Do you have that one person on your timeline or newsfeed you wish lived down the road from you and was one of your bff's? That's how TFUI Founder Melissa feels about the insanely talented Lily Williams. Specifically because they both love rabbits (WIN) and sharks (DOUBLE WIN) and warm, cozy things.
Ever since she stumbled upon Lily's work, Melissa has been an avid fan and follower (and yes, she hopes one day they can collaborate in some way). So it is with great pleasure that TFUI welcomes her to the "Behind the Fins" series!
As The Fins United Initiative expands, so will our "Behind the Fins" interviews to not only include shark scientists and conservationists, but those who work with these animals in a different way, and those who capture these animals in action, such as behind a lens... or in this case, a brush.
The Fins United Initiative: So what got you interested in capturing wildlife through art?
Lily Williams: I have always cared about a lot of things and I always loved art. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out how to successfully and effectively marry them. Then I attended California College of the Arts to get my B.F.A. and their slogan was “make art that matters”. Somewhere along the way while getting my degree, I really took that slogan to heart and made it my own.
TFUI: We love your artistic style! How did you get into this career?
LW: Thank you! I make art inspired by what I wanted as a kid. I hope that my art catches your eye and then teaches you something along the way.
TFUI: Well, it certainly captures our eye!
LW: During my time in college I started trying to pair information and art. My most successful examples of this college exploration were my WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHARKS DISAPPEAR? infographics and my thesis film, FINconceivable.
TFUI: And what is FINconceivable about?
LW: FINconceivable is an animated documentary short about shark finning where I discuss the trophic cascade and what would happen to our oceans if sharks were eliminated. During that time I also connected with my editor and I started a picture book on the same topic. When I graduated from CCA, I had a job offer to move to LA and work in feature film animation so for a few years I did that while working on my informational work on the side. I am now creating art and books full time out of Denver, CO. I love it!
TFUI: Yes, your books! You've written quite a few books discussing "What if.... disappeared." What inspired this series and why choose sharks as the first animals?
LW: I have always loved sharks. I swam for “the sharks” swim team growing up and I loved consuming shark books and documentaries. I once was watching a documentary and a scientist said “sharks are necessary” but did not explain why, so I set out on a personal mission to learn why. I ended up volunteering with nonprofit Shark Stewards and doing a lot of research. What I found was dense scientific information and I decided I needed to explain it in a way that someone like me could understand. I wanted people to care like I cared and I wanted the information to be easy to digest. This lead to my WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHARKS DISAPPEAR? Infographics. Those images lead to FINconceivable and my debut children’s book, IF SHARKS DISAPPEARED.
There are so many people in the world telling us we have to care, but they don’t give us a good example of what would happen if we didn’t. So I wanted to get people to see that we need to care and that there is still hope in caring. From sharks the series has grown and in August, If POLAR BEARS DISAPPEARED will arrive on bookshelves. Then in 2019, you will be able to pick up a copy of IF ELEPHANTS DISAPPEARED.
TFUI: Do you think exposure to marine art can lead to better conservation initiatives in the long run?
LW: I absolutely do. I think that art is a fantastic way to draw in a diverse crowd: all ages, demographics, and conservation enthusiasm levels.
TFUI: What do you think is the best way to get the general public interested in the natural world?
LW: I think easy to access storytelling is an approachable way to get people excited about nature. Learning about something specific often encourages us to want to learn more and find a deeper connection to the world around us.
TFUI: Do you think people in your country/state have a good relationship with the ocean environment? If not, what can be done to better it?
LW: I am from California and now live in Colorado and people in both places do love the natural world around them. Californians love the ocean and Coloradans love their mountains, which is both unique and wonderful. I cannot say the same about the lawmakers representing constituents. Right now, they seem to be doing a lot of harm to the world through regressive policies and reducing public lands. There is a real denial about nature preservation and climate change going on.
I am a big believer that kids teach adults. I think that the best we can do is educate and encourage excitement about biodiversity, saving our planet, and endangered species.
TFUI: What do you hope 2018 changes for sharks in regards to their image in the media?
LW: I wish everyone could read my book, IF SHARKS DISAPPEARED, so that we might start opening eyes to a possible world without sharks. I hope people can start to realize that sharks are both apex predators and a vulnerable species, that these ideas are not mutually exclusive, and that we can help save them.
TFUI: What do you hope people take away from your work?
LW: I hope people can see that everything in this world is interconnected and that the choices we make at home can have an impact far away. Mostly, I hope that we all can see that there IS hope for a brighter tomorrow and that each and every one of us can make positive change.
TFUI: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
LW: Definitely getting to see and hear about how my work impacts kids lives. It is the stories of when kids tell me they encouraged their parents to buy sustainably sourced fish, or when a teacher tells me all of her students wrote to their representative, or when a student tells me they were afraid of sharks but now they want to save them.
TFUI: What’s next for you?
LW: IF POLAR BEARS DISAPPEARED comes out in August 2018. I am currently writing and illustrating IF ELEPHANTS DISAPPEARED and my upcoming graphic novel, GO WITH THE FLOW (2019). I want to continue encouraging hope and change in all sorts of different spaces in the world.
TFUI: We have no doubt in our mind you will!
THE FINS UNITED INITIATIVE WOULD LIKE TO THANK lily FOR HER TIME AND
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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