Dream Wally is my pareidolia drawing of Wally’s world, which shows what he was eating and, perhaps, dreaming about during his southern shores adventure.
Wally-the-Walrus, probably of Svalbard, made a heart-warming 2021 tour of coastline, well south of his arctic home, before heading back up north. One day, when he was hanging out off the Isles of Scilly, he swam up close to Joseph Pender’s boat to have a good, long look. Blessedly, Joseph is a very good photographer and was able to mark that encounter with several beautiful images.
Working from one of Joseph’s photographs, I have drawn this pareidolia portrait of Wally. Just head to this about page on my website if you would like more information on what pareidolia is.
I aimed to understand Wally from his own point of view. We saw lots of images of him lounging around the shorelines on rocks, piers and even working his way up onto various boats, sometimes accidentally sinking them! But I realised that Wally’s world, where he spends most of his awake time and energy, is underwater.
In the rolls of Wally’s skin, I perceived quite a few sea creatures – squid, crab, lobster claw, mussel, worms etc. This led to research about how walruses eat their prey, what they eat and how what they eat looks while a walrus is swimming around and able to catch these creatures unaware. Just to give you some idea of what I learnt, here is a video of a scallop flitting about.
Walruses feed on bivalve creatures like clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. They also enjoy eating other molluscs such as squid and crustaceans, like lobster and crab. We’re all aware of the challenge it can be to shuck clams and to get at the delicious meat inside a crab’s shell. Wally has a formidable ability to suck these creatures right out of their shells. Even limpets, which are famously difficult to pry loose from their hold, are no match for Wally’s ability to hoover up these raw edible delights.
Whilst vacationing off the Isles of Scilly, Wally could also find little wentletraps and cowries to snack on. Their shells are so prized and beautiful to humans that jewellery has been inspired by the wentletrap’s fascinating spiral and the compact, glimmering shell of the cowrie. Both shells are considered highly collectible but I hope that many of these shells can remain in the sea in case a creature needs a replacement or to upsize their home.
Did you know that cowries wrap their body up around some of the outer face of their shell, which extends the pearlescence that is evident inside clam and oyster shells to part of the outer cowrie shell face as well? You can see how these charming creatures look in their shells within my drawing. Here is a detail from the drawing:
I’ve drawn a clam basking with its shell open, unaware that Wally was nearby and out on the prowl. I learned that live mussels with their shell forced open can look quite ghoulish and within the raw oyster – as it lay in its opened shell – I perceived a whole series Oyster People, who make an appearance furthest along Wally’s skin in the drawing. Perhaps the easiest catch for Wally are seaworms.
Joseph’s photograph is beautifully focused on Wally, with the sea around him left hazier. I thought of this as Wally’s dreamscape. And what would he be thinking about? He was around four years old during his southern tour, so too young to be preoccupied with thoughts of breeding.
Certainly, he would be missing his fellow walrus companions. Whereas we see sea birds afloat and bobbing about, Wally would witness their webbed feet treading water, the dainty dance of scallops, the sounds of fish and molluscs communicating, moving and filtering water, as well as the rasps, clacks and chirps of crustaceans.
I imagined Wally dreaming fondly of when his mother taught him to swim, taking him protectively under one flipper as she guided him through the water.
I’ve watched this captivating National Geographic video countless times as inspiration for my drawing:
If you’d like to own a limited-edition fine art giclée print of Dream Wally, it’s available right here.
For a deeper insight into the way pareidolia works, we also have collaboration prints on offer, which show Joseph’s lovely photograph and my Dream Wally drawing together as one fine art limited-edition giclée print – available here.
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