These Abstract Paintings of Earth's Oceans Are Spellbinding

"Arctic XI" is a painting inspired by the Arctic Ocean.
Image: Danielle Eubank (2018)
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Danielle Eubank, an award-winning international artist, has come a long way since she began painting the world’s oceans 20 years ago. She’s got one trip left in February: to the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. Eubank has already painted four of Earth’s major oceans, but this final Antarctica series will complete her journey.

Her goal is simple: “I want people to slow down for a minute and observe, think, and feel,” she told Earther. She wants people to consider how their actions can improve the world around them, and cherish this planet we all share.

And the oceans need all the love they can get. Throughout her travels, Eubank hasn’t been able to escape pollution, from styrofoam on top of Arctic ice to remnants of oil gleaming on the Indian Ocean’s surface to countless plastic pieces on the beaches near her L.A. home. This plastic eventually winds up killing more than a million seabirds a year, along with more than 100,000 marine mammals, according to UNESCO.

“The thing that worries me about that is what you can’t see,” Eubank said.

She’s talking about the microplastics that have made their way into every species of sea turtle, our table salt, and even the remote Arctic. All of these impacts are why Eubank has embarked on weeks-long sea voyages.

Before she had kids, the artist would be away for months at a time. She’s sailed north of the Arctic Circle with a program that brings scientists and artists together to explore the North Pole. Overall Eubank has now logged more than 30,000 miles on the sea and painted more than 200 bodies of water.

Eubank works with oil paints on linen, taking a delicate touch to communicate what she sees. Her paintings are often abstract; viewers may not always realize they’re looking at water. While some may expect hues of blue to be predominant, Eubank also uses lots of warm reds and yellows to depict sunsets reflecting off the water. Blacks and whites help outline ripples and waves that are gone as soon as they appear.

“I’ll take bits and pieces of the landscape and the water and the light to create a composition that is hopefully alluring and provocative and emotive
,” she said.

Eubank knows she’ll never stop painting water, so maybe this project will never really end. The way she sees it, her final expedition coming up next month marks a new beginning. In the meantime, she hopes each of us does our part to save the oceans and, ultimately, ourselves.