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Capturing Alaska Art: Adventures, Whales, and Reflections

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Artist Telegraph by Geoffrey C. Smith

Trying to reduce 85 days and nights, down to a snapshot is no easy task, plotting and planning, outings and adventures, catching and processing salmon, and working diligently painting in the studio each day. It was a very full season and it went by in a flash. I will try to touch on many of my adventures, and the Art that followed!

I reflect upon the season as I work to close my camp. I put the boat away for the winter and gave a final cleaning to my painting palette, brushes, and palette knives. Some of these tools are my favorites so it is like saying goodbye to an old friend whom you know you will not see for the whole winter, a farewell to my summer studio.

I like to paint large and with heavy textures I have a large glass palette, the oil paints take time to dry, so days of paint buildup on it, but it is easily scraped off, revealing the clean glass surface ready for my return in the spring.

My Reflections

At the end of June, I was filming turtles nesting on Jupiter Island and did not want to leave, but my flight was booked so, on July 2nd I boarded the plane and some hours later I touched down in Anchorage, Alaska. I was comfortably situated in our cabin by July 3. Excited to look for inspiration and create art in Alaska!

July 7, 2023

We had an epic day! We left our camp very early in the morning, The day started by spotting a large brown bear high above the town of Seward, Alaska feeding on the hillside and we saw a mother Black Bear with her cub farther down the hill.

We drove into the town of Seward, Alaska, and joined our Captin for the day, Capt. Jamie with Northern Latitude Adventures. We chartered a 25-foot boat to explore Resurrection Bay and search for the Humpback Whales that we heard were bubble-net feeding off the Creswell Islands some 20 miles or so down the coast. This behavior is rare and I was determined to observe it. Bubble-net feeding is a cooperative feeding method used only by some humpback whales. The behavior is learned, not instinctual so not all populations of humpbacks know how. According to our Captin, the unrelated whales meet up year after year to feed together before separating in the fall.

We loaded our camera gear into the small single-engine outboard aluminum boat and then gathered in the warm glassed-in wheelhouse for our sea adventure. The water was the color of cold steel and the waves were 3-5 feet, and the sky was covered with grey clouds. The hazy sky reduced visibility and made a slightly ominous feeling that we were very small in a very large ocean.

Capt. Jamie made us feel safe as we went searching for the whales. Along the way, we found adorable Sea Otters, lots of seabirds, and a lone Humpback named Picasso, I felt that was fortuitous.

We motored out of Resurrection Bay out into the Gulf of Alaska along the coast of Kenai Fjords National Park to the Chiswell Islands. All the while we were looking in the distance for the tell-tale spouting of the whales. After 4 hours of searching the horizon, we spotted a large cloud of birds actively circling several humpbacks and I became very excited!

Hurriedly, we gathered our camera equipment and climbed onto the bow of our ship. We felt complete Awe as we heard a low sound, all the seabirds began flying in a tight circle and calling out in a cacophony of crying gulls, we felt the anticipation, something big was about to happen. I held the camera up, so I didn't miss my shot, all the while my stomach was tied in a knot. Suddenly, from below, arose churning white water, a moment later a circle of giant whales burst up through the surface, their enormous mouths gaping! Then they slipped back down under the sea presumably to swallow their catch.

Filming and photographing the whales was truly an epic experience!

I created a 72 x 48“ oil painting of the event.

original oil painting of humpbacks bubble-net feeding by Alaskan artists Geoffrey C Smith

"Art is important. It was man's first form of lasting communication. I am compelled to tell the story of the wild, to connect people to nature and the environment through Art".

-Geoffrey C. Smith

Until next time, be loved. Geoffrey C. Smith

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