Before this project I had never heard of a sea pen! It looks amazing and otherworldly – almost unbelievable these are found in the Forth. I chose it firstly because I found it fascinating visually, but after researching it I was even more intrigued. It is not one single animal, but a colony of polyps which fuse together. They have similarities with anemones and corals. This particular species, the phosphorescent sea pen (Pennatula phosphorea) is yellow or pink, but it gives off a fluorescent blue green glow when it’s disturbed. Because they need a stable seabed to anchor into, they are mostly found in deeper waters – probably why they are not generally a well-known species.
In my artwork I have depicted the sea pen in its pink state, however I have tried to suggest its luminous properties by using fluorescent paints. I painted with gouache and used masking fluid to create blended, colourful papers with a watery texture, which I then cut using a scalpel. I made a box frame from board in which to set my paper diorama, painting it with fluorescent pink acrylic. By mounting the cut pieces onto sturdy board and layering each piece with stacks of foam sheet in-between, I have created a 3D image within the frame. Individual threads in orange, yellow and pink were cut and glued onto the sea pen branches to represent the delicate fronds of the polyps.
Materials: The board used for the box frame and for stabilising the sea pen and rock elements was sourced from parcel packaging material. I used watercolour paper and foam sheet leftovers. The acrylic paint and gouache were from the CAN Van, an artist materials swap with Circular Arts Network and Fife Contemporary. Threads used for the polyps were bought from a scrap store in Crieff called Remake.