I am really happy to finally share the finished piece with you – some more work-in-progress pictures are below. This little guy was a bit unsettled for a while, and the painting has been on and off the easel for months … But I think he’s finally resting peacefully now.
Besides being extremely intelligent, sea otters** become especially adorable when you find out they sleep holding hands (to avoid drifting away from their buddies)!
Perhaps this lil guy is dreaming, unaware that he has drifted into unknown waters. The distance is dark, and he is at risk of losing the safety of belonging.
But in his solidarity, there is growth. There is bright light that shines on his face, and beautiful things are blossoming from within.
Sometimes, we are so busy looking around us for affirmation and safety, that we forget to look for the possibilities within ourselves. Perhaps venturing out solo, away from what is familiar and secure, is the key to discovering and developing the seedling of our own potential.
Being alone can be daunting. It takes trust – not just in other people, but in yourself. As writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell wisely said:
‘All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.’
As I worked on this piece, it grew into a reminder: you can choose to be your own worst enemy, or your greatest ally. Which would you prefer?
* A note on the title for this painting — I have great admiration for still life painting, particularly by the Dutch and Spanish masters of the 16th century. These paintings convey a deep reverence, meditating on detail, on nature, on life itself. It’s interesting to note that still life is a rather oxymoronic term, because life – that is, movement, action, flux – can never really be still.
A still life painting is therefore beautiful artifice, presented in a way that draws the viewer into the complexity of simple objects or pieces of life often dismissed as mundane. Often, in life as in art, it’s the simple things that deserve most attention.
**Sea otters are a keystone species essential for the kelp eco-system – but they are currently endangered, due to their love of shellfish (competing with human demand) and the poaching of their luscious coats (something like 150,000 hairs per square cm, the densest hair count per inch for any animal!) You can find out more about how we can help these beautiful creatures on various dedicated conservation organisations, including here.