal proportions rises up slowly and inexorably from the deep ocean. The displacement of water causes a giant swell that will be felt across the globe. Torrents of water tumble down the sides of the great whale as she rears to the surface. With a blast, she exhales and with a gasp, she draws in an immense breath. Thousands of years of slumber will leave a mythological whale desperate for some fresh air. She had been disturbed by a nagging realisation that her world had been rocked out of kilter.
Truly, it seems that something has contaminated her home. No, this would not do. She points her snout into the great abyss and with a tremendous undulating crescendo she bellows. Her screech pierces and pervades the deep. Her cry, like a beacon, rolls through the open ocean, it resonates from every shore, reverberates around every reef, punctuates every crack and crevice. It is heard by each and every creature, and although there is no literal meaning to the sound, the essence of the cry is clear and purposeful.
Betrayal!’ She spoke. Interestingly the word has a slightly different meaning in ancient mythological whale tongue. The closest translation is as follows:
‘To Whom It May Concern,
It has come to my attention that our oceans are being destroyed by some inconsiderate apes. These apes, who think they are far smarter than any other animal that has ever graced the surface of this planet, are very busy making everything (including themselves) rather extinct. If you would like avoid this sort of thing, then please consider taking sanctuary with me. I can provide safe passage for all marine creatures. There is no payment or deposit required, you will not owe a debt of service. Simply come and stay amongst a delightful array of ecosystems suitable for any and all needs. You are encouraged to reproduce. Let us ride out this storm together! So, how about it?
Yours truly,Lord of the observable (and unobservable) ocean, protectorate of the high seas, Her Royal Highness,
Ps. Usual rules apply. You may still get eaten. Just do your best.'
What discerning marine animal could refuse such an offer. She thought..