Jessica Elliott is interested in many things — horses, swimming, volleyball, robotics, Girl Scouts, and track and field — but right at the top is a fascination with marine biology, the ocean and sea creatures, particularly dolphins.
Living in rural Blue Grass, the 12-year-old doesn't see the ocean much, though, so this past summer she asked her parents if she could paint her bedroom in an ocean motif.
The result is a floor-to-vaulted-ceiling sea-blue creation with sea creatures and plants along the bottom. The "sky" is dotted with puffy white clouds and — just finished over her winter school break — is a pod of dolphins that, as Jessica explains, "is small and in the distance."
The room transformation was an ambitious project she tackled along with her mom, Laurie.
How she did it
Their first jobs were to remove an existing wallpaper border and then paint over the original colors with white for a clean slate.
Next came a total coat of light blue and then, to achieve the sea feel, they rag-rolled the bottom half of the wallsthree times, using teal and two darker shades of blue.
Imagine: First you take a rag (a real cloth rag), dip it in paint and then turn it end over end up the wall. And you do that time and time again until all four walls are completed.
Their goal was to create a dark-to-light effect simulating the appearance of sunlight penetrating the water. But at one point Jessica wondered aloud why she ever began the project, which she called "excruciatingly slow."
To make the white clouds more realistic, Jessica shaded them with patches of gray. But she also had fun, making one look vaguely like a rabbit and another like a crocodile.
For realism with the sea creatures, Jessica checked out books at the library and then got creative with several of her tools. Some of the sea life, for example, required very fine lines that are difficult to achieve with a brush, so she took a cluster of pine needles, dipped it in paint and laid it against the wall.
To get all the colors they needed, they visited The Home Depot, books in hand, to pick out sample-size containers of paint, 15 in all.
Why she's so interested
Jessica's interest in dolphins began in third grade — and she can't really remember why. She's seen dolphins in trips to the Oceanarium at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.
She wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up and has talked via Skype with a marine biologist in the Florida Keys about how she got her job and how she prepared for it.
Right now she is working on a school project called a living biography in which students pick a person who has impacted their lives and the world.
Jessica picked Rachel Carson, the author of the 1962 book "Silent Spring" that explored the problems caused by synthetic pesticides. That spurred grassroots environmentalism and led to the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Carson was also one of the country's first female marine biologists.
Among the fascinating facts Jessica learned in her research is that when Carson was growing up in land-locked Pennsylvania, she would hold a conch shell to her ear "and promised herself she would see the ocean."
Jessica's sea-splashed walls are sort of like that conch shell.
(See original story on the QC Times website).