Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Whales on the Windows

You might notice a playful touch of color on the windows of the Aquarium's Gift Shop. There's a story behind those illustrations! Maris Wicks is a part-time Aquarium educator who is also a local illustrator. She's the creative hand behind our beautiful new whale mural and here's how it happened.

Closeup of one of the humpback whales in the mural

Hi there! It's Maris. (You might remember me from these previous blog entries here and here.) I'm a part-time Program Educator here at the New England Aquarium, but when I'm not teaching kids about sea stars and whales and snails, I draw! Yup, I am a freelance illustrator that specializes in comics and science (and I consider myself lucky to have TWO very awesome jobs).

A few weeks back, the Aquarium approached me about painting the windows of the Gift Shop to celebrate the release of Humpback Whales 3D.  The movie came out this past Friday, and the windows are all painted, but I wanted to share a bit about the process...think of it as a sort of "behind-the-scenes" tour of the painting.

Sketches of whales by Maris Wicks

First up: research and sketching.  I knew the theme for the window would be whale-centric, so I set to work looking at pictures of Humpback Whales and drawing them in various poses: breaching, tail-slapping, etc.

Whale mural sketches by Maris Wicks

Next: proposal sketches. An illustrator will usually do 2-3 preliminary sketches of different ideas based on the theme. The first one, the "animation" of the breach, was actually the idea of Marketing Dept/Megan Riley. The second sketch features a life-size Humpback calf, and the third sketch focuses more on the broader habitat of the humpback whale.

Whale mural finishing process

Once I submit the sketches, I wait to see which one is picked to get further developed, and if there are any changes I need to make. First sketch it is! Now's it's time to tighten up the drawings, ink them and do a quick color sample.

Everything is good to go; I just have to get all those whales on the windows! I drew each whale at about 3" x 3"...so time to big-ify them. I do this with a projector (very "old school") and trace the new, big whales on large paper.

Let me tell you that I was extremely thankful to be painting on the inside of the windows, because it was COLD outside.
Making the murals

The whole painting took about 20 hours; I was able to paint it over the weekend while the Aquarium was open. It was great to be able to chat with folks and for them to see the painting take shape (I even felt a bit like a fish in a tank).

Maris at work filling in the color on the murals

So, if you're visiting the Aquarium, check out the windows of the Gift Shop to see the 2D painting, and enjoy Humpback Whales 3D!

Maris Wicks is a local illustrator who also happens to work as a Program Educator at the New England Aquarium. When she's not teaching kids about the wild, wonderful world of the ocean, she can be found writing and illustrating comic books. Wicks is the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Primates, written by Jim Ottaviani. She has also created comics for Marvel, DC and Spongebob Comics. Her next book, Human Body Theater, is coming out this fall from First Second Books.  Maris is particularly fond of snails.

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