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Harbor seal pup becomes art subject before its rescue; photo via FRPArt

Brandon Anderton is a talented artist who sometimes spends hours creating intricately beautiful patterns on the beach.

But aerial photos of his most recent creation in Santa Cruz, California, reveal something peculiar, in the form of a tiny dark blob within one of the geometric circles.

The blob is a harbor seal pup, undernourished and listless, currently recovering in nearby Moss Landing, at a satellite facility run by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, near San Francisco.


Aerial photo shows seal pup amid Brandon Anderton’s intricate design; photo: FRPArt

This was all part of an Earth Day celebration during which Anderton, whose beach art is a form of therapy, set out to create a vast and detailed masterpiece, and ended up assisting in a seal rescue.

He said the baby seal was on the beach, close to the face of a cliff, when he arrived at 5:30 a.m. and began to craft his design. He sensed that the skinny critter was ailing, so could a woman standing nearby.

"Apparently one of the ladies who was watching me create that piece noticed [the seal] and contacted a friend of hers, who actually performs animal rescues locally," Anderton said.


Brandon Anderton admires a recent beach art creation; photo: FRPArt

But as Anderton continued to work, anticipating the arrival of rescue personnel, the seal scooted onto the artist's canvass.

"The baby seal gathered enough strength to get where she was, and I just created my design around her until animal rescue arrived and got her to the shelter, where I hear she's doing great now," Anderton said.

The rescuer is Doug Ross, who stated on the FRPArt Facebook page that Anderton helped hoist the seal up the cliff and load the pinniped into a truck.

"This pup was dehydrated from being separated from its mother," Ross explained. "She will be fed and hopefully released back into the wild in a few weeks."

It was a day to remember, for sure, for an artist whose career was born largely because of his debilitating injury, suffered during a long fall while he worked as an electrician in 2009.

His career as an electrician was over, due to chronic pain. As part of his rehabilitation, however, he began to visit Christine Hirabayashi, an art therapist at Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center.

They were reluctant visits, at first. "I never did anything artistic in any way, shape or form until sustaining my injury," Anderton recalled, via email.

But one day the former electrician discovered a drill among the art supplies. He fashioned the drill into an art tool and began to create what he described as spin art, a skill he started developing on the beach with hand tools.

The beach art typically washes away or gets blown smooth by wind after a few hours, but that only creates a new canvass on which to work.

Stated Anderton above one of his Facebook photos:

"If I had a wish, one great candidate would be that everyone find something as cathartic, stress relieving, or fulfilling as art has turned out to be for me… I would love to challenge people to find that thing... The world could be a fundamentally different place..."

Commented Kate Spencer, a naturalist who lives nearby: "Wonderful artwork, wonderful seal rescue, and Happy Earth Day to all!"

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