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Deep in Creativity

Painter and diver Jade Hoksbergen explores inner spaces within and without.

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by Jade Hoksbergen

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©Jade Hoksbergen

I paint, and really got into it during my teens—around the age of 13—it was the same time that I fell in love with scuba diving and the world it would open up for me. I called the Philippines home for many years growing up. My father was dive-obsessed, and we spent most of our weekends exploring our coastlines and the many islands the Philippines had to offer—often equipped with masks, fins, and scuba tanks.

Painting and scuba diving are two very different pastimes, but I’m glad that I was able to devote time to both during my formative years. Painting and diving not only allowed me to explore very different parts of myself, but they allowed me to fully appreciate “the human experience”. Diving reminded me of how, as a human being, I was just like every other animal—breathing, living, and relying on nature; whereas painting reminded me of how complex it is to be human. As human beings, we harbor a rich inner world, and whilst it is our biggest strength as a species, it is also our biggest downfall. 

©Jade Hoksbergen
©Jade Hoksbergen

Whilst diving offered serenity and encouraged me to be in the present moment – opening my eyes, taking in the external world, and appreciating its beauty; painting allowed reflection and encouraged paying attention to the chaotic nature of our emotional world. 

Indeed, both painting and diving can be seen as “outlets,” but their effect is quite different. I find that painting allows me to “shut the door to the world” as I attempt to hear only what is happening within myself. It allows me to get lost in my thoughts, and it welcomes unprocessed feelings to resurface. Diving, on the other hand, involves acute responsiveness to the present moment. For me, the appeal of diving has always been appreciation of the physical world; whereas the appeal of painting has always been appreciation of what’s within: our emotional world in all its messy glory. 

©Jade Hoksbergen

I find both worlds to be incredibly colorful, and I believe it would be a shame to ignore either one of them. Both of these worlds necessitate exploration in my opinion, and around 2013 my passion for diving and painting found their way to each other. They collided, if you will. The subjects in my paintings took the form of oceanic lifeforms—undoubtedly influenced by the richness of life I witnessed when I opened my eyes underwater.

Diving. Together with the clothes I leave behind when I don a wetsuit, I also leave behind “me”—my ego, and all the anxieties that come with being a sentient human being. In the ocean, my own existence feels minute in comparison to the vastness of our blue world. And there I am breathing, I am alive, I am an animal in nature appreciating other lifeforms I live alongside. I inspect them, they inspect me. We co-exist, and life as a human being in that state of mind is pretty nice. It’s an escape, but it is also where I feel most alive and most optimistic. 

©Jade Hoksbergen

Painting allows a different kind of escape, a different kind of liberation. When painting, the physical world is forgotten, and my emotional world (and ego) takes centerstage. Painting provides a license for expression, and I feel tremendous liberation when I’m expressing my individuality. With paintbrush in hand, I feel like I—and the thoughts and feelings I harbor—matter. 

I don’t try to paint things as they are in reality. Mother nature is so skilled, and the natural world so beautiful, that I find very little sense in imitating her. Instead I paint in a way that is original to me—I paint my own voice.

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Art can be many things, and it fulfills a different purpose for different people. Some may see art as a technical challenge, but to me it is about expressing my individuality and allowing vulnerability to exist. That’s why I think creativity requires courage, because it is not only the artist’s vision that is put out there for the world to see, but it is also the end-product of a very personal process.

An artist can’t control how people will react to their art, but of course they can’t help but hope that the artworks they create will speak to those who see them and make them feel something powerful, too. 

©Jade Hoksbergen
©Jade Hoksbergen

Anglerfishes are special to me. They live in a realm that is mysterious and dark, and they carry their own light. I find the metaphor of their existence to really resonate with me, which is why they’ve become a motif in my artworks. I use them as a reminder that we all have darkness, and the world we live in can sometimes be dark and abyss-like, but we too can carry within us our own light.

I mentioned previously that painting encourages introspection and the appreciation of our internal world—one where feelings, emotions, doubts, and vulnerabilities reside. Certainly when I was younger, I had the habit of harboring my feelings and not making them known, for fear of being a burden on others. We all need an outlet though, and it would seem that art, and the ocean, is that outlet for me. 

So, find something that allows you to just BE, and … breathe.


Jade Hoksbergen is a French-Taiwanese painter, underwater photographer, and writer. At just 26 years old, her images have been awarded honors in several high profile competitions and published in numerous international journals and magazines. In 2019, she co-authored Black is the New Blue Vol. II, showcasing her blackwater imagery. She is currently based in the UK, where she shares a love for the sea with her husband, Henley Spiers, and their two young daughters.


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Art

Coral Fibergrammetry

Dive instructor cum fashion designer Erik Speer weaves macramé fiber into phantasmagorical coral-like formations.

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Text, photography and art courtesy of Erik Speer.

“I started off making basic macrame pieces about 5 years ago. I never started off with the intention of making pieces that resemble the underwater world. It just came about naturally. My first couple pieces were conglomerations of different materials and textures that I found interesting and people’s responses were always that it reminded them of coral reefs. I took that feedback and figured that I had found a way to really transfer my love of the underwater world to a medium that allowed me to share my scuba diving experiences with other people.”

“When I was in college I decided to drop out and move to Honduras to become a scuba instructor. For the next 2 years I traveled the globe teaching diving and seeing coral reefs that were both thriving and dying. I had to stop diving so much because I burst both my eardrums and risked losing my hearing for good if I kept diving daily. Those days of scuba diving are some of my most cherished memories and I love to think back on them and try to recreate the reefs and feelings I got from diving. My work is less about recreating the corals exactly as they are, but more about recreating the intrigue and wonder that diving on the reefs brought me. I want to make people curious about the underwater world and actively want to learn more and explore it on their own.”

“Yarns and fabrics were literally given to me when I was working in the fashion industry in NYC. There is such an excess of material in that industry that they are often thrown out or just left on shelves to collect dust. It was the material that I had access to so I decided to see what I could possibly do with it. It’s a great material that allows me to create unlimited amounts of textures and shapes.” 

“One square foot of a piece might contain 100 little knit “corals” where each piece took me 30 minutes to make. I usually give myself about 2 months to work on a piece. I really pride myself on making every little thing on a piece. I have been told I should outsource making sections of a piece that way I can produce more work within a year. However I don’t think the work would be the same. Anytime I feel rushed or questioned why I don’t take shortcuts to finish a piece quicker I just think about how long and coral reef takes to grow and thrive.”

“I definitely do not get to dive as much I would like. Usually just when I am on holiday. It is always a joy to get back underwater but it never lives up to when I was diving the same reef sometimes twice a day for months on end. Diving once at a site is amazing, but seeing a site day after day opens your eyes to the underwater world and how a reef is really a community that exists together.” 

“I am really inspired by the feeling and experience that SCUBA gave me and I hope my work brings a little bit of that to the viewer.”

Dive Deeper:


Born and raised in New Mexico, Erik Speer, moved to South Carolina at 15 and graduated from College of Charleston with a degree in marine biology. Went on a two year world tour teaching scuba diving. Suffered a diving accident and returned to the States and enrolled at Parsons. Graduated in December 2015 with an associate science degree in fashion design and began working in the industry. Was unfulfilled by the hands off design aspect of most fashion design so started experimenting with macrame and fiber arts. Currently focusing more on the fiber arts and experimenting with what is possible with it. Currently living in Georgia working as a full time artist.

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