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Updated: North Coast Otters Project

Updated: May 4, 2020

Update: The Otter Project will be launched and presented virtually on May 27, 2020 World Otter Day! Check out their page here for more info!

North Coast Otters is a collaboration of art and science, encouraging imagination and observation in our community. This arts initiative provides an opportunity to explore our connection with nature through engagement with the Northern river otter.

Over 100 otter sculptures painted by local artists will be displayed across the north coast during the Summer of 2020 (scheduled pre-Covid) at locations including shops, galleries, and school, creating an educational art trail at locations including gift shops, galleries, and schools. The art will then be auctioned off to raise funds to support our region’s grassroots watershed projects, and HSU student internship opportunities, in addition to becoming permanent fixtures around the county

Art and Animal Love? Sign me up! Actually, let me painstakingly apply and hope for the best. :D I was selected as an Otter Artist in September by the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce, and my nakey little 4-ft friend came home with me to sit and stare at me in my office for many weeks. Made of fiberglass, the otter stands flat on his own and has a very peculiar stare.

I wanted to incorporate my favorite elements of Fortuna, where the Otter will live permanently, and honor some of the local foliage; Sunny Fortuna is bright and warm, and the river steaming by is full of life. Daffodils, poppies, lavender, heather and rhododendrons are just a few of the flora I hinted at with this project, layering dozens of colors for depth and joy.

Blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries... Lavender and Sweet Pea crawl up his legs and (really!) long toes.

I'm used to working on relatively flat surfaces, so the curves of this sculpture were a good challenge for me, especially since I love splashing and dripping paint; it's not as easy with an otter! Glitter whiskers, abalone flower pollen and gold leaf hairdo notwithstanding, I wanted to add my gemstone flair, so the little one was adorned with a rainbow of crystal chakras: root, sacral, solar, heart, throat, eye and crown-a herkimer diamond.

Herkimer Diamond Crown Chakra-for clairty :)

I coated my new little friend, dubbed Poppy Rose McOtter, with varnish to seal in the glitter, stones and all the glorious paint layers so that she'd be protected from the elements and many hands that will touch and poke her over the years when she's on display at the Fortuna Riverlodge! (They pre-purchased their sculpture, so it won't go to the regular auction.) I delivered the finished sculpture to Arcata in December so that the otters could begin their tour, after a little press, of course!

Poppy Rose, center, with friend Renee, Times Standard shoot

It was a fun project to push me out of my comfort zone again; I wouldn't have pictured myself volunteering to paint a furry animal sculpture, but I ended up missing it's strange, staring presence in my office when I was finally finished. After weeks of it occasionally wearing my beanies and scarves, I'd taken the presence of a looming, staring otter as just part of my studio aesthetic. One more picture in the yard before she went on her way...

Poppy Rose McOtter

What colorfulness will tomorrow bring?




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