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     GREAT AQUARIUMS are some of the most beautiful, educational, and valuable places anyone could possibly visit.  The architecture of many of them are works of art in themselves, bringing their visitors into an undersea world that I personally find hard to leave.  But not only are these massive facilities beautiful, they are also functional.  Many large aquariums rescue and rehabilitate endless numbers of injured or endangered sea creatures.  They are also the only place that many children ever see, hear, or learn about much of the ocean world.  

     Personally, several aquariums have been nothing short of instrumental in shaping my career as an artist and me as a person.  The first was an aquarium in the Columbus Zoo, in Ohio.  It has been greatly expanded since I was last there nearly 20 years ago, but while I was in college, the massive wall of glass that housed a several million gallon aquarium was like nothing I had ever seen before.  I would stay in there and draw for hours.  And some of those same drawings are what landed me a job at Walt Disney Studios in the first place.

     One of the most recent aquariums to play a role in my journey though, has been The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida.  It was there that I first met two creatures that I found so fascinating that they ended up in my Third Grade Mermaid chapter book series.  In fact, one of them, a sea cucumber, is one of the main characters.

      Another key benefit of large aquariums is being able to come face to face with the sea life.  Almost every large aquarium has some sort of "walk through tunnel" now too, which allows the fish and sharks and every other sea creature to literally swim right over you.  It's really pretty amazing.  And as an artist, all of this has been simply life-changing.  I definitely recommend anyone, especially if you have children, to visit a world class aquarium soon.  I've added a link from the Travel Channel that lists some of the best aquariums in the country to help you out.  Enjoy.