Living on the coast as I do, one of my favourite places is down by the water. Whether it’s a beach on the wild west coast of our island, or a park bench by the city’s busy Inner Harbour, I love to spend time just watching the water shift and sparkle in the light. Its many moods fascinate me: from the wild and windy storm season out by Tofino to a glassy, calm summers day. I love to be on the water in a boat or kayak, or even in the water, now that I have discovered wetsuits (our water is very cold — and I don’t do this very often, because I have to rent one, not having one of my own yet).
Much as I love the water, what really holds my interest when I’m at the shore is the abundant life in the intertidal zone — the area between the highest tide and the lowest. The richness, diversity, and resilience of creatures and plant life in our tidepools and rocky shores are astounding. Many of the most interesting critters are so small or so hidden that you have to look closely for them; a casual beach walker might see only a bunch of rocks or sand, but it is teeming with life. Even the “sand fleas” are really interesting if you get down and really look at them!
A few years ago I had the opportunity to illustrate an educational colouring book by Gloria Snively, a writer and Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria teaching science, environmental and marine education, as well as graduate level research courses. She had also written my very favourite guidebook to take to the seashore, Exploring the Seashore — so naturally I was thrilled to get to work with her! The colouring book I illustrated for her, High Tide, Low Tide, is designed to teach children about the creatures of the tidepools, and how they adapt to the differing conditions of the tides. I had a fantastic time learning more about my little buddies, and it gave me a great excuse to go to the beach as often as possible (research!) and buy lots of books (more research!). We’ve since worked on another book together, a storybook, which is not yet in print.
Here’s a few of the illustrations from the colouring book. If you’d like a copy of your own (get one for the kids and one for you — I can see you eyeing your coloured pencils speculatively), you can go to the link above and order one! … And no, I haven’t actually coloured these myself yet — perhaps in a future blog post.