Lately, I have been reading a lot about early whale research. What I find hard to get over is the idea of trying to depict something that you have never seen before… and to strive for accuracy.
In early pursuits of science this happened frequently. Although explorers often had skilled artists on board to document the discovery of new plants, animals and geography, there was often too much to record in the moment. Many detailed descriptions of strange creatures were recorded and brought back to later be captured by the artists’ hand.
At this point in history mystery covered the surface of the oceans and sailors sailed filled with excitement and fear. In these far distant reaches of the globe lived a multitude of monsters and fanciful creatures that challenged the very limits of imagination.
This gets even harder when you consider creatures that only reveal themselves momentarily while they take a breath. Only showing a fraction of their bodies. These artists had to employ both their observational powers as well as a healthy imagination to fill in the blanks. They were trying desperately to see what they did not know.
I started this series of drawings on the premise of trying not to see what I do know. After drawing and painting 100’s of whales I feel like I have a good understanding of what they look like and how to draw them. As a fun challenge I decided to try to draw them with my eyes closed to see if what I come up with has a similar feel to that of early whale drawings. With a specific whale species in mind I closed my eyes, pictured a whale and slowly and hesitantly drew the outer line. Then, I went back into each drawing adding in the detail.