Spirit of the Gulf Challenge

Laughing Gull
Suzanne McDermott
Watercolor, gouache and pencil, 9 x 12 inches
31 May 2010

What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico is unprecedented. Unthinkable. Unbearable.

As the oil continues to flow into the jewel-like water that laps upon some of the most glorious beaches on earth, that is home, food and birthplace to an array of magnificent fellow creatures, we move through the stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico, and every living thing that depends upon it is dying or threatened. My new subject matter has found me and I am now dedicating my work (for the most part) to life in the Gulf of Mexico. That's how I'm dealing with it.

In a post last week, I suggested spending a minute a day quietly sending thoughts of love to the Gulf of Mexico, envisioning pristine water and health for all her creatures — the dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, rays, fish, sea birds, migratory birds (including many song birds), and the marvelous beings down under the water. The humans who interact with the water, too. Thoughts and Love have power.

Now I am taking this suggestion one step further. I challenge every artist who receives this invitation to make one drawing, painting, collage — or to use whatever medium you work in — to create a piece of beauty with love and gratitude to honor some scene or living being in the Gulf. This is a consciousness raising opportunity.

  • Find a photo or other resource depicting some living aspect of the Gulf of Mexico before the oil disaster or
  • Tap into your spirit and use your imagination
  • Make a drawing, painting or other piece of creative work with love and gratitude for the beautiful life of whatever you're depicting.
  • Post what you make on your website, include a link to this post: Spirit of the Gulf Challenge (or the facebook group — (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=127832103901693) and put the icon below in your sidebar with a link to this post (or the facebook group). Send me a link to your post and I'll add the link to bottom of this post.
  • Invite 5 of your friends or favorite artists to accept this challenge, include a link to this post, the facebook page, copy this description of the challenge and the icon below for their sidebar.

We can't alleviate the physical symptoms, but following the philosophy of hospice care, let's use our creative energy to do spiritual relief work for all sentient life in the Gulf of Mexico. It couldn't hurt.

My guess is that this challenge may help many of us transform our emotions in response to the oil disaster. My personal bond to the Gulf of Mexico is very strong. But believe me, wherever you live on earth, this situation will affect you in some way. Eventually. It's a small planet and it's all one sea.

Barbara Weeks, Elaine Magliacane, Dan Kent, Cathy Gatland, Diahn Ott, Sue Pownall, Mark Finucane, Rhonda Carpenter, Mineke Reinders, Mimi Torchia Boothby, Ann Thompson Nemcosky, Melinda Owens, Alex Tan, A. Troy Foster, Ann Buckner, Cathy Holtom, Marilyn Kilpin Feurstenberg, Cindy Louallen, Carol Carter, Marisa Moser Eddins, Catello Coda, Sandra Busby, Jamie Hansen, Liz Pearson, Tweedles, Padmaja Madhu, Beth Pollock, John W. Johnston,

Please forward a link to this post to every artist who you think may want to join the challenge. We're starting with invitations but you certainly don't need one to participate!

Visit —
Ranger Rick talks to kids about the Big Oil Spill
National Wildlife Federation
-(join me in a $20 pledge today)
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Thanks for joining me in this web of love.

Along the Gulf at St. Pete Beach, Florida. 2002

Thanks to Jack Wilburn for photo of Laughing Gull.

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Carol Carter said...

I join you in this effort! and I am posting right away.

I am also planning a trip to the Gulf in a week to document the beauty myself.

We are mobilized!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Oh, good, good, good! I was psyched when I saw your last post. I think this has to be a team effort so I am thrilled that you're on the team! You're inspiring me to make a quick trip myself...

Barbara Weeks said...

Thank you, Suzanne. I've been fortunate to enjoy the beauty of the Gulf many times. Count me in!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Excellent, Barbara. Grateful to have you on board!

RHCarpenter said...

