There is something rather amazing about animals that have evolved to survive some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. The Arctic and other similar environments have influenced the evolution of such creatures as polar bears, arctic wolves and snow leopards. Like many folk who are aware of the increasing issues associated with global warming, how these stunning creatures will continue to survive in altered climates is a something that is of concern to me. It is alarming that increasingly we see in the news and social media evidence that the climate is changing faster than we can act.
Sir David Attenborough is one of my biggest heroes and I have so loved watching the programme Frozen Planet that was screened in 2013. Like many of his documentaries, it has been the source of inspiration for one of my most favourite series; ‘Snow Beasts’.
This series was attempting to explore notions around how animals who are dependent on arctic conditions could potentially survived in an environment where the temperature has increased. Already places are having issues with wild animals hunting / foraging closer to suburban / urban areas, due to habitat loss. Animals who are domesticated face a greater chance of survival.
Peruvian llamas as pictured here are marked with coloured tassels on their ears to note their bloodlines and ownership. This inspired me to experiment with similar adornments on wild animals who live in cooler climes.
This was my initial idea, but while painting them, I started thinking that conceptually it was a great idea, actually having these amazing wild beasts with their ears pierced like cattle made me cringe. Also there was that 80’s association . . .
So in the end I edited out the ear tassels in Snow Leopard and I am very pleased with the results. I did however end up keeping the Arctic Wolf as I had initially visualized. It still alludes the ideas that I was exploring without being lost to 80’s pop music references.
The animals themselves were rendered using watercolour washes layered up very subtly in a manner akin to oil paint glazes. It is a time involved process and requires you to pretty decisive and quick so as to not shift and blend the previous layers of watercolour around. For the intensive pops of colour, I used gauache as it is near impossible to get that same sense of opaque saturation with watercolour paints.
The limited edition giclee prints of these, both in A3, A4 and A5 format are still available for purchase. Some formats in the editions are getting low in stocks. Polar Bear, Snow Leopard and Arctic Wolf can be found on my website ellaquaint or on my Etsy store ellacute.
Because this is a blog article I wrote a couple of years ago, I was slack when it came to documenting where I sourced the images from that weren’t my own. If you recognize any and can let me know, then I can give credit where credit is due. Thank you!