By Eric Barton
There was a moment, back when Esther Sample was working as a commercial fisherman, that still haunts her.
It happened when she was steaming into a harbor in British Columbia after fishing for salmon. She saw movement in the water near her boat. Then a splash on the surface. It was a pair of orcas, bolting through the wake and jumping up in the air doing tricks.
As she watched, more figures appeared. All around her boat were orcas, maybe a dozen or two, all jumping and leaping and splashing around her. Sample grabbed her camera and snapped photos. An amateur painter at the time, Sample imagined using the photos to help put the image to canvas later.
After the orcas left, Sample rewound her camera and opened it. There was nothing inside. She had never loaded it with film.
“It was such a magical moment, with the orcas coming right up to the boat and surfing on the wake, and I totally missed it,” she recalls. “It’s just in my memories now.”
Sample, based in the small British Columbia town of Comox, may never paint those orcas. But luckily she has had her camera ready for glimpses of nature, which she converts into still lifes of birds and wetlands using colored pencils.
Sample is one of 45 artists showing single pieces in this year’s Artists for Conservation exhibit. The works are on display through June 19 at Nova Southeastern University. The show is part of a North American tour of the artwork, which will hang in six locations this year. From here, the works will head to a show in Ontario.
Some of the world’s most acclaimed nature artists contributed, including Fort Lauderdale’s own Guy Harvey. Forty percent of the proceeds from pieces that sell will go toward education and conservation.
Jeffrey Whiting, president and founder of the nonprofit Artists for Conservation, said the show is in part about bringing together works from wildlife artists but also to educate people about the need to preserve nature. “We’re using this really special assembly of artworks from around the world as a centerpiece to develop art education and conservation,” Whiting says. “These works from around the world speak to a variety of conservation causes.”
Sample no longer fishes for a living, so now she has a speedboat to reach remote places to find inspiration for her works. Maybe someday she’ll come across orcas again.
“I haven’t painted orcas, but they’re probably the hardest creatures to paint,” she says. “How would I capture something that’s just so hard to paint?”
If she’s able to shoot photos next time she comes across them, maybe her fans will find out.
Artists for Conservation
Through June 19 at Nova Southeastern University’s Alvin Sherman Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Davie, 954-262-4600, nova.edu/library.