Skip to content

Envisioning Shades of Ocean Blue

From ancient1 to modern times, visual arts have sent powerful messages to audiences on the well-being of the natural world. The oceans are a source of inspiration for many artists, providing subjects such as marine life, seascapes and marine ecosystems negatively impacted by human activity. Like the tiles of a mosaic2,

Detail from ancient Roman mosaic in Pompeii, Italy, photo credit: Chris Beckett)

Detail from ancient Roman mosaic in Pompeii, Italy, photo credit: Chris Beckett

every element of the oceans work together to establish one cohesive, living ecosystem. Ocean art is a powerful tool to inform audiences about the threats facing our oceans as well as the treasures hidden beneath the waves.

From paintings to photography3, marine art provides a platform for artists to express their perceptions of the oceans in the best way they know: through their art. For example, Zaria Forman creates large scale charcoal compositions of marine landscapes. She chooses to capture the beauty of ice and water in her drawings rather than the devastation in hopes that people will be inspired to conserve ocean places before it is too late.

Threats facing the oceans, such as ocean acidification4, are sometimes incorporated into artists’ pieces. Jill Pelto5, an art and science graduate from the University of Maine, shares data on ocean topics and threats through her watercolor paintings6 using graphs on matters such as climate change and species decline. Artwork like this brings scientific information to the public in a captivating way.

Background graph represents decline in ocean pH, image credits: Jill Pelto

Background graph represents decline in ocean pH, photo credit: Jill Pelto

Not only can marine art facilitate an emotional connection for viewers, it can also serve as a learning platform for the public on ocean conservation issues. Wildlife and environmental artists, such as Wyland7, use their creations and organizations to bring attention to the importance of marine conservation. DJ Jackson8, a scientific illustrator, developed a better understanding of the oceans through illustrations. Using his art, he teaches the public about the oceans’ value and why conservation is necessary for changing seas.

Organizations around the world often hold events that bring together artists for a common goal – to raise awareness about threats facing the oceans. Events like Washed Ashore9 use sculptures made completely out of marine plastic litter to raise awareness of the epidemic problem of plastic pollution in our

close up of 'aqueduct' by Courtney Mattison, image credit: Glen McClure

Close up of ‘aqueduct’ by Courtney Mattison, image credit: Glen McClure

oceans. A ceramic sculpture series at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) 10 earlier this year highlighted the delicacy of marine ecosystems in the face of human threats. The annual From the Bow Seat11 art contest involves younger generations by urging youth to examine the connections between humans and marine environments as they create works of art.

Marine Conservation Institute is dedicated to securing permanent, strong protections for important global ocean places, for us and future generations. We celebrate marine art that shares a strong message with the public about the significance of marine conservation for protecting the oceans, whether they reveal the beauty in these ocean places or the damages inflicted upon them.

Purple starfish on a bed of soft coral in the Great Bear Sea, British Columbia. Photo credit: Cristina Mittermeier (GLORES partner photographer, ILCP member, Sea Legacy)


Featured Image: original piece by Lucia Davids, untitled














  1. Patricia Navarrete on July 28, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Beautifully imaged and lovingly written in support of our precious oceans. Brava!!