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We believe art and science can come together and create a powerful conservation message. We asked Elise to join our art and media team because of her passion for the oceans and her incredible artistic work. You will be seeing a lot of Elise’s art in our curriculum packets and other educational materials. We are thrilled to welcome her to the team and excited to share her shark story with you.
1. How old were you when you saw your first shark?
I began visiting the Baltimore aquarium in Maryland with my family at a very young age, before I was even old enough to walk on my own.
But the first time I was ever up close by a shark in the wild was at age 12. This was a Reef Shark that was simply swimming by while I was snorkeling in Hawaii. At the time I was in awe, not knowing whether to swim away quickly or just stay out of the way. Years later, I have now been able to hold wild juvenile nurse and lemon sharks, as well as swim with Caribbean Reef Sharks in Bimini, Bahamas, and have come a long way in my education and appreciation for sharks.
2. When did you start sketching? Do you have a favorite animal to sketch?
I have been sketching since I was first able to hold a pencil at age two. Typically I am always doodling, and have always loved drawing portraits and landscapes in graphite or pen. This past Summer and Fall 2014 were really the first times I had actually attempted to focus on animals as my subject. But since then, I have found that I love drawing almost any marine animal, but I particularly have enjoyed drawing those with neat textures, such as the smooth shell of a sea turtle, the unique looking skin of a nurse shark, shiny fish scales or the rough surface of a sea star.
3. What is your favorite shark and why?
I have always been amazed at all of the unique adaptations many sharks have, so I am really drawn to Hammerheads and Thresher Sharks. Looking at pictures and videos of these two never ceases to amaze me. The power of tails of Threshers are simply incredible, and the Hammerheads just honestly look quite out of this world.
4. What is one species of shark you would like to see in the wild?
When speaking of unique adaptations, it is hard not to mention species such as the Basking Shark. I would love to see one of these amazing sharks in the wild, because with their sheer size, I think it would be so incredible to see one simply swimming up towards the surface with their huge set of jaws, using them for filter feeding.
5. Artwork can play a critical role in addressing specific global issues, do you feel like your work can help sharks?
I have always had a fascination with marine life, and the more I have learned about these amazing animals the more I want to help convey the importance of having them in our global ecosystem. I think the major key to making any changes in a global issue is education and awareness, which hopefully I can contribute towards through producing works for Sharks 4 Kids.
6. How do you hope you artwork helps sharks? What message do you hope it conveys?
If more people were educated about the real nature of sharks and their role as apex predators or even keystone species in many habitats, we might not have as many issues as we do in protecting them today. Through producing art, I hope to depict them in the way I have grown to learn to appreciate and admire them, which will hopefully lend towards breaking the negative stereotypes many associate with sharks.
7. Why is creating shark art important to you? What goals do you have for your artwork?
If there was increased education and awareness, then maybe there would be a larger global drive towards preventing harmful practices such as shark finning, over-fishing, and bycatch. If I could contribute to this awareness, I would produce as many illustrations as possible to show the world the many misconceptions about sharks, and show really how incredible these animals are.