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July Eco-Artist: Miriam, Under The Sea Art

Under The Sea Art Shark Guardian Interview Questions

Q1. Hi, Miri – We’re thrilled to have you as our Eco Artist of the Month for July 2021! Tell us a bit about yourself for those who are not familiar with your work.

Hi! Thank you so much for having me! My name is Miri, I’m from Germany and obsessed with everything OCEAN. I have recently finished my Master’s in Marine Biology at Stockholm University in Sweden, have spent my last year before COVID-19 working as a shark researcher and intern trainer in South Africa and before that I worked as a dive master in Mozambique. It’s only really this year that I would actually call myself an artist as well, so I feel very honored to be your Eco Artist for July!

Q2. When did you get started as an artist?

I started painting in November last year (I painted a lot as a child, I apparently had an obsession with painting orcas, but since then I hadn’t touched a paintbrush in probably over 15 years). Art was all a big coincidence that has now turned into one of my favorite things in life! One evening the then two year old niece of my boyfriend Greg was just finishing her painting and left a lot of paint. The “don’t let anything ever go to waste”-kind of person I am, I just thought I’d use up all that leftover paint and quickly painted a humpback whale. Much to the surprise of Greg and his sister Sam, the whale was actually recognizable as a whale. It wasn’t anything special or good at all, but they both saw a talent in me, that I didn’t until much later. In October I handed in my Msc thesis and as a graduation gift Sam gave me this watercolor painting set (when she gave it to me I thought to myself “wow she really has a lot of confidence in me”. But yeah, from November on, we went into full lockdown and without studies to do or a full time job, I all of the sudden had lots of time to paint. Now it’s June and I haven’t done much else. My painting has rapidly improved so that I now have my own Etsy shop, a clothing collection, a book about a shark that will hopefully be published in the future and I have just had my first job as a scientific illustrator. So really this is all thanks to my niece and her mum, which I will be forever grateful for.

Q3. What attracted you to painting orcas throughout your childhood?

I’m born in the 90’s and Free Willy was my absolute favorite movie. When I was 6 or 7 years old, my parents took us to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to see Kaiko in his rehabilitation home after he was rescued from a Mexican performance park, and before he was released back into the wild (Side note: I am absolutely against the captivity of whales, or any animals really). I remember my sister and I painting all these paintings of releasing Kaiko and Kaiko being reunited with his family in Iceland in support of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation. I knew that it wasn’t natural to keep him in a tank, but I probably didn’t really understand what it actually means and takes to re-wild an animal that has been in captivity for so long. As a child it surely had an impact on me seeing such a beautiful and large animal up close – growing up in the black forest in Germany I couldn’t have been much further away from the sea (back home you know the mountains, not the ocean), however I wish everyone could see these animals in the wild (maybe seeing Kaiko in the Aquarium switched on the first little conservationist genes in me). None of my family or friends particularly share or even understand my passion for the ocean and my mom still shakes her head and wonders where I got this from. What I find fascinating is however, that ever since I started painting I’ve had more people interested in what I do and conversations about the animals I paint than when I was actually working with sharks. I guess it’s just always about what people can relate to. Not many people particularly want to get close to sharks, yet most people like art – so really it’s been such a new way for me to connect other people with the ocean and I absolutely love it.

Q4. What was the most interesting thing you learned about studying marine biology?