Making Waves: Artist Danielle Eubank Captures the World’s Oceans on Canvas | News

Talk about having sea legs: For the past 20 years, artist Danielle Eubank has sailed the world’s oceans and captured the experiences in abstract paintings that delve into the beauty, unpredictability and drama of open water.

“Boundless,” an exhibit largely made up of recent ocean paintings by Eubank, is on view at the Pamela Walsh Gallery in Palo Alto through Jan. 22.

In an interview with this publication, Eubank said she had always been drawn to water, but there were several reasons why it became such a big theme in her work. On the one hand, she likes a challenge – and always has.

As a child, Eubank already frequently drew and created art. Time at the beach inspired her from an early age, growing up in Sonoma County near Bodega Bay.

One day, around the age of 12, she recalled, “just looking at the waves, sitting there for a second, not really doing anything, looking at the water and thinking, ‘I could never draw It’s beautiful and it’s intense and it’s amazing, but I can’t think of anything more difficult to draw, “that’s what crossed my mind at that moment”, a- she declared.

In addition to the challenge, both the emotional pull of people’s experiences with water and the ever-changing nature of the element help open it up, as a subject, to broad interpretation.

“The great thing about water is that it’s organic. And what you see in it is very abstract…I can create all kinds of shapes that I like and colors that I like. appeal to me and abstract ideas and emotions.And yet I can still mold it to look like water, which appeals to everyone.

We all have experience with water. Whether it’s swimming or boating, fishing or drinking water, farming or being on vacation, we all have some kind of memory related to water, so it’s very evocative,” she said.

Eubank has now spent two decades taking on his own challenge of depicting water in his art, with voyages to all five of the world’s oceans: Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern. A 2019 trip to the Southern Ocean near Antarctica completed his quest to document all of the world’s oceans. Most of the artwork featured in “Boundless” was inspired by this most recent journey.

Eubank relies on both colors and textures that viewers might find surprising for ocean-themed paintings, a departure from the palette of blues and greens expected of the seaside and smooth and vitreous which often evoke water in art.

Shades of blue and green appear in his pieces, but in works such as Southern Ocean IX and Southern Ocean VI, puddles and splashes of cool reds and pinks – even a fiery orange in Southern Ocean X – ripple across the cloth. White makes frequent appearances, adding shimmer and a sense of depth and luminescence in pieces such as Southern Ocean XIV.

In Southern Ocean XI and Southern Ocean VII, the occasional brushstrokes and brushstrokes of the canvas below can be seen, while the surface of Southern Ocean XIII appears almost velvety. The show also includes Waterlow I, a highly textured work from Eubank’s early career, circa 2003.

The wide palette and range of textures reflect the unpredictability of the subject matter, but also something more: an emotional interpretation of the bodies of water that Eubank experienced. She said that once she really started to understand the fact that she had visited and painted every ocean on the planet, “I unconsciously started releasing my palette a lot. So I think what’s happening is that I have documented these waters, and now I go into the experience of the waters. And all the time I think about my feelings about the place, about the water in general. So they are much more emotional.

Eubank certainly has unique experiences to share. Not only did she travel to all five oceans of the world, but she also worked as an expedition painter on a number of those voyages, documenting crew members and people ashore, boats and other environments encountered during the trip. She made four international sailing expeditions and two of those trips were on ships that replicated historic ships. His first such voyage was in a replica of the Borobudur ship, an ancient Indonesian ship, on a voyage that rounded the Cape of Good Hope sailing from Indonesia to Ghana. The next trip she took was aboard a replica of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician ship that circumnavigated Africa. She also made an expedition to the Arctic on a barquentine tall ship (three masts).

Experiencing life aboard these unusual vessels not only offered an up-close perspective on the oceans, but also how humanity through the ages has traveled on water, depended on water, and sometimes struggled for survival. against the harshness of the ocean.

“When you’re on one of those boats, there’s no running water. There’s no flush toilets or anything like that. There’s no oven or other convenience like that. … I liken it to camping with 10 strangers and you’re not allowed to leave the campsite,” she said, noting that she enjoyed the challenges of everyday life aboard these ships, like finding ways to cook and clean with salt water.

Eubank’s 2019 voyage to the Southern Ocean was made on a modern vessel, but in every way every voyage is part of the artistic process. On several of these voyages, Eubank was on board as both entertainer and crew member.

That first voyage on the narrow wooden ship of Borobudur taught Eubank, among other things, what she should — and shouldn’t — pack as an expedition artist. The canvases not only proved unwieldy in the limited space, but as she noted, the canvas is literally the fabric that the sails are made of, and they were in danger of blowing away.

She quickly rationalizes her supplies to document her future travels: three sketchbooks of various sizes, including one pocket-sized, for oil paintings and drawings. The work in these sketchbooks will give birth to his paintings. And the travels shaped his view of water as a subject.

“I was painting water before I went on an expedition. But I feel like I understand it a lot more. I’ve always had a healthy respect for the ocean, in terms of power, but I’ve never really understood how different it is in the open sea versus what it is when it’s next to an object like an island: the color changes, the depth changes, the wave patterns change, you get different types of waves.

And then of course when you’re in a cold place like the Arctic or the Southern Ocean, you get all kinds of ice floating in the water.”

His travels over 20 years have also revealed evidence of climate change, such as rocks exposed by melting ice in the Arctic Ocean and changes in the behavior of marine life affected by ocean temperature. Eubank remembers seeing more marine life in the Southern Ocean than she had expected.

“As the oceans warm up, a lot of marine life is heading towards the poles. So in this case, they’re heading south where the water is a bit cooler,” she said. .

Now that Eubank has painted the five oceans of the world, she said she would like to visit and paint the five gyres – the vast floating islands of largely plastic trash that continue to grow in the oceans – to raise awareness and inspire people. people to take action against plastic pollution of our oceans.

The Pamela Walsh Gallery is located at 540 Ramona St., Palo Alto. For more information, visit

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