Drawing inspiration from the elements of nature, Joseph Cantin is a “live” painter who boasts a wide collection of natural subjects, ranging from aquatic and land animals, to peaceful beach and mountain landscapes. He brings new life to these subjects by activating them with movement and vibrant life. He calls attention to nature’s beauty and asks the viewer to protect it by depicting natural scenes and animals as they should be: animated, bright, and void of the devastating effects of human activity on their livelihoods.
“Live” painting is the process of traversing into nature to capture its natural splendor as it unfolds before you. The effects of this process can be visualized in Cantin’s Beach and Ocean Sunset, in which he captures a gentle wave breaking against the sand. The ocean behind it begins to calm against the backdrop of a bright yellow sun, mingling with the clouds and setting the waves aglow. In this painting, the effects of Cantin’s physical presence while working are displayed in the details that stimulate and give new life to a common subject. The breaking wave is in action, in the process of transition into sea foam and eddying calm, as the water on the sand lulls back. The reflection of the sun’s colors on the ocean appears to be shifting with the waves, like they are being drawn in and out of view. The sky too is in transition into its next phase. The warm yellow of the sun reaches out across the sky, appearing in light purples and pinks along the edges of the clouds, which seem to be in movement themselves, gently wafting by. The perspective of the viewer is at an angle to the beach, giving the impression that they are standing within the scene, toes in the sand, just as Cantin was while painting.
The scene is idyllic, a view of the ocean at peace, wild, and void of people, except for the viewer. The beach is free of trash and appears healthy. While gazing at this beautiful piece, it is important to remember how to keep it this way and work to rid the ocean of the toxic polluters that we, as the earth’s patrons, have imposed upon it.
Beach pollution stems from a variety of sources, including litter, which poses threats to wildlife, and sewer overflow, which contaminates the water and risks the health of humans and aquatic life alike, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Moreover, the EPA outlines that rising sea levels and the overuse of beaches lead to erosion, destroying sand dunes and valuable habitats. Coastal communities are also at risk, as the erosion of beaches can cause buildings to lose their structural integrity. Unfortunately, we are the barrier blocking unhealthy beaches from returning to their natural state.
By painting a serene view of the beach from the perspective of someone standing on the beach themselves, Cantin calls us to reflect on its beauty and, in this moment of calm, to protect it. If you know the perfect spot for a print of this work to hang in your home, you can order it here.
Cantin’s Sea Turtle and Coral shows a brightly colored sea turtle swimming along a vibrant coral reef, articulated by swaths of pink, red, green, yellow, and blue, a vision of a healthy reef. In the distance, more of the reef recedes into blue hues, with dots of fish swimming above it. Cantin creates movement in this painting with dynamic coral growth. The pinkish corals on the left grow upward, while the yellow coral in the right-hand side of the picture plane has horizontal lines running through it. Some of the corals rise diagonally, and others, like the large red coral feature in the center of the painting, curve in no particular direction. The sea turtle’s shadow on the coral and the extension of its flippers suggest that it is in the moment of traveling just above the coral surface. The fish in the background also suggest activity in their quantity and the ways in which they swim in slightly different directions. This creates the effect of a dynamic, active display of sea life. Coupled with the close-up perspective, Cantin brings the viewer into the depths of the sea, presenting us with a glimpse into a world we don’t often have the privilege of seeing.
The sea turtle is painted in brown with bright strokes of red, orange, and yellow in the shell. Cantin’s use of color here directly connects the sea turtle to its environment with the same reds and yellows that appear in the coral beneath it. In this way, the turtle is shown as being one with its habitat and suggests the necessity of both the sea turtle and the vivid coral to keep this ecosystem thriving.
As in his Beach and Ocean Sunset, Cantin shows the viewer a healthy depiction of aquatic life. While this is still the case in many parts of the ocean, the lives sea turtles and coral reefs are significantly threatened by human impact. Sea turtles are currently endangered. According to the World Wildlife Fund, sea turtles are overharvested for their economic value and are losing their habitat because of coastal development and other human activities. Ocean pollution introduces plastics into marine ecosystems which sea turtles can become entangled in or eat. They are also often caught in nets and traps intended to catch other animals. Moreover, as ocean temperatures rise, fewer offspring are able to survive, and the coral reefs, on which they depend for sustenance, are subject to coral bleaching, effectively depleting their resources.
Cantin calls attention to both the plight of the sea turtles and coral reefs and the benefits of protecting them by illustrating their environment as rich with life and color. With proper action steps, we can help our turtles to thrive once again. If you want to view this piece up close and see how you can purchase its print, click here.
Cantin’s Two Dolphins is another depiction of aquatic life. In this serene painting, two wild dolphins are shown underwater, swimming upward with their bellies turned toward the viewer. They are surrounded by blue ocean, while the sun shines down through the water and reflects the ripples of surface waves onto the ocean floor. In this work, Cantin creates movement with his use of gentle brushstrokes for the varying shades of blue water surrounding the dolphins. The strokes arc around the dolphins in such a way that draw the viewer’s eye upward, giving the illusion that they are swimming in front of and below the dolphins. In the distance the ocean recedes into deep, dark blue, producing a sense of seclusion, juxtaposed with the closeness of the dolphins to each other. The light piercing through the water and reaching the sand, coupled with the lack of any other creatures in the scene, recalls the effect of being under the waves, as if it is only the viewer and these dolphins in this moment. In this way, the viewer is encouraged to find connection with these soft mammals.
The effects of human activity on wild dolphins tend to be lesser known than those on the sea turtles, but their numbers, like so many other creatures, are dwindling, with some populations of dolphins classified as endangered. According to SEEtheWILD, an organization committed to educating people, nonprofits, and tour companies on how to responsibly interact with wildlife, dolphins suffer in similar ways to the sea turtles.
Rising sea temperatures diminish their food sources and change currents, carrying what is left of their food sources to different locations. In some places, dolphins will be harvested for food. In the wild, they can become accidentally trapped by fishermen, preventing them from reaching the surface to breathe.
In Cantin’s painting, he shows us two dolphins about to breach the surface and receive the breath that they are unable to get in other circumstances. He allows us to convene with these animals, apart from their struggle, to appreciate their natural majesty and, hopefully, inspire us to protect them. A print of this work is available here.
It is difficult to look at Joseph Cantin’s paintings and not feel something. In these works, he draws people in to care about the ocean, sea turtles, coral reefs, and dolphins. He motivates empathy by creating scenes that the viewer feels a part of. They are not gazing from afar, but rather in the ocean or on the beach. He reminds us that the health of our surrounding environment is vital, and we are the only ones who can fix the problems we have created.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the paintings discussed here, they are linked below. All prints are on museum quality matte paper and are available in various sizes, ranging from 8”x10” to 18”x24”.
Beach and Ocean Sunset, sold with choice of frame, available in sizes ranging from 8”x10” to 18”x24”.
Sea Turtle and Coral, sold with choice of frame, available in sizes ranging from 8”x10” to 24”x36”.
Two Dolphins, sold ready for framing, available in sizes ranging from 8”x10” to 18”x24”.