Seals Hauled Out

If seeing harbor seals lazing on seaweed draped rocks isn’t awesome enough, hearing them growling at each other and splashing at rivals in a full-on water fight ranks high on my list of Maine vacation experiences. This group of about 40 seals hauls out to rest on the same rocky ledges at low tide each day. I sketched them on two separate days; first, from a place on shore where I used binoculars to view them, and the second time from a closer rocky outcrop that we reached by canoe. Tucked in among the rocks myself, I could see them much better, but still needed binoculars for better views.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), harbor seals haul out to regulate their body temperature, molt, interact with other seals, give birth, and nurse their pups.

It looks like the seals are sitting on top of the water (above), but the rocks are just underneath them and are revealed as the tide continues to go out. You can see that there is a lot of color variation among this group of seals. When the rocks are visible (below), many blend in perfectly with the seaweed draped rocks. I especially liked the large white one whose fur gleamed golden in the sun. (Day 1 sketch below, Day 2 above)

Tips and Techniques: When you sketch from binoculars, you only get about six second to remember what you saw—hardly enough to make a detailed drawing. Still, if your subject weighs 250 pounds and isn’t moving quickly, you can make it work. Fortunately, the shapes and postures of seals are not too complicated, and they tend to rest in similar poses, so you can watch and sketch and wait for them to resume a pose if they move. When sketching from shore, I painted on location using an Etchr sketchbook with excellent watercolor paper. From the canoe and rocky ledge, I sketched in pencil only in my Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook and added text, watercolor, anatomy, and close up head shot later.

21 Comments on “Seals Hauled Out

  1. Your sketches and watercolors are just beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing and inspiring us.

    • I love having the opportunity to be in more wild places. The silence, tides, spruce woods, and tidal bays all around are part of what makes seeing the seals so special.

  2. Totally fun and easy subjects to sketch. We’re doing a camping/road trip on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada and seeing lots of harbour seals everywhere. Thanks for sharing and will give it a try1

  3. That white one with its head downhill! You really captured the glory and indulgence of basking in the sunlight — I can just feel its pleasure in the moment. Nice energy all around in these sketches, thanks for sharing!

  4. Such amazing animals. I love both pages. We took a boat trip out to Mt. Desert Rock Light and the seals were piled on top of each other. Quite a sight! At that time I wasn’t sketching anything. What an opportunity that would’ve been.

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