We often imagine the beauty of the ocean in coral reefs in the bright sunlight where life flourishes, and I'm not disputing that. But on the seemingly barren sand flats, hidden in crevices and in water so deep that no light touches, there are amazing creatures to be found. Creatures that have to be seen to be believed, and in this piece I wanted to showcase just that. There is beauty to be found in the unique - and the ocean is full of wonderfully diverse life.
Frogfish in the Lembeh Straits, Rachel Brooks 2018
This piece started back in October 21, I was thinking (very last minute) about something to post for Halloween and was drawn to some of the spooky inhabitants that live in the sea; goblin sharks, vampire squid, skeleton shrimps! Before I knew it I was drawing them all, sometimes when you feel a creative spark you need to chase it. When I am drawing creatures that fascinate me, I feel my art is at its best. This concept wasn't planned but I started adding these creatures in bit by bit, dot by dot through a process called stippling. Stippling is a drawing technique where you create an image only using dots. I have enhanced this piece with layers of gouache, watercolour and ink.
I spent a year living in the Lembeh Straits in Sulawesi, for anyone who isn't a diver Lembeh is often an unknown place. But for those in the diving world, Lembeh is often a dream location, a strange paradise for rare and extraordinary critters. Diving over the volcanic sand the first impression may be that there is nothing to be seen, but with an expert eye (or expert guide!), there are treasures beyond your wildest imagination. Many of the critters hidden in this piece are from my photos from my time here.
A close up of 'Ocean Curiosities' by Rachel Brooks 2022
Frogfish were a particular favourite of mine to spot, they use a method of disguise known as aggressive mimicry. This is where the predator gains an advantage by mimicking a third party, in this case usually sponges, algae or soft corals. They can change colour to match their surroundings, not instantaneously like a chameleon, but over time - frogfish play the slow game when hunting until it comes to the final moment. They have the fastest known prey engulfment of any vertebrate, so these bumbling strange fish that walk across the bottom of the ocean are actually well equipped hunters!
Another critter that you may not spot so quickly in this art work is hidden inside another. When I was at university studying Zoology I did a module on parasitology, my dissertation was also on this fascinating subject exploring how parasites can affect the behaviour of their hosts. I heard about these creepy looking tongue eating isopods during my lectures, but when an anemone fish opened its mouth and revealed another little face looking back at me I had the opposite reaction to most, and was really excited! During my year in Lembeh I made it my mission to photograph this, and the result became my shortlisted photo in the wildlife category of the Sony World Photography Awards.
A tongue eating isopod in the Lembeh Straits, Rachel Brooks, 2018
I could talk all day about the weird and wonderful creatures found in our oceans, but they say a picture is worth a thousands words, so I will leave you with my finished art work.
'Ocean Curiosities' Art work by Rachel Brooks 2022
This original A4 art work is available, if you are interested in adding this to your collection then please enquire here. I will be releasing limited edition prints of this piece so watch this space, and I hope you are left wanting to know more about these curiosities of the deep.