The Inspiration for my Wayward Whales paintings.
In 2014, I was on a surf trip in Mexico. A small group of ladies and I were on a small boat (we were going to paddle into a break). We took a little detour through an area where humpbacks were teaching their calves the ways of the whales. A humpback and her calf came alongside our boat and came up for breaths every few minutes or so. There was a suggestion about a friendly contest of who could get the best photo of the whales. We were hoping the whales would breach, but they seemed to be in a bit of a lull. So I did something a little crazy and suggested to the ladies that we ask the whales for a double breach.
We all started having silent conversations with our whale friends. About a minute or two later, just off the bow of the boat, the mother and calf breached, simultaneously. I happened to have my camera pointed in the right direction, but we were too close for me to get both in the lens. You can see some of the photos here.
It was a moment that made me question my occasionally cynical approach to the world. Everyone on the boat started screaming with delight. There were tears. Even the boat captain was amazed. I felt like somehow, we had connected with these whales. That they heard us ask for something, and gave it to us, with no expectation for anything in return. That experience changed me.
To top it off, I can’t ignore the steady stream of news stories about whales perishing. Whether their bellies are full of plastic, or the ocean is becoming too toxic to support them (and other sea life), their need for help is clear. I was thinking about climate change, rising ocean levels, and what our own futures look like. I found myself daydreaming about what would happen if the ocean became uninhabitable to the point that whales took to the sky. Or, will the oceans rise and submerge our cities?
I’m doing what I can to raise awareness that we need to seriously think about how our actions affect life around us.
As an artist, I've always attempted to create a narrative through my art. For some, artwork and the themes therein are unattainable, mysterious or difficult to understand. My mission is to create work that is fully attainable for anyone, yet maintains the contemplative themes that are chosen. At the root of my work, it can be broken down to something simplistic: A portrait of a person or an animal, colors, hands or a different world. These simple concepts, at face value, could be all that you take from my work; and that is perfectly fine. But, if you want to delve deeper into the themes, the narrative portrayal or the characters in a larger story, the thought process is there and the tools are within your reach.
My painting practice is fundamentally an exploration of surface through pattern, color, and texture. I have a magpie-like attraction to bright, colorful, decorated objects, but an orderly mind, a love for the grid and a strong schooling (from my architectural design studies) to mistrust the superficial. These contradictory urges come together in my paintings. I work in many layers of acrylic media, starting with a repeating fabric design at the base and adding elements both rigid and planned (geometric stencil repeats) and loose and unplanned (drips, washes, crackled layers). Abstracted floral forms and decorative elements make an appearance, like dreams of old-fashioned textiles. With these paintings, I celebrate the surface.
Joshua Coffy is a self-taught artist living and working in San Francisco. He grew up in a variety of locales from Ohio to New Mexico to Florida and finally California. Moving from one region to another helped to shape his cultural views of the world as well as inspire him to create art in unique and varied ways. Coffy draws inspiration for his mixed media paintings from the natural world, scientific illustrations and his love of animals. Josh’s work includes many layers of textures including paper patterns, maps, newspaper articles, and acrylic paint. Much of his work deals with animals and how humans relate to the birds and mammals all around us. His work is usually a light-hearted and whimsical approach to our ideals about animals. He has created a sense of symbolism and meaning with many of the images he paints. Illustrating the conversation between man and beast with a wink and stillness for you to make your own decisions about what the image is saying.
Art has always been a fascination of mine – a passion, desire, and need. From the moment I could hold one, according to my mother, I would always draw “with a pen, never a pencil”. Though now I’m less selective in the implements I use, I still continue to fill my need to create.
My artwork focuses on the many different facets of life: sometimes mysterious, sometimes playful, sometimes dark and haunting, but always beautiful. It is through the creative process that I am able to explore the undulating changes in the human psyche and to seek out the wonder of life even when it seems like an impossible task. We are on this earth only a short time, it would be a shame not to leave something of ourselves in it.