Sea art with a unique glow

Sea art with a unique glow

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The ocean provides inspiration for this unique artist.

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WA artist Kiera Wuillemin with the tools of her trade, in her Sea Spray Art gallery, Jurien Bay.

WA artist Kiera Wuillemin with the tools of her trade, in her Sea Spray Art gallery, Jurien Bay.

INSPIRATION is something that can't be quantified and for one regional Western Australian artist, her small coastal home town has provided a lifetime of experience and motivation to create her dream, Sea Spray Art.

For Kiera Wuillemin, Jurien Bay is home and always has been.

"I grew up in Jurien and went to school here," Ms Wuillemin said.

"My husband grew up in Jurien Bay too and we started our family here.

"It really is the best place to be, such a great community and location."

Jurien Bay, is in the shire of Dandaragan and while it is surrounded by farmland and natural scrubland, the town has a long history with the crayfishing industry.

Even though the crayfishing industry is no longer central to the town's economy, it has had lasting influences on its long-time residents and families, like a lifetime spent on or in the ocean.

While there may be many artists who capture the ocean and its inhabitants in their work - Kiera's work truly is in a league of its own.

Having had the pleasure of experiencing the phenomenon that is Sea Spray Art's - Glow in the Dark gallery, I feel I am able to enlighten you on the truly awe-inspiring experience and creations.

The paintings may look like a regular artworks canvas during the day, but when the sun sets, you are treated to a journey beneath the waves into the dark abyss - illuminated in a way that mimics the naturally occurring bioluminescence that can be found in many marine creatures like jellyfish.

"I dive a lot and love scuba diving," Ms Wuillemin said.

Some of the acrylic bangles made by Kiera using legally sourced sea shells, pieces of seaweed and Jurien Bay beach sand. These bangles also contain Sea Spray Art's signature photoluminescence.

Some of the acrylic bangles made by Kiera using legally sourced sea shells, pieces of seaweed and Jurien Bay beach sand. These bangles also contain Sea Spray Art's signature photoluminescence.

"I spend and have spent a lot of time in the ocean and it is those experiences that have definitely guided me.

"I am very fond of night diving, which is not something a lot of people do, even experienced scuba divers.

"A lot of inspiration comes from that too, that second when the light from the moon shines down through the water is absolutely awesome."

The detail in the sea creatures Ms Wuillemin creates on canvas is so incredibly life-like and then to witness the same painting with the photoluminescence is literally breathtaking.

The art of recreating how the light shards penetrate through the surface of the water and down onto the animals, right down to the detail of the shadows this creates, is truly awesome to see in person.

The science behind the photoluminescence is the phosphorus imbued in the paint itself, which glows after exposure to light - the stronger/brighter the light, the stronger and longer the glow.

"There is no other glow in the dark gallery," Ms Wuillemin said.

: Some of the Sea Spray Art Glow in the Dark jewellery line.

: Some of the Sea Spray Art Glow in the Dark jewellery line.

"There is another artist called Catherin Machin who is really successful, but she paints space scenes.

"I am sure there are other glow artists out there, but my techniques and my process is unique.

"The trick to creating the right level of glow is to layer the photoluminescent paint, it's all about layering."

It has not been a quick or easy journey for Ms Wuillemin and the Sea Spray Art brand, but it has definitely been rewarding.

"I have always been artistic," she said.

"Even as a child I was inspired by the ocean, but it was when I was in high school that mural artist Pam Armstrong came to our town and she taught me a lot.

"I always planned on having my own mural business in town, but I got carpal tunnel syndrome when I was pregnant, which made it really hard to sketch and paint."

Having the crippling condition did not stop this artist.

It is truly breathtaking for children and adults alike, one artwork is really two  making you look at it in a whole new light, pardon the pun.

It is truly breathtaking for children and adults alike, one artwork is really two making you look at it in a whole new light, pardon the pun.

Instead she turned to spray paint, as it was an easier tool for her wrists and hence the first incarnation of Sea Spray Art was born.

Luckily for us, her love of the ocean, creating and painting has allowed her to continue to evolve and find ways to still paint while managing her condition.

Jurien Bay's location on the Turquoise Coast and the islands situated a short boat ride off its shores, Boullanger, Whitlock, Escape and Favorite, which are nature reserves, provide inspiration in abundance for Ms Wuillemin.

She said she doesn't have to actively find a scene or subject to paint, rather having an abundance of encounters and ideas from her everyday life.

Jurien Bay has an extensive limestone reef system parallel to the shore, which has created a huge shallow lagoon.

 Jellyfish were the first subject Kiera painted and added her glow in the dark photoluminescence to, when she ran her original small market stall in Jurien Bay.

Jellyfish were the first subject Kiera painted and added her glow in the dark photoluminescence to, when she ran her original small market stall in Jurien Bay.

This lagoon provides the ideal habitat for Australian sea lions, dolphins and a myriad of juvenile fish.

The extensive seagrass meadows inside the reef shelter huge numbers of marine animals, such as western rock lobsters, octopus and cuttlefish that are the favourite food for young sea lions.

