Francesca Page, a British artist, illustrator and award-winning Nat Geo photographer, dives deep into the world of marine life, creating large-scale watercolour and gouache paintings that intertwine with her passion for conservation. Her artwork, showcased on her Instagram profile and through various projects like the 200 Sharks initiative which educates people about marine life, reflects the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Life Below Water.
Page’s journey into her underwater art began with her childhood fear of the ocean depths which she was adamant to overcome when she started scuba diving at the age of thirteen. As an internationally-selling artist, dive instructor, and storyteller, she now channels her fascination with colour, movement, and detail into breathtaking artworks. Her creations not only serve as personal expressions but also act as a powerful voice for nature, inviting viewers into the incredible ocean life she has fallen in love with.
In an interview with Shark Guardian, Page emphasizes the transformative power of art. She believes that art catalyzes anthropogenic consciousness, fostering the emotional connection needed for individuals to take the first steps toward conservation. "Once you love something, you will do anything to protect it," she affirms.
Page’s choice of medium, gouache and watercolour, holds a personal connection since her mother was a watercolour artist. Page feels fortunate to have grown up with water-based paint. Her artistic journey has seen her grow from using watercolour intuitively to mastering it instinctively. As an artist with chromesthesia, a condition where colour evokes sensory experiences beyond sight, her relationship with colour is unique. This has even propelled her to create her own sustainable, ocean-friendly, and vegan watercolour and gouache paints.
Page’s favourite and most impactful painting, Divine Feminine, transports viewers into the mesmerizing underwater world of Cocos Island, Costa Rica, where she went diving and was surrounded by a school of 50 hammerheads. Her encounters with female scalloped hammerhead sharks especially stood out for her.
The surge and the mysterious appearance of these elegant creatures left her speechless, which she has captured in the painting as a magical scene of a hammerhead orchestra. The composition invites viewers to imagine being part of this underwater spectacle, celebrating the intelligence and majesty of female sharks.
The painting also highlights the contrast between sharks and their cleaning fish, which manage to stay separate from the cobalt waters. Through Divine Feminine, Page aims to celebrate the evolutionary prowess of female sharks, emphasizing their size, wonder, and unique ability to school for pleasure rather than safety.
The painting Divine Feminine is also part of a series of works she titles The 200 Sharks project. With the group of works, Page aims to dive with, photograph, and paint 200 different shark species. Through The 200 Sharks project’s art and storytelling, Page seeks to establish familiarity between her audiences and sharks, which she hopes will break down negative stigmas surrounding sharks, and turn fear into love. She considers this project her artist legacy and life's mission, a testament to her dedication to ocean conservation.
While Page has already encountered and painted numerous shark species, there are many still on her bucket list. Thresher sharks and whale sharks are among those she wishes to see and paint again. Her passion extends to various species, including the oceanic whitetip shark, great white shark, makos, basking shark, great hammerhead, leopard shark, and the endearing pyjama shark. Each encounter fuels her artistic inspiration, creating a visual journey that intertwines with her commitment to conservation.
Another series Page is working on, Reef Stories involves a life-sized watercolour painting capturing the stories of the coral reefs from life to death, and from restoration to hope. In collaboration with The Ocean Agency and Glowing Gone, this project uses vibrant, glowing paint to mimic bioluminescence found in corals, creating an interactive element in the artwork as the paintings’ bioluminescence will only be visible in total darkness.
Francesca's paintings serve as visual ambassadors for marine life, sparking empathy, passion, and a sense of responsibility among viewers. As she continues her journey to paint 200 sharks and share reef stories, Francesca Page stands at the intersection of art and conservation.