Behind the Scenes: The Creation of the Seaweed Collection

Posted by Sarah Jane Humphrey on

Decades of Drawings

The latest collection of Artworks have come to fruition from over two decades of producing intricate drawings of seaweed. Admiring their many forms and natural diversity, from the wildly robust to delicate and detailed structures, has provided endless and ongoing studies. Inspired by the coastal habitat by my home in Cornwall, there is rarely a day that goes by that I won’t be found at some point beachcombing or swimming in the sea. This has given me an enormous respect and appreciation for marine based plant-like organisms.


seaweed drawings


The original artworks are rendered in watercolour, using purity of pigments to capture the light and colours of these exquisite ocean plants. With an emphasis of exploration of how light and saltwater illuminates seaweed I have been fascinated with trying to visually record the stunning beauty of how I view them underwater. With an idea of sharing their ornate and wondrous capabilities through my art. 

Free diving exploration

Very often seaweed is dismissed as dull and lifeless plant life washed ashore onto beaches. Their dark and slippery nature can sometimes cause an uncomfortable fear of the unknown in shallow waters, however the more I have engrossed myself within the underwater world, my curiosity has got the better of me. Understanding how these extraordinary lifeforms that date back over a billion years have survived, thrived and could also be in part a major solution to climate change is more than worthy of celebrating. The deeper I immersed myself into researching seaweed, I just had to paint a collection. 


delicate seaweed


Seaweed Biodiversity

For me this is the journey I need to take of closely observing nature to expand my understanding of all the intricacies and nuances of a species. As I have discovered within Seaweed there are endless possibilities with biodiversity due to all kinds of factors such as light, weather conditions and other stress factors. There are also many confusion types within family groups, which takes a keen eye and great reference to spot. For example Guiryi’s Wrack, which at first glance can look similar to Spiral Wrack or a Serrated Wrack. Once you start noting these identifying clarifications the world begins to open up with just how many different types of seaweeds there are, incidentally there are around 12,000, with 600 of those living in the UK.

 Guiryi's Wrack


Collection and Preservation

The journey of each illustration begins from many many hours of beachcombing and inspiration sought from sea swimming and experiencing the movement and nature of seaweed under the water. There has definitely been a list of some of the species I have hoped to find along my local coast and I am sure as this collection of paintings grows it will extend far further afield. More often than not, it has been making a discovery from either seaweed that has washed ashore after a storm, or finding a piece that catches my eye. I am fortunate to have a studio within a two minute walk from the beach, which allows my process of recording details from my subjects quickly back up in the studio. If there is one thing that I have discovered is that seaweed once taken from its natural environment can deteriorate rather quickly. So it is essential to make visual records and work with compositions, as closely in time to collecting different species as possible.


composition focus of seaweed


Developing my own techniques in the studio have I greatly enjoyed experimenting with light and water to try and replicate some of the colours and fluidity I have observed in the sea. So far I have been working with wet seaweeds as I adore the movement and qualities that light makes illuminating tiny details. Making the illustration of the Beautiful Fan Weed, it was important to convey the spectacular translucency and delicacy of this species, which is lost the moment it begins to dehydrate. The dehydration of seaweed changes many species transforming them often into a duller and smaller version of their original selves. 

Studio Practice

studio paintings


Painting seaweed has been a rewarding project so far in many respects. Beyond the obvious fascination of delving loosely into marine biology, and environmental aspects, the studio studies have been particularly interesting. Trying to replicate the colours I have observed in living aquatic species with so much light and translucency has taken me to explore colour theory in a lot more detail. With an effort of experimenting with the correct hues and adding many more tubes of watercolour to my collection. The greatest challenge has been to create the vibrancy alongside the reflection of light of an ephemeral subject, and one that I hope to master over time.


Limited edition prints, Seaweed of Cornwall Collection


To explore my this collection of A4 Limited Edition Prints, please use the link or visit our shop in Falmouth.



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  • The passion you have to produce your stunning art is incredible Sarah. X


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