Voices of the Wilderness: An Artist's Perspective


Megan Perra kayaks in Lake Anna (photo by Lione Clare)

Megan Perra’s love for Alaska developed before she even set foot on Alaskan soil. Frequent readings of “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez inspired her to want to visit someday. When a friend in Fairbanks sent her a link to an artist residency program in northern Alaska, Megan saw that as an opportunity to visit and extend her body of work in northern regions. Although she ended up in an area different than the arctic places Lopez writes about, Megan still found her Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residency with the Sitka Ranger District inspirational and rewarding. She recommends that anyone who loves naturalist art or writing should do one.


Megan sketching some islands in Phiele Passage (photo by Lione Clare)

Megan’s Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residency with the USDA Forest Service Sitka Ranger District involved a week-long kayak wilderness monitoring trip in the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness. She described the experience as a “chance to play,” and an “opportunity to discover the beauty out there, which you don’t always get to do day to day.” Additionally, Megan wasn’t expecting the trip to be only women and said, “It was awesome to be out there with an all-women crew and see what could be done!”


Kayaking past dead yellow cedar trees in Ford Arm (photo by Lione Clare)

While kayaking, exploring, and sketching, Megan realized that West Chichagof is a huge transition zone for global warming. She saw areas of dead yellow cedar trees, which are dying because of lack of winter snow cover, which used to insulate the trees’ shallow roots. Megan also noticed significant numbers of jellyfish and connected that to information and research she has read about jelly blooms being associated with warming ocean temperatures.

 A valued insight Megan gained is seeing how climate change is impacting the greater ecosystem of West Chichagof, a place so different than the desensitized glacier fields she has visited. Megan was also surprised by the amounts of trash she saw along the shorelines of islands and that “even our wildest places are full of trash!” Seeing all the garbage that originated from Japan especially made Megan notice the connection between the oceans and shores. 


Some of Megan's sketches and watercolors from her artist residency (photo provided by Megan Perra)

The USDA Forest Service Region 10 Website explains that the goal of the Artist in Residency is to “give artists a sense of the stewardship behind America’s public lands, fostering an artistic exploration of these natural and cultural treasures.” Megan adds that it gives others an opportunity to discover what research and monitoring field work the Forest Service does and view that with an artistic capacity.     


The wilderness team near Klag Bay (photo by Lione Clare)

 For Megan, this experience is a gateway to other opportunities, like a mural project she is currently working on in Fairbanks and a potential printmaking studio there that she hopes to get running this fall. Regarding her artistic outputs, Megan sees herself drawing LOTS of bears, but she also really wants to capture the landscape, specifically its textures and immensity, that are so unique and stunning to see in person. She is already working on organizing a screen print series exhibit in Fairbanks next January or February.


Megan often uses photography to assist her memory and compositions she later works into her art (photo by Lione Clare)

 About Megan

Megan is a naturalist illustrator and writer from Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.S. in Zoology from the University of British Columbia (Okanagen) and a Graduate Degree in Visual Journalism from Concordia University of Montreal, Quebec.

According to Megan’s biography on her website, http://feral5creativeco.com/, “Her passion for art and science stems from a single, driving curiosity about the natural world. Through her art, she hopes to express the dramas of ecology and the beauty of research in a way that makes science accessible to a broader audience.”LioneClare_meganblog-3.jpg

Sunset watercolor session on Baird Island (photo by Lione Clare) 


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