The magnificent and ecologically-important islands contain rare and endangered animals found nowhere else in the world.

It's not uncommon to spot endangered Australian sea lions at the Jurien Bay Marine Park.

The inquisitive and often playful sea lions found in Jurien are among the rarest of the world's sea lion population.

Australian sea lions are found only in WA and South Australia.

Researchers believe about 21 per cent of the Western Australian population of sea lions live and breed in this marine park.

Many encounters with these little ocean creatures have given inspiration to a number of the Sea Spray Art creations.

For Ms Wuillemin, the ocean is a veritable treasure trove of inspiration, not only because of its sheer vastness, but for the variety of creatures that dwell below its surface and on its perimeters.

There is a real sense of the serene when she talks about the ocean and her affinity for all things sea-based is evident.

It is no wonder then that the common subject matter for her art is all things marine, being the ocean itself, its different underwater formations, its vegetation and by far the most enthralling - its many creatures.

"I do paint experiences I have personally had," Ms Wuillemin said.

"I also paint experiences I want to have, but I also paint experiences other people have had - where their amazing stories and encounters have really spoken to me."

The ocean is intrinsic to Ms Wuillemin's art and her life, so it is no wonder then that her pieces, especially of animals like sea lions and turtles, are so life-like and have become so popular.

Kiera's painting of a Blue Bottle jellyfish, or Portuguese Man of War as they are otherwise known. These are commonly found in WA oceans and on the shoreline, particularly during strong onshore wind conditions.

Kiera's painting of a Blue Bottle jellyfish, or Portuguese Man of War as they are otherwise known. These are commonly found in WA oceans and on the shoreline, particularly during strong onshore wind conditions.

Being surrounded by the ocean - living on an island continent - a vast majority of Australians and especially Western Australians, have access to its unique and massive coastline, so most of us have a respect and experience with the ocean.

In this way many of those who buy one of Ms Wuillemin's pieces express their own affinity to the piece.

"For me art is very emotional," she said.

"It is about expressing an emotional experience.

"So it is extremely humbling and amazing to see people connect to a piece and hear why it has affected them so deeply."

For international travellers, you would be hard pressed to find a single one - who had not visited one of WA's many coastal tourist destinations - so when the subject matter of art is the ocean - many have a tether of some kind that draws them to certain pieces.

Ms Wuillemin has had people from around the globe visit and purchase pieces from her gallery.

"I have had people from most of the world's continents take home pieces now," she said.

"I should actually put together a map for myself.

"I have even hand delivered a piece to Singapore.

"I didn't have a website, it was all Facebook, to begin with, I have only had a website for a week or so, but for me social media has been amazing."

Ms Wuillemin said from one initial post of a painting on her own private Facebook page and a friend buying her painting to creating the Sea Spray Art by Kiera page, she was blown away by how far her little project had come.

"I couldn't have done this without social media," she said.

The glow in the dark art all began about a year after she sold her initial painting.

At first it all started with a small tent she used to set up at the local Jurien Bay markets.

"The tent was so small and I only used to do small pieces," she said.

"But I started selling out and people kept saying I should do an exhibition.

"So I started looking for places I could rent in town where I could do a pop-up gallery for maybe six weeks or so.

"I came across this small space behind the Murray Street Grill three years ago and it has just really grown and continued from there."

Ms Wuillemin has had her glow in the dark gallery open for three years now, only celebrating its anniversary recently.

She said while she has strong local support, the tourists and holiday makers really do make up a huge part of her business and she loved providing another place people could visit and see.

Sea Spray Art by Kiera is her Facebook page and has snippets of the Glow in the Dark sessions she holds in the evening after sunset, with the gallery opening from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, Wednesdays to Sundays.

Viewing times may vary slightly due to sunset becoming later in the summer months.

Ms Wuillemin has branched out to create other sea-inspired pieces, like jewellery pendants that all contain Jurien Bay beach sand and other little treasures, like seaweed and small shells found in the area, as well as the photoluminescence all set in non-yellowing acrylic, so you can take your own little piece of Jurien Bay home with you.

All items are sourced through the correct channels and licence holders.

She also has helmets, sandboards and skateboards that are adorned with her artwork.

While she has large original canvas pieces for sale and also does commissions, when she has the time, Ms Wuillemin also offers smaller prints and originals of her work that are also photoluminescent.

For Ms Wuillemin, her art has truly been a labour of love and she said she receives as much satisfaction from painting the things she is passionate about, as she does the reactions she receives from those who walk through the gallery doors.

"The joy and excitement from the kids who come in here is so beautiful to experience," she said.

"I love hearing the elderly people who come in and say they have never seen anything like it in their life before.

"For me the effect it has on people and getting to witness that and be a part of it is better than any sale."

Always keen to give back to the community she loves, Ms Wuillemin decided to do a couple of chalk artworks on the Turquoise Way path during the initial lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

"I just wanted to do something that would brighten up people's morning walks and exercise times," she said.

"It was great and so well received our extremely supportive shire commissioned me to paint a couple more."

You can also see Ms Wuillemin mural work in Cervantes, where she did a piece called the Coral Cave.

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