I'm on board and ready! This is a wonderful project. Carol, you must take lots of photos to share - anyone who can take the trip should help document what's happening for those who only get what the news tells us.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Awesome, Rhonda! This is exciting.

As for non-news sources of information, I encourage you to go to the National Wildlife Federation - http://www.nwf.org/ for more news and the US FIsh and Wildlife Service site - http://www.fws.gov/home/dhoilspill/index.html

These sites are at bottom of post. So glad you are enthused about this.

Pat said...

Thanks for giving me a heads up and for taking the time to make a difference. I'm in!!!! Thanks you very much again. I was doing some researching yesterday and feeling so helpless. This will help if we can get published in local newspapers or our art can get placed so the public can see it to give an added opportunity to educate and inform.

Dawn said...

very cool Suzanne!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Good, Pat. I'm glad you're in. I think this will have to be an online thing for now. I, personally, can't handle any sort of print publicity due to other irons on fire. But that's the beauty of a group. Anyway, online approach is where it's at these days - especially for newspapers. This is more about expression and transformation for artists than about education and information for public.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Dawn! I'd love you to join us. I didn't list you because you're working primarily with photos in your area. But whatever you want to do would be great. Thanks.

laura said...

Hi Suzanne. Thanks for including me--it's wonderful idea and I llok forward to seeing everyone's responses.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Hi Laura,

Good to hear from you. I look forward to seeing people's responses, too, and hope you will join us!

Suzanne McDermott said...

The Spirit of the Gulf Challenge is now a facebook group. You can post your work and link to your sites there!

Mineke Reinders said...

Thank you for the invitation Suzanne. I'm rather overwhelmed with other work right now, but will contribute as soon as I can.

Suzanne McDermott said...

I understand! No pressure. Just an invitation. XO

caseytoussaint said...

I'm in! I've got company coming any minute for a few days, but after that I will get right on it. It's a wonderful idea.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Wonderful, Casey! Enjoy your company...

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Thanks for the invite, Suzanne. I'm in too. Great idea. Just moved this weekend so once the studio is organized I'll be posting!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Great! Good luck with your unpacking and organizing. Hope you're happy with the new space!

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

Barbara Weeks told me about your project. Count me in...My heart goes out to the people in the Gulf... I have worked on cleaning up an oil spill so I know a little about the horror they are facing.

Libby said...

I love what you're doing and your approach to this. Speaking for myself, not my organization, I found this clearing process for healing of us/and of the Earth online and thought you might find it helpful, as well as your friends (I have no affiliation w this person or her Website): http://www.robbinshopkins.com/2010/04/gratitude-for-others-for-our-earth/

Now, speaking as an editor at Ranger Rick magazine, I wanted to express our thanks for mentioning our Website.

With warmest wishes and appreciation for your spirit,
Libby Schleichert, Sr. Editor
Ranger Rick Magazine
National Wildlife Federation
Reston, VA

Suzanne McDermott said...

Elaine - You're welcome. Thanks for leaving a comment. Love your drawings and your Jefferson quote!

Suzanne McDermott said...

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your comment. It means a lot to me.

Thanks for the link to link, I'll visit in a minute.

I included Ranger Rick's link because of the information, presentation and tone of the remarks — so that's just your good work coming back atcha — and the National Wildlife Federation for the same and because of its stellar reputation and difficult work ahead.

It's a pleasure to meet you and I appreciate all the work you do.

Libby said...

Hi Suzanne,
Thanks so much for your support. It means a whole lot to all of us.

Warmest regards,

Libby Schleichert, Sr. Editor
Ranger Rick Magazine
National Wildlife Federation
Reston, Virginia

lady hermes said...

I've tried to post a watercolor done on captiva island, where i've visited and loved for many years, but i can't seem to post it. any advice?

you know me better as wordspix2009 on flickr

Suzanne McDermott said...

