News Home & Design Artist's Otherworldly Paintings Reimagine Mysterious Marine Creatures Combining dense biological detail with colorful imagination, these fantastical artworks draw upon a deep curiosity about nature. By Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who covered architecture and the arts for Treehugger starting in 2007. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Kimberley Mok Published February 15, 2021 09:43AM EST Robert Steven Connett Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices The deepest reaches of the planet's oceans are inaccessible places that are rarely visited in person, and populated with mysterious creatures that can't be found anywhere else (like this giant amoeba that was recently discovered in the Mariana Trench). The vast depths of the sea represent for us all that is unknown, un-manifest, and yet has the potential to become – a phenomenon that Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung describes when speaking about its archetypal symbolism: "The sea is the favorite symbol for the unconscious, the mother of all that lives." So needless to say, the ocean and its creatures are a source of immense inspiration and fascination for mostly land-bound humans. Originally from San Francisco, California, Los Angeles-based artist Robert Steven Connett explores this enduring allure of the sea with his densely detailed paintings of marine creatures – some of them imagined, some of them based on real organisms. Robert Steven Connett Rendered carefully with acrylic paints, the intricacy of Connett's seascapes – from the sinuous, intertwining twists of tentacles to the bulbous, translucent forms – will inevitably draw viewers into otherworldly dimensions. Robert Steven Connett These eerie dimensions are animated by Connett's skill with the brush and the paintings' energetic, almost psychedelic colors – which range from ultraviolet purples to radioactive teals and smoldering oranges – and imbue the works with a pulsating current of life. Robert Steven Connett The careful attention to detail in Connett's artworks are somewhat reminiscent of the biological studies done by German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel, who used his skills to render various organisms in painstaking scientific detail back in the late 1800s. There's also perhaps a bit of the influence of the grotesque, an artistic notion and term that originates from the Renaissance, and refers to anything that has a strange but fantastical hybrid form, often characterized by curving decorative patterns in flora and fauna. Robert Steven Connett But Connett takes that hidden element of captivating beauty past the dry rigor of biological study, and elevates it with a fresh perspective that seems to lure one into its vibrant depths. Robert Steven Connett As a child, Connett was deeply curious about the natural world, often drawing insects, reptiles, and amphibians from imagination. Some of his most vivid childhood memories of interfacing with nature include weekly fishing trips he took with his father out in San Francisco Bay's waters, saying that, "The sea was my teacher." Robert Steven Connett Connett later taught himself how to paint and draw in his twenties, and has continued to develop a remarkable artistic focus. Calling these depictions an "underworld" brimming with bizarre but compelling micro- and macro-organisms, Connett explains to us his motivations behind these artworks: "I’m often asked why I choose to paint what I do. The simple answer is that these subjects fascinate me. I paint because I enjoy seeing my imagination come to life. A deeper answer is this: My work has become a sanctuary. It is a refuge formed from my imagination. I fear that the creatures of the earth that I love and sometimes conjure in my work will become only a memory of a time when life was plentiful and mysterious." Robert Steven Connett Indeed, much has been said about the role and impact of artists and their art in the current ecological (and existential) crisis that humanity is going through. Many artists have taken to using their skills to reframe the discussion around the climate crisis, using powerful images and symbols to convey the message more urgently than any hard statistic ever could. It's a paradox of sorts: we humans are the problem – yet also the solution – says Connett: "My paintings are my sanctuary but also a statement and a reminder to those who look at my art that life on our planet is all part of an exquisitely complex chain of evolution. We have become the unwitting destroyers of our planet's ecosystems through our own devices and consequent overpopulation of the planet. We are too clever for our own good. Now we must become clever enough to undo the damage that we have caused. Ultimately it is our responsibility to stop the great extinctions that our species is responsible for starting." True indeed; you can see more of Robert Steven Connett's work on his website, Instagram, or purchase prints on Big Cartel.