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Look out for snorkelers swimming along Scotland’s west coast this summer – it might be artists doing underwater sketches of the seafloor.
The Society of Wildlife Artists is collaborating with Argyll Coasts and Islands Hope Spot, a designation of the coastline stretching from Ardnamurchan to Loch Sween, which celebrates the area’s ‘world-class natural riches’.
‘Argyll’s marine wildlife is more diverse than almost anywhere else in Scotland,’ explains the Argyll Hope Spot’s co-ordinator Keira Anderson.
‘It includes the huge, globally-endangered flapper skate, dolphins, porpoises, minke whales, basking sharks, otters and seabirds.
‘Sheltered beds of sea grass and pink maerl are important fish nurseries and carbon stores.
‘Colourful serpulid worms build towers on the seabed and soft corals cloak rocky reefs.
‘There are kelp forests, exotic sea fans, flame shells and feather stars.
‘The coast has fishing grounds, salmon breeding rivers, wild anchorages, snorkel trails, shipwrecks, ancient oak forests and castles.’
In July four artists from the Society of Wildlife Artists undertook a week-long residency in the Hope Spot.
During this time they snorkelled and sailed across the area, making observational sketches and studying the life that lives under the waves.
They even made field sketches whilst under the water. By all accounts, this was as hard as it sounds.
Using these sketches, each artist produced new pieces which they exhibited at a local community event, which will be included in the Society of Wildlife Artists annual exhibition at Mall Galleries, London.
A second group of artists are preparing to undertake the same residency from September 15-22.
They will be travelling across the area to study, observe and sketch an array of species and habitats.
‘The Argyll Coast and Islands Hope spot is a community-led celebration of life under the sea and on land in this part of Scotland,’ adds Keira.
‘It is the first Hope Spot in the mainland UK. Hope Spots are special places, vital for the ocean’s health, linked by the international organisation Mission Blue.
‘This growing global network of areas of international importance also includes the Galapagos Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
‘The Argyll Hope Spot includes four Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), as well as numerous Special Areas of Conservation, National Scenic Areas and National Nature Reserves.
‘Our aim is that everyone on the west coast of Scotland should be aware and proud of the beauty and global significance of the marine life here.’
Follow Argyll Hope Spot and the artists’ adventures online on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.