"Being an artist isn’t just a “right brain” activity---you must use ALL of your brain, body and spirit to create. When the creation is done, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts… and so is the creator." - Lyrae Perry

The Colonies

The brilliant red glow of the sunrises and sunsets weren’t appreciated by the colonists.  Even if they had taken notice, there wasn’t much difference in the color from day to day, because even at high noon, the sky was still orange from the methane in the atmosphere and the ocean was green.


No one was paying much attention at all, but quietly and at an imperceptibly slow pace, the water and the atmosphere were changing as the early colonies thrived and grew.  The colonists were completely unaware of the damage they were inflicting on the environment with their waste products.    They were just busy living their lives day in and day out.

Scientists would later identify the waste gas the colonies had been discharging into the water and air : oxygen.   Oxygen was a major factor driving the huge changes in the planet and setting the stage for a highly diverse and dynamic biosphere.

Looking around, it may have seemed that the orange sky had simply fallen when the tipping point was reached in the atmosphere, and it was more oxygen than methane.  The dissolved iron in the green ocean water mixed with the oxygen waste from the stromatolites and turned into iron oxide – rust, and it fell to the bottom of the sea.  The land also rusted and turned red wherever there was iron in the soil because of the high oxygen content in the air.  The deep pinks and reds in the sky were still visible at sunrise and sunset, but during the day, the sun now traveled across a light blue sky and the water looked blue too.

james-price-point-land rusted

The early colonists of planet Earth inhabiting the salty shallow places in the oceans and lakes are called “stromatolites”.  They are one-celled bacterial creatures – cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, which have the ability to gather sediment particles and “glue” them together to form reefs similar to corals.

Stromatolite Colonies

Like it or not, we owe our very existence to the “excrement” of these first colonists!

Scientists have found fossil evidence of stromatolite colonies all over the world, but only recently understood the major role they played in changing the earth’s atmosphere into the oxygenated one we know today.   The oldest stromatolite colonies were busy pooping out oxygen over 3.5 billion years ago.  We would not be here today without their very important contributions.

Most colonies are gone now due to natural disasters and other changes in the environment.  But there are a few places where you can still witness living stromatolite colonies doing their magic trick.  Tiny bubbles of oxygen form on the surface of the colony mound, and rise to the surface of the water continuously.

The story of the stromatolites is inspiring to me.  No, I haven’t gone around the twist!  As funny as it may seem, I really am inspired by them.  Think about it…bacteria are so small that you can only see them with a microscope, but those tiny bacterial colonies were undeniably powerful because they changed the entire atmosphere and land of the planet.  They didn’t do it in one big swoop or using special tools. They did what came naturally for them in very, very small increments on a continual basis.

Stromatolites are the perfect example of how really powerful changes can be made just by doing a tiny little bit every day.  You can harness that same power to drive your art to new levels.

Here’s how:

Spend just 15 minutes a day drawing with a pencil and eraser.   You can do this simple art exercise just about anywhere, and I can promise that your powers of observation and draftsmanship will improve exponentially!

Seriously…every day, I get out a piece of paper or open my sketchbook, set a timer and just draw anything for 15 minutes.  I don’t obsess on the subject matter, I just pick something—the more complicated the object the better, because it gets me into the “art zone” faster and it’s more interesting.

Give it a try. You can complete the drawing if you wish, but don’t worry about finishing at the 15-minute mark.  In the beginning, you’re probably not going to be able to complete the drawing in that short time period…but that’s not the point of this exercise anyway.

The most important thing is to make sure your 15 minutes of drawing happens every day. You’ll be amazed at the growth in your artistic skills and your speed will improve too!  I hope you’ll all give this a try for at least one month and let me know how you do.

Would you like to see living stromatolites?

Stromatolite Colonies in Shark Bay Australia

Stromatolite Colonies in Shark Bay Australia

There are still a few protected colonies that are actively pumping out oxygen every day for us.  One of the most famous locations is Shark Bay, Australia.  A big thank you hug for the stromatolites is on my bucket list!   (No…I don’t expect them to be particularly excited about the encounter.)   There are many other things to do and see in that area of the world…and it’s going to be a cool destination for art adventures, photography and painting!


  1. Cristina Posner says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this amassing story and pictures. They are really inspiring.
    I am working with children in a museum in Bucharest, Romania and I would like to translate and use some of this information about the stromatolites.
    I would like to show them one of your pictures, we will cite your name accordingly as the sourse.
    Will that be possible?
    Kind Regards,
    Cristina Posner

    • Lyrae Perry says:

      Dear Cristina;
      Thank you for asking and yes, please feel free to translate and share the information with the children.
      Best regards,
      Lyrae Perry

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