Across the Sea: An Interview with Danielle Eubank
Danielle Eubank is an LA based painter and stARTup alumna who exhibited with us at stARTup LA 2016. We recently caught up with her as she completed a monumental quest to paint every ocean in order to raise awareness about ocean pollution and climate change.
Over 20 years, Danielle has painted roughly 200 bodies of water in 22 countries, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, for her project One Artist Five Oceans. She recently returned from Antarctica and has mounted a solo exhibition of her works at the Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture at California Lutheran University. The exhibition is on display until August 1, 2019.
Read on to hear what she has to say about the experience and what we all can do to help the oceans now.
Where did you get the idea to start painting the world’s oceans? How long have you been doing it?
I have been painting the world’s oceans since 2001. After painting water for 3 years I was asked to join the Borobudur Ship Expedition, a replica 8th century Indonesian vessel that sailed from Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and up the west coast of Africa to Ghana. After this voyage I had painted the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. I continued to paint the Atlantic and Indian on the Phoenicia Ship Expedition, a replica 6th century BCE vessel that circumnavigated Africa. Both expeditions were spearheaded by explorer Philip Beale. Seeing these oceans gave me the desire to see the rest. Next I sailed to the Arctic ocean aboard a 3-masted barquentine. And finally, I have just returned from Antarctica where I had the great privilege to paint the Southern Ocean. I am working up paintings from that expedition now.
What do you hope to accomplish with this body of work?
With all my work, I want people to look, think, and feel. I hope to encourage people to slow down a little and appreciate the way water looks and behaves. I hope they think about it, how clean it is, how important it is, how we can help it. I hope they feel connected to memories it provokes and feel passionate about protecting it. Climate reality and our oceans are intricately connected. There are tons of simple, easy things we can do to help mitigate how much CO2 we put into the air. For example, did you know that food averages 1500 miles before reaching our plates? If we buy local food that would save a lot of CO2 produced by shipping all that food.
Are there artists who have had an influence on your practice, either on your technique or subject matter?
The reason I’m an artist is because I’m a big art fan. I love German Expressionism–especially Ernst Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka, Emil Nolde, Wassily Kandinsky. I also love the work of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Gerhard Richter, Barbara Hepworth, William Scott, Louise Bourgeois.
What are some of the physical challenges of practicing art on a ship and in rugged terrain?
I sketch in oil in my sketchbooks and I have developed a very concise kit of sketching materials so that it’s not too heavy and doesn’t take up a lot of space. This is especially important when on a boat because space is limited and I don’t want to get in others’ way. I take 2-3 sketchbooks including a very small one. The small ones are nice for when you are hiking and you want to get a quick idea down. I like to keep it in my pocket. That way I don’t have to take off my backpack and get everything out. I also take a camera because oftentimes it’s snowing, raining, or the thing I want to sketch isn’t someplace where I can hang out for very long.
What are the challenges to painting bodies of water, and how do you avoid the cliches of “water paintings?”
One of the challenges to any kind of painting is finding your own voice. All art (dance, theatre, writing, sculpture, music etc) are languages. They are ways to communicate something. What is communicated through visual art and music are different. Even if they are about the same subject. I hope my paintings of water express my own way of seeing.
And what are some simple and effective things people can do to help the environment — specifically their impact on the ocean?
There are hundreds of simple things that people can do to help the oceans and mitigate climate change. Oceans and climate change are interrelated. As the climate warms up, the oceans warm which adversely affects a lot of animals and plants in the ocean. As the oceans warm, there is less ice which helps reflect heat back up into the sky, which means the planet heats up faster.
Here are three simple things we can all do to help. They help the planet, often are less expensive, and sometimes are better ways of doing things anyway. Win win win.
Say no to plastic. I just found these reusable silicon bags and I prefer them to ziplock bags.
Try a meat-free diet one or two days a week. It takes 5,000-20,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef, compared to 500-4,000 liters to produce wheat.
Don’t buy sunscreen with oxybenzone. It is toxic to young coral (not to mention it can lead to lower testosterone levels in boys). Between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reef areas around the world each year.
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