Biodiverse Borderlands

Painting Other Worlds

ROV SuBastian / SOI
Jul. 30 2021

My name is Tanya Young. I am a painter and a science illustrator. I have been painting ever since I can remember. I grew up attending the Young Artists’ Studio Saturday art classes for kids, held in the Art Institute of Chicago basement. I later went to college at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated with a BFA. I still consider the Art Institute of Chicago my happy place! I went to graduate school for my MFA and later completed a professional certificate program in science illustration.

SCRIPPS SUBMARINE CANYON, Oil Paint on Board. For the Natural Reserve System, University of California at San Diego.Tanya Young

I have always painted water. Even when I was not living near water, I imagined it in my mind. Early in my career, I painted large abstract oil paintings depicting sea and sky—the horizon line. Another common theme in my work has been how objects look when seen through the transparency of water. I have frequently depicted the physical movement of water by laying down the paint in a liquid pour. With these various explorations of water as a subject and my experimentation with the movement of flowing liquid paint, it was a natural progression for me to begin painting the ocean.

GIANT SIPHONOPHORE praya dubia, Detail, ROSEBUD WHALE FALL, Oil paint on canvas on board. For Greg Rouse, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.Tanya Young

The ocean is an unknown frontier, which certainly appeals to the imagination! Much of it has never been seen. Creatures are living in the sea, which we cannot imagine or describe. The Osedax roseus or zombie worm, for example. Females have a “harem” of up to 114 dwarf males in her body/trunk, and she reproduces continuously. Or the Siphonophore recently measured at more than 150 ft.—longer than the longest blue whale or the largest measured jellyfish!

These creatures are varied, fascinating, bizarre (yes), and BEAUTIFUL. They are gorgeously colored and frequently iridescent or semi-transparent, which are fun and challenging to paint, and of course, the ocean itself is breathtaking in its beauty. I never get tired of imagining and painting the environment under the surface, with its colors and the movement of its currents.

Right now, I am preparing to board R/V Falkor operated by Schmidt Ocean Institute as Artist-at-Sea. My job is to respond with visual art to what I observe while on board. I will also be helping the scientists with the samples and species which the ROV has collected during its dives. 

OSEDAX roseus, Detail, ROSEBUD WHALE FALL, Oil paint on canvas on board. For Greg Rouse, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Credit: Tanya YoungTanya Young

Much of the deep ocean off of Southern California is unexplored. Our mission is to characterize—as regards both minerals and the biodiverse ecosystem of the area—the Southern California Borderland, a portion of the continental shelf which lies off the coast of Los Angeles to the Mexico border. We will explore rock crusts in the deep ocean, look for ferromanganese and phosphorite, and perhaps visit a methane seep. R/V Falkor will steam to the San Juan Seamount, 160 miles from our starting point at the San Diego Port, where I am hoping to observe and paint corals, fish, starfish, sponges and……..??? I am also looking forward to painting the sawed-open rocks which we will find. 

You can find my work on my website and Instagram: tanya_young_studio.

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