Painting From The Heart

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Sierra Payne became a published author and graduated high school all in the same year. For her senior project, the Corvallis High School alumnus wanted to combine her passion for protecting the oceans with her writing and illustration skills. The result was a children’s book entitled Tina the Sea Turtle and the Mysterious “Not-a-Jellyfish.”

The story revolves around a central mystery – that “not-a-jellyfish” mentioned in the title – and is based on the very real problem of marine debris and how it affects marine animals.

Sierra got the idea during a training with the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s youth volunteer program, where she learned that marine animals like sea turtles easily mistake floating debris for natural foods.

“Plastic bags looks very similar to jellies when they’re floating in the ocean,” Sierra told the Oceanscape Network. “Sea turtles may actually eat them thinking they’re food, and that can either cause internal blockages or starvation which kills the animal.”

Fortunately, Tina’s spared a painful death when her friend Rory the Rockfish intercedes and keeps her from gobbling up a plastic bag. Together, the friends set off to discover the source of the mysterious “not-a-jellyfish” – a path which leads them right to human beings.

Although she admits that the topics in the book are somewhat heavy, Sierra was careful to keep the ending upbeat. “If you just make people depressed by these situations, they won’t take any action,” she said. “You have to give them ways they can help solve the problem.”

The book’s positive message is further enhanced by its vibrant artistic style. Sierra illustrated the characters using watercolors and pen-and-ink, then photographed them against backgrounds she created using colorful fabrics and found objects. For example, the plastic bag Tina almost eats was actually a piece of real plastic bag.

“It gives the book a unique look which is beautiful, in my opinion,” she smiles.

So now that she has one book to her credit, will Sierra write and illustrate another? She pauses, thinks, then replies: “Actually, I’d really like to bring Tina and her friends into a weekly cartoon format with more of a political message behind it. I’d like to help people become more environmentally aware. I may have to talk to my university about that and see if they’ll let me do that.”

Whatever’s in store for Sierra, we’re sure we’ll hear more from her. And maybe Tina, too.

Related Information: Youth Activities: Marine Debris Hunters | Youth Activities: Photography and Videography

Artwork courtesy of Sierra Payne.



Sierra Payne and Tina the Turtle

Teen author and artist Sierra Payne discusses how her passion for protecting the world ocean found its form and voice through a little green sea turtle.