Adventurous artists can now dive into the world’s first underwater drawing workshop in the waters off Townsville.
Dive instructor and artist Kerrie Everett Horrocks and artist Tony Fitsimmons will host the two-day workshop from the shore, boat and the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA).
Kerrie has dived MOUA around 100 times since it opened to the public in 2020, but has rarely drawn there herself.
“My time out there is normally dedicated to helping new divers learn skills and fix skills, or leading dives. It’s very rare as a diver to find a dive buddy who is happy to sit in the one spot for a dive like that just is unheard of.”
Tony has been working on a body of work inspired by MOUA for about 18 months, and it took some convincing from Kerrie to get him to dive. She trained him up and after a bunch of drawing sessions in the dive pool, he has become the perfect artist-turned-dive buddy.
“As a dive instructor, we offer experiences to people to get them in the water,” Kerrie says.
“A discover dive is an introductory dive where we give people basic theory, we get them comfortable and we take them for a dive hand in hand, completely supervised.
“As an artist, I was like ‘Well, anybody can get into life drawing by taking themselves to a place and sitting there and drawing. Why can’t we do that underwater as well?’. It’s been a natural progression for me to get people down on the sea floor drawing with me while my diving.”
Drawing underwater at MOUA
Kerrie says it’s hard to describe drawing at the Coral Greenhouse has beautifully as it is.
“If you were to take your hands and face them at opposing angles, and just interlock the fingers so that they’re crossed over and open, that’s the atrium. It’s beautiful,” she says.
“When you descend onto it, the light filters through these areas, and you come in through one of the cathedral entrances. There are these bench tops along each side onto which are perched these beautiful life-size statues modelled off local people with traditional background. There’s this stillness and this calm. There’s chandeliers in the center that are like this lace framework of steel pieces as well and often the fish that have come in to inhabit – you know, 30-pound cod – drift in and rest suspended.
“Dropping down on the seafloor a week ago, I found myself torn as to which was the main subject matter: the statue, or these beautiful painted sweetlip that had just positioned themselves in front of me as if to say ‘I’m here, you can draw me too’.
“It’s just amazing to be able to draw in an environment that’s so unique.”
Kerrie’s been developing a number of field sketches during her drawing sessions at MOUA, which she plans to develop into a bigger finished artwork.
The Underwater Drawing Workshop
The upcoming underwater drawing workshop will take participants to MOUA to experience and sketch the Coral Greenhouse and refine their work at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Art the following day.
“Participants will have some waterproof paper that we provide them with, that we ourselves have been using,” explains Kerrie.
“We’ve been product testing a number of different items available for us to use. But we really wanted to find something that was user friendly for any artist and that was also on the sustainable side of things. There’s some high synthetic content papers out there, that are really lovely to draw on, but it’s not consistent with the project’s strong element of sustainability.”
Kerrie will give artists a few tips on using their tools before submersion into the Coral Greenhouse.
“They’ll have graphite pencils, and I’ll show them how they can make their marks in different ways and be able to use their finger like an eraser … Then we’ll go down and we’ll do some drawings.
“On the second day, when we go into the gallery, people will have the option to either work on those drawings and develop them more or to actually start a piece based on their field sketch. Alternatively, they may come in the next day and choose to work just from photos and to do another rendering. It’s a little bit like a choose your own adventure in terms of the artwork that you end up with.”
Participants do not need to have any prior drawing or diving experience.
“As an artist or as a diver, you really just need to have a thirst to see the Museum of Underwater Art, and to try something new,” said Kerrie.
And Discover. Dive. Draw. really will be a world-first experience for everyone involved.
“It gives me goosebumps, to think about what I get to do.”
“I have found a little bit about a diver that likes to draw and then develop artworks from his underwater field sketches, but not workshops,” Kerrie says.
“It’s not something offered to divers that have never drawn in the water before or artists that have never been in the water. So this in all of its complexity is definitely a first.
“I’m hoping to inspire in a lot of people. It gives me goosebumps, to think about what I get to do – that I get to go draw, I get to go diving all the time, and that I get to go to life drawing classes. The fact that I get to do those things together, it makes me giddy!
Discover, Dive, Draw is a collaboration between Umbrella Studio Contemporary Art and Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive. The underwater drawing workshop will be held 12 & 13 November 2022.