Lady hermes,

You may send me a link to a blog post with the watercolor image or join the facebook page and post the watercolor there yourself. If you can't do either of those things, go up to contact in the above menu bar and send me an email telling me where your watercolor of Captiva is posted and I'll try to figure something out for you.

Again, the facebook page address is: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=127832103901693

Looking forward to seeing the watercolor!

Teresa said...

Already warming up with some sketches of manta rays. Thanks for starting such a great challenge :)


Cathy Gatland said...

Suzanne, a wonderful initiative - I've added a small contribution from my deeply inland but very concerned position - thanks for the opportunity.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Hi Teresa, I was looking at Manta Rays the other day and am happy to hear you're working on representing them!

There's nothing quite like swimming in the gulf and having a ray leap out not too far away....

Suzanne McDermott said...

Cathy! So great to hear from you. I am truly delighted for your contribution. I am deeply inland, too. I don't think that much matters right now. I'll link to your post at the bottom of the challenge right now.

I'll ask you to post to the facebook page, too. Love the Emily Dickinson add. Very appropriate. XO

Diahn said...

Wonderful idea, Suzanne - I've participated and posted! I'll head over to facebook and join up on the group, as well...

travelingsuep said...

Great idea Suzanne.

I accepted the challenges of Dan Kent and Cathy Gatland. I posted here:


Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors said...

I accepted your challenge as well, I posted the link on your facebook page.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Thanks, for your contribution, Sue!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Hi Mimi,

Glad to have your beautiful Pelican with us.

Ann Buckner said...

Rhonda Carpenter told me about your wonderful idea and I would like to accept your challenge.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Thanks for joining us! I'm really looking forward to your finished piece.

lucywarlick said...

Hi Suzanne,

Dan Kent invited me to join your project. What a great idea to give us artists something we can DO. Could we offer our art in an auction or something?

Thanks for organizing a worthwhile cause.

Lucy Warlick

Suzanne McDermott said...

Hi Lucy,

Good to meet you!

While an auction idea is a good idea, this is purely a spiritual response to what is happening in the Gulf. I've recommended a straight donation to the National Wildlife Federation in the sidebar and at bottom of post.

Personally, I'm not comfortable engaging in commerce around this situation or using fossil fuels for shipping and so forth. Making art can be a powerful tool and experience. It's a shame that it has become so entwined with making sales.

If you want to participate in a promotional donation, you can go to the art vs. oilspill site that has set up a storefront for art sales with portions going to a volunteer organization.

Whatever you decide to do, you'll be doing a good thing!

Kimmie said...

I didn't know you were here ..... I've been obsessing over this loss and creating a watercolor every day for the last 2 weeks (ever since Top Kill was killed). My mind is blown every day with the latest developments and the only thing bringing me relief is to study and paint the creatures in all their glory - not coated in oil. Thank you for starting this. It is a very healing thing for people to see us honoring the beauty of this region and hoping and longing for restoration - it's easy to get very angry - but not so easy to do something productive with the outrage.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Hello my name is Tweedles
I am not an artist, I wish I was. but on June 2, I wrote a story on my bloggy about the Sea,,,, and that it was crying

Diandra Mae said...

What a wonderful challenge. There is a community of illustrators who are doing their part as well, and I wanted share with you what is happening over at Ripple: http://ripplesketches.blogspot.com/

A good friend of mine started the blog a month ago, when we were all feeling so helpless. Now we've helped to raise thousands of dollars for the wildlife, and hope to continue to do so. I hope you'll stop by.

Derek McCrea said...

I added the challenge to my blog and also added three works I have completed of the gulf. Seascapes have always been my favorite painting subject and when I ma "painting from my head" sitting at an art show with no image to guide me I always paint beach paintings in different tropical colors. It is just because the beach is always on my mind. It is beautiful and mysterious and peaceful and still regardless of the oil spill is an amazing beauthy of nature that rivals landscapes in my opinion.

Short Poems said...

Wonderful challenge, great idea :)