Nothing quite prepares you for Galapagos…
This year, Naomi Hart visited Galapagos as an artist in residence with experts from GCT and the University of Exeter, looking at the growing problem of plastic pollution. She looks back on the trip and shares some of the beautiful artwork from her sketchbook.
Nothing quite prepares you for Galapagos. You can read any number of books, look at countless photos of strange and beautiful creatures and gen up on the theory of evolution, but until you encounter your first marine iguana, slipping effortlessly from the white sand into the indigo sea, you never truly believe Galapagos can be real.
This year, I was lucky enough to visit as an artist in residence with experts from GCT and Exeter Marine at the University of Exeter who are looking at the growing problem of plastic pollution in our oceans. As an artist whose work looks at human interaction with the environment, I also wanted to try to help the cause.
Armed with my sketchbook and my paints, I taught some drawing workshops and worked with local groups who are tackling the plastic tide and trying to keep these islands magical for generations to come. Like many people, I learned about Darwin at school. I enjoyed biology and art and I’ve been lucky enough to live and work in different countries, wanting to learn about places I didn’t know. I’ve always been slightly envious of Darwin’s voyages, but the conditions in which Darwin and his contemporaries travelled also astound me – seeing the cramped conditions in the model of the ‘Beagle’ at Down House is humbling, and having sailed myself a little, I know how hard it can be to work in a moving boat.
I’ve always loved drawing from observation. I learn so much from really looking at a plant, an animal or bird that I don’t from taking photos. In trying to capture the shape of a bird, you are inevitably learning about its habits, the way it moves, what it eats. Looking closely at a tree or plant will teach you exactly how the leaf attaches to the branch. Artists and scientists are all just interested in exploring the world and our place in it, sometimes there is not much that divides our work. Galapagos Conservation Trust is right at the centre of a large network of scientists, tour operators and locals protecting the Archipelago and it was an absolute privilege to see these isles from their viewpoint, too. Huge thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible and for the incredible welcome. I hope this is just the start.
This blog was adapted from an article in our 2019 Autumn Winter Galapagos Matters members magazine. If you’d like to become a member of Galapagos Conservation Trust from as little as £3 per month, head to our Membership page.