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Travel BLOG
October 14, 2016

Meet Doug Ross: Marine Mammals & Modern Art

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

The Santa Cruz art scene is on fire. A flourishing community of diverse artists are complemented by hugely popular events such as Arts Council Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour and First Friday as well as institutions like The Tannery Arts Center and Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. Our booming arts community inspired us to profile a few local artists that are capturing the Santa Cruz landscape in creative new ways. Today, we meet Doug Ross.

Photo by David Reese

Doug’s modern, sea life-filled artwork is the result of a talented illustrator transplanted to the natural splendor of Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay. His graphic-driven silkscreen prints marry his love of design and the enchanting world of marine life. In his dynamic images, a sperm whale tangles with a giant squid, a spiky orange sea cucumber inches along the rocky seafloor, and two harbor seals battle it out for a coveted resting spot on the Santa Cruz Wharf.

In 1991, Doug left behind the bitter winters of Toronto for the year-round sunshine and outdoor activities of Santa Cruz. He continued working as a professional illustrator but it wasn’t until he started volunteering for the Marine Mammal Center—a nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals along the Californian and Hawaiian coasts—that the inspiration for his fine art blossomed.

“After someone close to me passed away, I wanted to do something meaningful,” he says of his decision to start volunteering. Like a volunteer fire department, rescue participants drop whatever they are doing at the sound of an alert and rush off to help an animal in distress, oftentimes a whale, seal or sea lion entangled in fishing net. For Doug, his ongoing animal rescue experience is a critical part of the process of creating new artwork.

“I find animals to be an amazing source of stories,” he explains. “Part of my mission is share the accounts of wild animals and their superpowers so they can continue to thrive.”

Photo by David Reese

Doug’s artwork swims with majestic leatherback turtles, alien-like sunfish, and ethereal moon jellies. His images have a retro-contemporary feel thanks to the modernist principles—stripping a form down to its essence—that he applies to his animal subjects. His lush, silkscreen prints are created using both modern digital production and a traditional printmaking process. From his Midtown studio, he fabricates every aspect of his artwork, from the original drawing to the silkscreen frames to the wooden frames that embellish the final piece.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

Art lovers can get a peek inside this process during Open Studios, the annual event that offers the public access to local artists’ studios throughout the first three weekends of October. It presents a rare opportunity to view and purchase artwork directly from the artists themselves. Doug is a regular participant and he credits some of his initial success to the event. He points out that Open Studios is also a great, de facto home and garden show. “Artists have the best houses,” he says with a smile.

Photo by David Reese

Doug’s studio is available to visit as part of Open Studios during the weekend of Oct 15-16. Doug’s artwork is also available at Agency and Artisans Gallery in Downtown Santa Cruz as well as online at If you’re interested in learning more about the vibrant Monterey Bay marine life that inspires Doug’s art, be sure to visit the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and the free Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center.

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