Planet Earth truly is a wonderful and awe-inspiring place. Almost all of my watercolour illustrations are inspired by my love of the natural world. I’m constantly amazed and inspired by the wildlife and places on this planet. Channelling this into my paintings is my way of paying tribute to nature, as well as inspiring people to protect it.
Jem Loves to Draw products are created to bring a sense of the big wide world into your home. Whether that’s an ocean-themed art print on your living room wall, an awesome animal mug for your morning cuppa, a bee-themed birthday card for your bestie or a cute animal print in a kid’s bedroom.
At the start of this year I set myself the challenge of creating collections of prints. Prints with a shared theme and colour palette that would hold their own individually, but work well together as a set. And because I’m a nature nerd, I decided to create collections based around the four elements – earth, water, fire and air.
Here’s a peek behind the scenes at my first print collection of 2021 – the Earth collection. From inspiration right through to the finished products.
Inspired by nature
One of the most enjoyable things about creating paintings inspired by nature is the research. Whether that’s climbing over weird rock formations on Welsh mountains, spotting mushrooms on forest walks or watching jaw-dropping footage of wild animals on nature documentaries.
In fact, I’m watching Blue Planet II while writing this blog.
Finding ideas while out on adventures
I love spending time out in nature, whether that’s walking, climbing or swimming. I’m always on the look for inspiration and take loads of photos of interesting textures and shapes while we’re out and about. That sense of collecting souvenirs from nature – memories, photos and objects – is something I wanted to include in this collection.
I started this collection during lockdown 3.0, but luckily I had plenty of photos and memories from previous adventures to draw on. The entire album of mushroom photos on my phone came in handy when I decided to add a toadstool to one of the print designs.
Vibrant colours and earthy tones
One of the first things I decided on for this collection before I even thought about what to paint was the shared colour palette. I wanted to use colours that you would associate with lush forests and dense jungles. Think vibrant greens, earthy browns and flashes of yellow and orange.
Having a shared colour palette helped me to tie the pieces together. It also helped me to narrow down my choices for which animals to paint.
Awesome animals from forests and jungles
When deciding which animals to paint for this collection I was spoiled for choice. Forests and jungles are incredible centres of biodiversity, with tropical rainforests containing an estimated half of the world’s plants and animals. But as I’ll explain later, three is the magic number – so I narrowed it down to one mammal, one amphibian and a bird.
1. Andean spectacled bear
Bears are some of my favourite animals to draw. I love their shape, their ears and their expressions. There was always going to be a bear of some kind in this collection. I decided on an Andean spectacled bear, the only surviving species of bear native to South America. They get their name from the markings around their eyes and were the inspiration for Paddington Bear.
2. Glass frog
Every now and again I learn about a new species of animal and get a feeling of wide-eyed wonder that something so unbelievable is a real, living creature. That’s the feeling I got when I saw a glass frog on a nature documentary for the first time. These small frogs are native to South America and get their name from the translucent skin on their bellies. These frogs are arboreal, meaning they live almost exclusively in trees.
3. Javan green magpie
One of the things I try to highlight in my artwork is the importance of conservation, particularly in relation to protecting endangered species. That’s why I decided to include a Javan green magpie in the collection. This critically endangered species is endemic to the Indonesian island of Java. There are thought to be only around 50 of these birds in the wild, with another 50 in zoos as part of a captive breeding programme.
Hand-painted watercolour illustrations
All of the pieces in my Earth collection were painted at the same time. This is a really satisfying way to paint with watercolours, as you can move between pieces while layers dry and stay in the painting zone.
Painting this collection pushed my multi-tasking skills. It also pushed the limits of my desk space!
Little details like snowflakes, stars, bubbles and leaves are common features across all of my artwork. Adding in these small details is probably my favourite part of the painting process, so for this collection I decided to make the most of it and add lots of little details.
That included painting tiny leaves with a super fine paintbrush and adding in circles using freshly sharpened colour pencils. These little details help the pieces to feel like parts of a whole and getting lost in these little worlds was so much fun.
Four new art prints to bring the big wide world into your home
Prints of the pieces from my Earth collection are now available to buy from my Etsy shop. I’m super excited to be able to release these designs into the wild as a series of high quality and affordable limited edition art prints.
Three new awesome animal art prints
At 8 inches square, these awesome animal art prints are easy to frame and display in your home. They would look great perched on a shelf next to a houseplant for full rainforest vibes, or hung on the wall in a jungle-themed kid’s room.
With three different animals to choose from, you can pick your favourite or collect the whole set.
My Forest Souvenirs print is inspired by the things you might pick up or spot on forest walks. Like a memory box a jungle explorer might create with souvenirs from their adventures. It features branches, rocks, leaves, a seed pod, a toadstool and other snippets from nature.
This print measures 8 x 10 inches and has a definite botanical vibe to it. It would look gorgeous in a nature wood frame, displayed in amongst a houseplant collection.
Eco-conscious products and processes
Because my work is so inspired by nature, it’s important to me that the prints are produced in a way that is as sustainable as possible. This includes using recyclable and compostable packaging materials, but also extends to the print process used to produce them.
All of my art prints are produced in my home studio using digital giclée printing techniques. Printing like this means I can reduce waste by only printing what I need, when I need it.
For this collection I have made the switch from A-sized prints to sizes measured in inches. This is because they are printed on a 24-inch roll printer. Printing at 8 inches square or 8 x 10 inches means that I don’t waste any paper trimming them down to size.
The prints in this collection are printed onto 310gsm heavyweight cotton rag fine art paper for a high quality finish. Printed using genuine Canon pigment inks for vibrant and fade-proof colours, they really will last a lifetime. Each print is hand signed and numbered in pencil.
Prints to bring the jungle into your home
The prints from my Earth collection will bring a little snippet of the lush green forest into your home. Whether that’s a triptych of animals on your living room wall, a framed print to keep your houseplants company, a new addition to a nature-themed gallery wall or a cute animal print in a jungle-themed kid’s room.
Painting these pieces was a lovely kind of escapism while spending time at home during lockdown 3.0. I’m looking forward to being able to get back out into nature a bit more and painting collections inspired by the other three elements, starting with water.
Raising funds for charity
While working on this collection I was reminded of the fragility of nature and the need to protect our planet. There are only around 100 Javan green magpies left on this planet, with half of those living in captivity. Many endangered species are under threat due to climate change and habitat loss caused by human activity.
5% of sales from my Earth collection of prints will be donated to Rainforest Trust UK via Work for Good. Their mission is to protect threatened tropical forests and endangered wildlife worldwide through partnerships in vulnerable areas, ensuring the long term protection of tropical ecosystems and the wildlife they hold.