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Jacques Cousteau Dolphin

A colourful echolocation inspired painted dolphin for Wild In Art’s project launch in Southampton.

Wild In Art
Go! Southampton

November 2020

I’ve painted many surfaces over the years, but I was surprised when I was recently invited to paint on a dolphin! No not a real dolphin (too slippery) but a life-sized fibreglass sculpture of a dolphin.

I was commissioned by Whale and Dolphin Conservation in partnership with Wild in Art and Go! Southampton, to design and paint the first dolphin for the launch of their new sculpture trail across Southampton. Each of the sculptures will be sponsored by a local business, before being auctioned off in Southampton to raise funds for WDC, who do some great work in whale and dolphin conservation.

The overall concept of my design is a visual interpretation of the process of echolocation, which dolphins use to navigate through the water. Dolphins make vocal clicks which travel through the water and bounce off nearby objects. These sound waves are then reflected back to the dolphin and analysed by an organ known as the melon to determine their surroundings.

This process acts as the perfect analogy for the importance of communication within our own lives. We can vocalise our opinions, ideas and thoughts, but we must value the importance of listening. Much like the dolphin, it is the information that is reflected back to us from others that we must process and understand, giving us the ability to then navigate through our own lives.

The message adorning the dolphin which further reinforces this sentiment reads, “WISDOM IS LISTENING”. This will hopefully encourage a moment of thought and reflection in the viewer. Adults will take a moment to consider who they could listen to, or who at this time might need someone to talk to. Children will ask “what does that mean?” allowing for a moment of learning.

Stylistically, the design has some subtle nods to Jacques Cousteau, who was one of the first to study echolocation in great depth. The colour palette for example is inspired by the cover of his book ‘The Silent World’ and ties to the maritime theme. Colourful sound waves combine with gestural sea wave like forms to capture the movement and fluidity of the ocean.

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