Inspired By the Ocean


Catherine Bell

As a child, I visited the remote island of Canna off the coast of Northern Scotland. Canna is a 4.4 square mile speck of land in the Atlantic and has a population of just 6 people. At low tide, it is connected to the neighboring island of Sanday, which is smaller than one square mile, by a sandbank.


Scottish Isle

My parents and I walked to the far tip of Sanday, where we were drawn to a large rock stack on a shelf exposed by the tide. Scrambling down to get a closer look, we discovered a small arc of gravel beach, and on that beach, all manner of trash and treasure. Beautiful glass fishing floats in torn rope netting, ground up LEGO bricks, tiny seashells that sparkled when wet, a license plate from a faraway country. The beach felt like a secret place where the vast, unknowable waters of the ocean brought together objects from all over the world, each with their own story.

Message in a bottle

For the longest time, there were just four oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic. Then, in 2000, the Southern Ocean around Antarctica made the list. It’s hard to grasp quite how big oceans are. The Pacific Ocean alone covers over 30% of Earth’s surface -- a bit more, it turns out, than all land combined. An enduring source of inspiration for those who live by them, as well as for artists, we can be moved by oceans in many ways.

A Vast Ocean


The ocean goes through striking changes of mood and color, from tempestuous and stormy to calm and soothing. Freezing gray water and white spray clawing at the foot of a cliff in a dramatic frozen moment, pools of luminous turquoise rest against the yellow sand of a tropical beach. The white noise of the waves lulls you to sleep. The ocean inspires peace, relaxation, excitement or fear depending on its mood, and the huge scale makes these emotions seem immersive.

The Ocean's Many Moods


Seeing the ocean every day leaves you with a powerful sense of connection and dependence. You might rely on it for your livelihood, to access other places, for play or creativity. The ocean is a pathway that connects us to exotic ports and distant countries, or perhaps the essentials of daily life in an isolated community. Imagine sitting at a bar in an East Asian port a century ago, sipping a drink and watching a ship arrive with the first ice the place has seen in six months, transported across the ocean as large blocks in the hold. Just as an ocean can separate us from loved ones, it can carry a letter from their hands to ours. The ocean gives, and the ocean takes away.

A Lighthouse Stands Alone


Like mountains, the ocean has been a backdrop for heroism, triumph, discovery and disaster. Running away to sea was a time-honored way to escape bad situations and poor prospects, with the promise of fame, fortune or (more likely) different forms of hardship to those at home. Seafaring adventure stories like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island leave lasting impressions on children. The idea for the book came to Stevenson while idly sketching an imaginary, romantic island with his stepson on a rainy day at home in Scotland. The ocean had plenty of room to hide sea monsters, shipwrecked treasure, perhaps even Altantis. An expedition across the ocean was the space travel of its day. 

Oceanic Adventures

Long before Hollywood put bravery on the high seas on the silver screen, painters were inspired by the heroism and sacrifice of lifeboat crews and lighthouse keepers, fighting to keep the flickering candle flame of human life burning among towering waves of a raging ocean. The US Coast Guard Art Program and Britain’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution use fine art as an outreach and education tool, bringing their work to life for those of us who will never experience it firsthand. 

 Soft Hues

The Palette

Ocean wall art offers a much broader palette than just blue and white waves. From deep orange sunsets over the mouth of a river to the neon colors of modern safety gear, multi-colored coastlines and the muted grays of a stormy day, you can find an image of the ocean to bring a diverse range of moods to any room. 

 Impressionist Range

Inspire Me!

Our Impressionist Range print features an unusual and beautiful combination of elements. A flurry of brushstrokes form a beautiful sky that could either filled with flowers, or stars. A soft reflection of mountains in placid ocean water forms the foreground. This eye-catching piece could bring ocean vibes to your bedroom, office, or living room.

Wherever you are, surround yourself with inspiration!

Wall Art from Birdhaus Design