beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas - copyright Uko Gorter Uko Gorter, Natural History Illustration

Uko Gorter

Scientific and Natural History Illustrator

Born in Arnhem, Holland, Uko Gorter ended a seventeen-year career as a professional ballet dancer in 1997. Following in his father's footsteps, he then pursued his lifelong dream of becoming an illustrator. Uko enrolled in the School of Visual Concepts and the School of Realist Art, both in Seattle, WA.

His interest in nature led him to become a natural history illustrator. Specializing in marine mammal illustration, Uko Gorter has traveled extensively to observe whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals in their natural environment.

Uko’s illustrations have appeared in scientific journals, books, magazines, web sites, and on interpretive signs.

Some of his clients include: the Seattle Aquarium, Ranger Rick magazine, Journal Nature, and Rainforest Publications.

Uko joined the American Cetacean Society in 2001, and is currently president of the Puget Sound Chapter. He is also a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Uko lives with his wife in Kirkland, Washington.

Artist's Statement

Why I Illustrate Whales and Dolphins

Cetaceans, commonly known as whales, dolphins, and porpoises, indubitably speak to everyone's imagination. From the diminutive vaquita to the giant blue whale, these beautiful mammalian cousins are charismatic, intelligent, and often highly social. They are also tremendously important as indicators of the health of our oceans and rivers.

Whereas our usual views of whales are fleeting glimpses at the surface, and may only show part of the animal, illustrations can show the entire gestalt of a whale.This is in sharp contrast to most photos, which only capture our fleeting views of these magnificent creatures. Illustrations can also more easily depict the inner workings, or anatomy.

My fascination with whales and dolphins began as a young lad in the Netherlands. While a few species ply the waters of the over-fished and polluted North Sea, whale watch opportunities were, and still are, almost nonexistent. My first encounters were of bottlenose dolphins and a young Icelandic orca, named Gudrun, at the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, Holland. While these experiences were in a captive environment, they forever ignited a love and appreciation for marine mammals.

At the same time, the dramatic paintings by Dutch artist Rob van Assen, in particular a painting of killer whales attacking a right whale, made an indelible impression on me. From then on, I wanted to know everything about whales and dolphins.

My drawing skills may well have been inherited from my father, Hans Gorter, who is a first rate illustrator and artist. His love for the natural world was instilled in both my sister and me. To be fair, my love for ballet came from my mother's side.

It wasn't until I moved with my wife to the Seattle area in 1989 that I encountered my first wild whales. These were the A30 pod of Northern resident killer whales in Northern Vancouver Island with Stubbs Island Whale Watching (Telegraph Cove, BC, Canada). This experience and subsequent other encounters, had profound impacts on me.

~ Uko

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