Painting ocean creatures with Brett Jarrett

By Australian Geographic | March 18, 2019

Meet Brett Jarrett, the artist behind Australia’s Amazing Whales and Dolphins book.

Australia’s Amazing Whales and Dolphins.

When did you first develop a passion for art?

Primary School grade 5, where I used to copy watercolour paintings from my favourite bird books.

How do you think your artworks communicate with children?

Particularly with whales and dolphins I think it is about the realistic look of the work as well as the anatomical accuracy and detail helps create a feeling of believability.

How important is it to foster an appreciation for the ocean in children?

I think it’s very important to understand the mechanics of the the ocean’s ecosystems and just how our activities effect marine life. It is a fact that the oceans are the lungs of the planet and I think this new generation will have the knowledge and will to protect it.

How long did it take you to paint AG’s whale and dolphin book?

Six months were needed to finish the paintings, however a lot of time gets taken up gathering the reference photos from my ‘live’ in-the-field images as well as other photos of stranded animals where the whole body can be viewed.

What was your favourite whale/dolphin to paint?

Probably the hourglass dolphin. In the field it is elusive and lives in the sub-Antarctic zone, however it has one of the most striking colour patterns of any marine mammal as well as a beautiful name.

How did you go about ensuring you maintain accuracy?

I love getting things correct on an illustration that otherwise is often overlooked. This comes about by closely observing and cross referencing photos or by looking at a specimen of a stranded animal. Although strandings are rare, they provide invaluable information of structures, patterns, colour and scale.

What was the most interesting thing you learnt while working on the book?

It was this very type of book that I loved as a kid. My deep fascination for whales and dolphins that became a life-long interest came from reading facts about the lives of whales and dolphins along with all the diagrams and photos.

What was your favourite thing about collaborating with Australian Geographic?

AG were open to new ideas about how to present a book for kids to learn on this particular subject. It’s a reminder to myself just how little information I had as a child and how basic the visual material was at the time. This book is so much more informative and provides a first step into sharing the lives of our whales and dolphins.

Purchase Australia’s Amazing Whales and Dolphins here. Original Price: $19.95. Subscriber Price: $17.95.