Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are an essential part of maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. Giant Sea Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) of the California coastline relies on these mustelids' steady diet of sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and other invertebrates that feast on the kelp. Urchins will gnaw on the kelp's stipe, separating it from the holdfast that anchors it to the rock. Sea urchins can decimate a kelp forest and harm the diverse species that rely on this fragile habitat. Sea otters help keep the sea urchin population in check. Rafts of otters can often be found tangling themselves in the kelp to prevent them from drifting out to sea while they are sleeping.
I observed and sketched the otters in the field, and took hundreds of reference photos. I created the environment by visiting the kelp forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I then combined several sketches and photos in Photoshop to create the ideal composition, transferred the image and started scratching! I enjoy the high contrast of scratchboard, as well as the additive and subtractive processes it allows.