Caia Koopman is well known by Beautiful Bizarre’s followers. In her TAKE OVER of the Beautiful Bizarre social media last October she gave us an insight into her influences and her considered approach to nature and our environment. She is a respected, and highly collected pop surrealist painter. She grew up in California, and looking at her work, it is easy to see the influence of surf, skate and tattoo culture in her imagery. Caia combines this urban street style with her love of nature, incorporating animals and exotic plant life into many of her paintings. This stems from her acute environmental awareness and burning interest in keeping our biodiversity safe.

“My environmental concerns have almost always appeared in my artwork. Right from the beginning I have incorporated my feelings of everything being connected… that pollution is toxic, deforestation is evil, bees are in need of help, and that we need to take better care of each other, into my art. I hope that my art speaks to people about the respect for nature and our fellow critters that I feel.”

This is not surprising seeing as Caia was raised by two nature loving, scientist parents. She grew up experiencing nature, and was taught the importance of wilderness and wildlife first hand. The result of being raised hiking, biking, backpacking, camping, and being taught about all the wildlife around her instilled within Caia a strong bond with, and love for, nature.

Growing more aware of the ways of the world especially in college and in her 20’s, Caia really started to “wake up” to what was going on in the world. She began to care deeply about environmental issues.  “In my 20’s I was educated enough to have more of the bigger picture in my mind and aware enough see all the damage being done by humans.” Caia acknowledges that her sister was also instrumental getting me more involved, she was getting her degree in environmental science at the time and was enraged by what she was learning about in college. “She helped me learn more than what you hear on the news. The more I paid attention to environmental issues the more I cared, the more passionate I became. The more you learn, the more you know, the more you care; repeat. It’s a bit of a wormhole actually.”

Currently creating an illustrated tale about love, food, and the ocean, Caia has teamed up with Casson Trenor, a career marine conservation activist. He grew up on the beach in Washington State, and at some point, the ocean managed to infiltrate his soul. Casson has defended whales in Antarctica with Sea Shepherd, run campaigns to reform major seafood corporations with Greenpeace, and established a number of sustainable sushi restaurants designed around the principles of ocean awareness and mindful dining. His work has been featured in books, documentaries, and periodicals around the world. He strongly believes that art is one of the most important vehicles we have when it comes to teaching people to care for our Earth.

Caia and Casson are concerned that the world’s oceans are under threat. Overfishing, habitat destruction, and dumping at sea continue largely unchecked. The more pressure put on the oceans the harder it is for them to provide the ecosystem needed for all our survival on this planet. They would like us to care for our oceans and the creatures that live inside them. The book is for children of all ages… including the big ones and Caia hopes that people will love this book for the art and for the story, and that parents can use it as a tool to teach love and respect for the ocean.

 “Our aim is that our book inspires people and makes them care more deeply for our big blues.”

“Umijoo is our main character in the book, and she is having a bit of a “wake up” moment of her own. Her father is a fantastic cook, they live by the coast and she enjoys eating fish, but her father realizes she does not appreciate the animals she is eating and decides to send her on an adventure.  Umijoo is naive at the beginning but eager to learn, she is curious, compassionate and brave. She is excited to meet a giant octopus named Okatako, a school of salmon, and a monstrous yet wise old Anglerfish, and many many more!”

The original illustrations in the book are individual paintings. They are intensely detailed and coloured and executed in Caia’s fluid and whimsical signature style.  She is hoping to exhibit the art at some point before the paintings all go to their new homes. “We expect that much of the art will have found homes during the Kickstarter campaign, which we will do next year, but there should be a nice window for a show with all the pieces together for their final hurrah! If anyone is interested in an original from the book they will be available when we start our Kickstarter, stay tuned for that.”

While this project is rewarding and a true labour of love for Caia, it has had many of its own challenges. “I am not practiced at painting underwater scenes or marine animals, it’s tricky and a skill to be learned. Luckily every time I need to learn how to paint something new, I grow as an artist, and there has been a lot of new subject matter here for sure!”

She admits maintaining a successful and professional art practice while undertaking a project that is time consuming and labor intensive, is also tricky.

“I’m trying to do as much multitasking as possible. For example, I’m doing a reef scene for the book that will also work as a print for PangeaSeed’s  Sea Of Change, The Year Of Living Dangerously, print suit 3, we will highlighting the plight of the orange clown fish, who are becoming endangered due to their popularity in the aquarium industry, and accelerated by the popularity of the movie Nemo (which is sadly ironic). I am also showing one of the paintings early, during the month of May, at Spoke Gallery. This is a unique opportunity for someone to grab an Umijoo piece before the Kickstarter next year.”

Caia’s work has just begun on the book and she will complete 30 paintings for the project. This process will take another year. She and Casson are using a Patreon fund to assist with living expenses.  “I need help to live while I paint this labor intensive thing.”

You can support Caia and Casson at Patreon or stay tuned for the next step which will be the Kickstarter with original art available next year!

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