Underwater Art

Cozumel Arch, Courteau, 2007

Dedicated to underwater art and artists we study, from the truly terrible to the sublime in Underwater Art

Cozumel Arch, Courteau, 2007

Cozumel Arch, Courteau, 2007

From awful to serious, fine art of different styles, underwater art has fascinated and enchanted us for over 80 years

“Only in recent times have we been able to go beneath the surface due to advancing technology. Therefore, underwater paintings have only been around for the past eighty years or so. This is why we don’t see any underwater paintings from any of the past great master painters. It is a relatively new art form. Because of this reason it has yet to gain the respect from art critics it most rightfully deserves.” Underwater Artist Jason Mathias

plate 7

By Frank Murdoch

Some underwater habitats do seem encourage the terrible artists-mostly tropical and Hawaiian habitats—and these prints or original paintings abound on sites such as art.com and buy-oil-painting.com. These range from airbrushed fantasy poster-art of dolphins and whales floating in blue water with bubbles and neon colored tropical fish floating around them to cartoon-like cats with diving masks and snorkels. Some of the most famous of the kitschy artists are Chiu, Mackay, and Annenberg.

There are even underwater performance artists! What do you get when you cross a contemporary performance artist and commercial diver? Meet Aussie aquanaut Dr. Sarah Jane Pell — you read right–Doctor Sarah Jane Pell!

It must be noted that some of the fantasy style underwater art is quite good [see Willy Dorn and George Sumner].

Sea Turtle, Jennifer Belote 2009

Sea Turtle, Jennifer Belote 2009

Although the most common to popular culture, tropical underwater art is by no means the only habitat seen in underwater art. Some artists feature Australia and the Asian-Pacific. A few artists feature Northern California or the US Pacific Northwest [see Frank Murdoch and Randall Scott ] Scuba divers like underwater art: some underwater artists are divers, some divers are artists, and some are even good or excellent at both (Frank Murdoch, John Steel, and Stanley Meltzoff for example—all now deceased), like Jean-louis Courteau and Randall Scott.

Drawing underwater (and having your picture taken while drawing underwater) is a publicity gimmick [1, 2, 3] but most underwater artists do use photographs of the underwater, and some take the photos (and videos) themselves.

Vicissitudes, Jason deCaires Taylor

Vicissitudes, Jason deCaires Taylor

Realistically capturing the underwater in a painting is a challenge. Most good underwater artists spend much time studying water, its movement, sea-life, and the effect of underwater environment on light.

“Light shining on these particles though the rippled surface creates moving light rays. Light rays can add great depth to a painting because it allows foreground, middle ground, and background even in an empty space. When these light rays make it to the seafloor or on any other object in the water they create reflections from the surface.” Underwater Artist Jason Mathias

Zapp Angelfish, Suzanne Gleason 2010

Zapp Angelfish, Suzanne Gleason 2010

Variations to actual underwater paintings include glass, acrylic, or Lucite knickknacks of diving or leaping dolphins and whales, and even BIG knickknacks (sculptures?) of the same, paintings on plates, mirrors, and portholes (the diver’s version of saw-blade paintings?). One artist does underwater art inlays on electric guitars, there is a little known Pressed-Dried-Leaf-and-Flower Underwater Art

To The Wall, Courteau, 2008

To The Wall, Courteau, 2008

Movement, some artists do silk paintings, and one does both silk paintings and embroidery art.

Prices vary, but paintings of the underwater run more expensive than

other paintings; even galleries giving “half off” on kitschy quality paintings charge upwards of $1000, and most good quality paintings run more than $15,000 and are considered an investment.

Serious collectors vary from divers and boaters to plain old art collectors who love Underwater Art.

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