Heather Mary Brown

Sea Otters

This is now available in Limited Edition Giclee on stretched canvas 36 by 36 inches.

This painting was done from sketches and photos off the back of a sailboat coming around the north end of Vancouver Island. The small village of Winter Harbour has a plethora of these little rascals. To the outsider the sea otter is so darn cute but to the residents of Winter Harbour they are blamed for everything from the decline of the rock crab to global warming. I can believe that they good at retrieving crab from the depths of the ocean but I guess when you have a boom of over 50, sea otters could easily decimate a bay the size of Winter Harbour. I don’t think the crabs are wiped out but the numbers caught by humans is way down.

The sea otters on the north island are said to be the off spring of a group of otters brought down from Alaska to repopulate the coastal area after the otters were pretty much hunted to extinction over the last 200 years. For reasons unknown the otters seem to love the inlet that leads into Winter Harbour, maybe for the dame reason that it became a huge commercial fishing mecca in its’ heydays. It is a natural shelter from most of the gales that may blow up on the open ocean, and it has a healthy ecosystem that supports the sea life that the fishermen and otters seem to enjoy.

This canvas is about 2 ½ feet by 4 feet, stretch linen canvas on wood stretcher bars. It is primed with stained gesso. It started as a solid chunk of ocean, painted in acrylic paint, and it stayed just ocean for several months. I just loved the look of it. It reminded me of a painting my mother did that she entitled Cape Beale. She meant to do more on it but she just loved the way it looked, wild and untamable, so she left it. I had plans for mine.

I sketched otters from all angles trying to find a couple that would fit the waves of my painting. I never managed to capture images of the otters breaking things on their stomachs, or lazing on the surface. They were very animals and there is no way you can sneak up for a good look, except on a sailboat, under sail. I had a hard time getting in close so had to revert to a zoom lens which makes it difficult to hold still while pounding over the waves. I got some photos that where shaky but I can use them for ideas later. When I saw one with a crab I knew I would use that idea. It covered the whole human otter interaction thing, and one of the main reason my friends in Winter Harbour don’t appreciate the little darlings. I worked in the large otter with a crab in its paws, but did not work the ocean surface up to its fur. Once I had the foreground otters in the painting (adult with young), I started on the task of working the water surface up into the fur to get that wet look. I always have a favourite little piece of a painting; in this case it is the water bead on the mother’s forearm.

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