If you've noticed that our Clean the Bay Day art looks unique this year, it's because it was created in a very different way than in years past. Dwight Easter, a digital folk artist, produced the compelling image using only an iPhone app, drawing on his phone's screen with a stylus.
A longtime Hampton Roads resident, Dwight has created art since the 1990s, describing his work as "a commentary on popular culture, current events, hotdogs, cranes, and joy." He hopes this piece will inspire people to join a Clean the Bay Day litter cleanup on June 3 (use our map to find a location near you and register). Since it began in 1989, this Virginia tradition has engaged more than 165,500 volunteers who have removed approximately 7.18 million pounds of debris from more than 8,250 miles of shoreline.
Dwight spoke with us about litter, beachgoing, and creating art.
What is a digital folk artist?
A folk artist like me is anybody who is self-taught. For the longest time I was a paint-on-canvas artist. But about five years ago, after a break from painting, I wanted to get back to creating. That's where the digital element comes in.
I always have my phone on me, so I downloaded a simple sketch app. I work in marker style, with a stylus that gives me the benefit of a finer point. I do it all on an iPhone.
When you're working in paint, it's really easy to talk yourself out of getting started on a new painting. It's a messy process. You've got to have all the paints and a lot of accoutrements. Being able to take out my phone and just do it whenever makes creating art instant and accessible.
Why is Clean the Bay Day important to you?
Litter is a hot button issue for me. I noticed that it got exponentially worse with the pandemic. I did a 12-week cleanup where I'd go to a park in the City of Chesapeake every Saturday and pick up litter. I'd get grossed out by seeing masks on the ground and realize there was this whole other virus of litter emerging. It really hurts me to be out in the beauty of nature and see the negative impact of careless litter.
I love being in nature. When on the Bay, I am influenced by everything around me, from the wildlife, sunsets, and fellow beachgoers.
My favorite spot on the Bay is Chic's Beach in Virginia Beach, located right around the corner from CBF's Brock Environmental Center. It's where I met my wife Shannon of 26 years. We swam together that first night in the warm waters of the Bay.
What inspired your artwork for Clean the Bay Day?
With the map, I wanted to convey the scale of just how large the Bay watershed is and how far it reaches into Virginia and Maryland. Then I included people who are out enjoying this national treasure and involved in cleaning the Bay, whether walking the dog, picking up trash on the beach, or paddling a kayak. I also wanted to include a nod to people who make their living on the Bay, which you see in the workboat.
Alternate images submitted to the Clean the Bay Day panel for consideration:
How can art help people protect and restore the environment?
Art forces you to pay attention to the environment around you. An artist allows people to see the appreciation of nature through the eyes of the artist, and in turn grows the appreciation of others. It asks you to look at it and appreciate it in a different way.
For me, the best gift and payment is for somebody to be inspired to go out there and make a difference. That's why I'm donating my artist's fee for the Clean the Bay Day artwork back to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Follow Dwight Easter on Instagram at @deaster17 or visit him at the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival in Norfolk the weekend of May 20.