October Eco-Artist: Tracie Megumi Art
Tracie Megumi Art - Shark Guardian Interview Questions
Q1. Hi, Tracie – We’re thrilled to have you as our Eco Artist of the Month for October! Tell us a bit about yourself for those who are not familiar with your work.
Thank you so much! I am an artist, marine naturalist and children’s art instructor. I mainly work with ink and mixed media for my art, and specialize in drawing marine wildlife. With black and white inks, I create detailed stippled pieces of ocean animals in hope of helping people recognize the importance of protecting marine species, and to gain an appreciation for ocean wildlife. My work is driven by a life-long love for the ocean.
Q2. You mention that you have a life-long love of the ocean – When did that start for you?
I have been drawn to the ocean for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to spend most of my childhood growing up in southern California near the ocean and have always been fascinated by the diverse ecosystems that lay beneath the surface.
Q3. Tell us a little bit about what you were doing when you worked in marine eco-tourism and your volunteer work.
Working in marine eco-tourism was an incredible experience that taught me a lot. I am a pretty shy person by nature, but taking a naturalist training course helped push me out of my shell and led to a position working for a local dolphin and whale watching company. I enjoyed introducing passengers to marine wildlife and incorporating education. I am still an avid whale watcher and go out as a passenger in my free time, and occasionally join trips with school groups as a volunteer naturalist. Outside of that, my volunteer work spans from donating art pieces for various fundraisers to fieldwork.
I have volunteered with Dolphin Project as a cove monitor to document and collect data on the dolphin drive hunts that happen in Taiji, Japan and its connecting to the captive dolphin trade. During that time, I also visited a tuna market in a nearby town and documented sharks being brought in. There were a few days when more than half of the market space would be full of large dead sharks. Fishermen worked their way through the floor cutting off and collecting the fins and loading them into trucks. It is hard seeing all of that happening.
Q4. Your artwork sales and collaborations support ocean conservation… What do you feel is the biggest threat to marine life at the moment?
That is a hard one- marine animals are facing so many threats right now. I think commercial fisheries may be one of the biggest threats. There is often an assumption that the oceans are limitless and immune to human impacts. As fishing operations have grown to massive scales in recent decades, more and more seafood is destructively caught. Not only are species targeted as seafood threatened by being mass-caught, but countless non-targeted sharks, marine mammals, turtles, sea birds and other animals fall as by-catch, or lose their lives to entanglement in fishing gear. Many parts of the world rely on the ocean for food - the over-exploitation of marine resources in commercial fisheries puts small coastal communities at risk of losing a critical food source.
Q5. Have you ever dived or snorkeled with sharks?
Yes! I have been lucky enough to snorkel with horn sharks around Catalina Island, and with leopard sharks in La Jolla. Both were very cool experiences. These sharks are quite small and like most wildlife, are best observed from a distance. Many people are afraid of sharks, but in reality many sharks- like leopard and horn sharks- are more afraid of us!
Q6. Your 100 Reasons Project is really interesting and a great way to bring awareness to endangered animals. Which animal is next on the list to highlight?
Thank you so much! It has been a while since I had a moment to work on this series. I think the next species I would like to highlight is the vaquita. As the most endangered cetacean in the world, their story is an important one to tell.
Q7. A lot of your artwork uses stippling (dotwork) – It’s such an interesting method as you create images which are both striking and very soft at the same time. We would love to know when did you first start using this method and how long does a piece typically take you?
I started stippling around 2015 or 2016. My first pieces were quite small and I was not very proud of them haha. About a few months in, I started incorporating solid black ink to create more harsh shadows and I think that helped push me to work more in layers to create smoother gradients between areas of light and show. Thanks to that method, my stippling work has definitely evolved.
It depends on the size- smaller pieces (on 7x10” paper) take around 8~12 hours, and larger pieces take 10~20 hours. I rarely ever do them in one sitting- I like to take them slowly and work in sessions that are a few hours each, over a span of several days.
Q8. What's your favorite shark to draw?
This is another hard one! Many sharks are very fun to draw. I would probably narrow it down to tiger sharks, shark sharks and hammerhead sharks as my favorite ones to draw.
Q9. Tell us more about your interests outside of art
Outside of art and marine life, I am into a lot of nerdy things haha. Cinematic worlds (Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, etc.), anime, comic books… I like all of that stuff! If I had not pursued a career in the marine world, I would have definitely pursued a career doing some sort of creative work in the film industry.
Q10. What current projects are you working on?
At the moment, I am not working on any major projects and am taking a short break and working on random pieces that just pop into my mind. It has been difficult to balance heavier workloads at my day job over the past few months and I felt the need to take off the pressure of working on large pieces for a little bit. Once this busy season passes, I hope to get back to the 100 reasons project and start other projects, and let the creative juices start flowing again!
You can find all of Tracie Megumi’s work on her website where she has originals, prints and stickers available - All supporting great ocean causes. Look out on our social media platforms for an awesome Giveaway next week!