Coral reef art | paintings by Gunnar Baldwin, Jr.

(Not yet titled) (oil on canvas, 40" x 30")  Click for larger image

This painting features a stoplight parrotfish and yellowtail snappers. This paintoing aims to focus on lighting, pattern, and other abstract elements of the composition that transcend the subject matter.

Spot On

Spot On (30" x 40") ©2023  Click for larger image

This painting emphasizes geometry, rhythm, and composition over realism. A step towards greater abstraction in paintings to follow.

Grunts and Snappers - Oil painting with octopus

Grunts and Snappers ©2023 (Oil on canvas, 30" x 30")  Click for larger image

This painting focuses on the broken, dappled light that is ubiquitous on shallow coral reefs on sunny days, as well as the geometric forms of staghorn and elkhorn coral (important reef-building corals) that are instantly recognizable by divers and snorkelers. Detail of the color patterns on the fish was not rendered in order to focus on the general feel of the scene.

Sneaky - Oil painting with octopus

Sneaky (Oil on canvas, 48" x 36") ©2023  Click for larger image

This painting was begun before "High Five" (below) that was also recently completed. It does not reflect the more stylized geometric focus of High Five, which will be my intended approach for future compositions.

New vertical painting

High Five (24" x 36") ©2023  Click for larger image

This recent painting focuses on natural geometry and pattern, while trying to preserve the feeling of a shallow, sunlit Caribbean coral reef.

School Colors

School Colors (40" x 32")  Click for larger image

This painting aims to capture the flickering light, three-dimensional space, and the overwhelming of one's visual experience that is characteristic of snorkeling or diving on a healthy coral reef. Unlike many well-composed pieces of art, there is no "resting place" for the eye. This is intended. When swimming in a coral reef, there are an infinite number of moving objects and points of light competing for one's attention. In the kaleidoscope of a reef, our eyes simply cannot follow them all.

Les Demoiselles de Bonaire (oil on canvas, 40" x 30")  Click for larger image

This painting features several species of damselfish and their appearance at different stages in their life cycle. Inspired by observations and photos taken while snorkeling in Bonaire.

Schoolmasters and Damselfish (oil on canvas, 30" x 24")  Click for larger image

This painting features schoolmaster snappers and longfin damselfish.

Elkorn Coral Shallows

Elkhorn Coral Shallows (40" x 28")   Click for larger image

Elkhorn coral has been a prominent and iconic feature of underwater landscapes in the Florida Keys, Caribbean, and Bahamas and has experienced a high mortality rate within its range. While efforts to propagate and restore elkhorn coral by coral farming and research organizations have been quite promising to date, vast areas of degraded reef will require an enormous commitment of time and resources to achieve significant restoration at scale.

Stripes on Yellow Hut Reef (oil on canvas, 36" x 36")  Click for larger image

This canvas was also completed in late 2022, featuring two species of Caribbean butterfly fish and fire coral on a shallow reef just offshore from a cluster of small yellow huts formerly used to house slaves on Bonaire.

The Blue Screen

The Blue Screen (oil on canvas, 48" x 36")  Click for larger image

Large schools of blue tangs are a common, but dramatic, sight on Caribbean reefs, forming a dense blue "screen" that obscures the underwater scenery behind them. This painting was completed in 2022.


Chelonia (30" x 30")  Click for larger image

This is the fifth painting in the coral reef series. Since sea turtles are both iconic symbols of healthy marine ecosystems and dependent on them, I felt it was important to include them. This painting depicts a Green Sea Turtle and derives its title from the turtle's Latin name, Chelonia Mydas. Green Sea Turtles are threatened in most parts of their range.

Trunkfish and Fileish

Trunkfish and Filefish (30" x 30")

This painting (sixth in the series) offers a close-up view of two intriguing species of fish found on Caribbean reefs: a scrawled filefish (Aluterus scriptus) and a smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter).

The Yellow Dome

The Yellow Dome (40" x 30")  Click for larger image

This painting features brain coral—one of the most iconic corals in Caribbean Reefs—as well as a French Angelfish, whose striking yellow marks on its scales are arranged in a geometric pattern. This painting depicts the appearance of sunlight as it filters through the water and dances over the features of a reef, the way it is actually experienced when snorkeling or diving on a reef.

Queen Triggerfish with Sea Fans

Queen Triggerfish with Sea Fans (24" x 24")

This painting aims to depart from conventional depictions of coral environments, emphasizing light, color, and form, accentuating broken light—the way that environments and their components are often revealed in nature. This series draws on the artist's own observations.