Have you ever started diving deep into a topic and researching it like crazy – but you’re not even sure why?
That’s been me the last couple of months. The topic? Marine wildlife of the Salish Sea and Pacific Northwest Coastal areas of the United States.
But I guess this is often how passion projects begin.
Lions Field Park in Bremerton is a favorite walking spot of mine. It offers views of the Olympic Mountains, a beach to walk on, and once in a while a glimpse of an orca pod.
On further thought though, I’ll admit that this topic might not be so random, considering that I have grown up and currently live on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State. Beach trips and bald eagles sightings were a regular part of my childhood. I also love wildlife and nature. I will take any excuse to go on a walk outside.
The beaches around here are littered with interesting mollusks, like this little periwinkle shell playing host to some barnacles.
However, even though I grew up here, I don’t really know a lot about our local marine wildlife. Really, all I know are the basic shells on the beach and the orca pods that come into the inlets. For the last few months I have been fascinated with learning more about the vast variety of wildlife that calls this area home: limpets, seals, mollusks, shore birds, seas slugs. Especially sea slugs! Some of these creatures are unique to this area, found nowhere else in the world. Like glass sponges. They were thought to be extinct until this reef was discovered off the coast of British Columbia. How crazy is that?!
Seriously, this coastal wildlife identification guide book is amazing. Here I was referencing it for the limpet art piece I was working on.
This new interest has been making me excited to get outside and explore the local beaches and inlets. To go see and sketch them with fresh eyes and a specific focus. So much so that I requested a Pacific Northwest Coast wildlife field guide for Christmas. (FYI my parents got me the one pictured above and I love it.)
So here is the start of a new little passion project!
I’ve decided to start intentionally visiting areas all around the Puget Sound, Salish Sea, and PNW coast to observe and sketch the wildlife and environment. This project is getting a rather organic kick start through our local First Friday Artwalk. I was invited to exhibit an art display on March’s First Friday. At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted to create, but then thought, “Well, this is the perfect opportunity to start painting all of those mollusks you’ve been nerding out over the last month!”
Close-up shot of the ink line art for the mussel art piece I've been working on for the First Friday Art Walk. Lots of little pen details went into this one!
So I’ve been happily cozied up inside, carefully drawing mussel shells and identifying limpets. The artwork – along with some of my sketchbook spreads! – will be on display at Bremerton Canvas on Friday March 4 from 5-8pm. If you are in the area and want to stop by, I’d love to see you.
I’ve never done a passion project like this, with a specific focus and maybe a bit of self-imposed pressure to follow through. But the joy of enjoying and discovering more about where I live is at the heart of it. So whether that means I visit a new beach every week or only a couple of times this year, it is still worth it.
Even before I started this project, one of my favorite things was to sit down on a beach and sketch all the little treasures I found. Now at least I have a field guide to help me identify some of them!
If you have any ideas of places to visit for my sketch trips, I’d love to hear! Drop me a comment below. And I’ll do my best to keep you updated on all the beauty I find. 🙂