Almost all of my watercolour illustrations are inspired by my love of the natural world. I’ve always been fascinated with the sea and the sheer diversity of ocean wildlife – from whales and sharks, to jellyfish and octopuses. Channelling my love of nature into my paintings is my way of paying tribute to Planet Earth, 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 a forest-inspired art print on your living room wall, an awesome animal mug for your evening cocoa, a bear-themed card for your papa bear or a jungle animal print in a kid’s bedroom.
At the start of this year I decided to paint four collections of prints based around the four elements – earth, water, fire and air. These collections contain prints with a shared theme and colour palette, which work well as a set and hold their own individually.
Here’s a peek behind the scenes at my second print collection of 2021 – the Water collection. From inspiration right through to the finished products.
Inspired by the oceans
It’s no secret that I love nature documentaries – especially ones about the sea. Blue Planet was one of the first Attenborough documentaries I watched and I often have it on in the background while I paint. There’s something so atmospheric about the way that light moves through water and underwater wildlife photography holds a special kind of magic for me.
Finding inspiration along the UK coastline
Growing up in Bristol, we spent a lot of our childhood holidays in Cornwall and by the sea. I have so many great memories of swimming in the sea, exploring rockpools, fishing for mackerel and beachcombing for treasures.
This childhood love of the sea has stayed with me throughout my entire life. Even now I get an excited feeling in my stomach when I see the sea and I always want to get in for a swim. Even in the cold and wet.
Whenever we get back from a trip to the coast my phone is full of photos of the water over rocks, the textures of the coastline and interesting shaped pebbles.
More than fifty shades of blue
Any colour palette inspired by the water needs to be blue. Luckily my watercolour set has plenty to choose from.
The colour palette for this collection ticks off all of my favourite colours. Cool greys, bright turquoises and the whole range of blues – from inky indigo to pale baby blue.
But it’s not all blue. There are flashes of pale driftwood browns, seashell peachy pinks and bright seaweed greens.
Awesome ocean animals
Water is the reason for life on Planet Earth, so it makes sense that our oceans are home to a huge range of animal life forms. From tiny plankton to giant whale sharks, from deep sea angler fish to dolphins. When choosing animals to paint for this collection I definitely had plenty to choose from.
My Water collection includes three different awesome ocean animals – one fish, one mammal and one gelatinous aquatic animal form.
1. Tiger shark
I’ve got a real fascination with sharks. They get a lot of bad press but they are such incredible animals and a crucial part of the ocean ecosystem. They’re so much fun to draw and there are so many different species, each with their own unique character. I decided on a tiger shark, a mostly nocturnal hunter with the most varied diet of all sharks. They get their name from the dark stripe markings on their body.
3. Blue jellyfish
One of the things I love most about the ocean is the sheer diversity of animals and some of them are jaw-droppingly bonkers. Jellyfish are definitely high scorers on the weirdness scale. Blue jellyfish are a common sight along UK coastlines in the summer and I should know, I’ve been stung by one. They also have excellent collective nouns – a group of jellyfish is called a smack or bloom.
2. Humpback whale
After bears, my favourite animals to draw are whales. I love how they’re big and bulky, but still so serene and graceful. The humpback whale is my favourite species of whale to draw because of their distinctive shape. These whales are huge, with adults measuring 12-16m long. They inhabit all of the world’s major oceans and migrate up to 25,000km per year.
Hand-painted using modern watercolour techniques
There’s something super satisfying about painting water-inspired pieces in watercolour. The way the colours move around on the paper really suits the subject – it just flows. All of the pieces for my water collection were painted within a week of each other in my home studio on the outskirts of East Bristol.
Here’s a timelapse video showing my painting process:
To bring a sense of the water to these paintings, I added in little droplet details and tiny bubbles. These were all added one-by-one using a very fine paintbrush, my trusty white gel pen and super-sharp coloured pencils.
These delicate details are common features across all of my artwork – my paintings never look finished until these little touches have been added. It’s also my favourite part of the painting process and I find it almost meditative.
Bring the oceans into your home with these four new art prints
The pieces from my Water collection are now available as limited edition art prints. These high quality affordable art prints are now available from my Etsy shop.
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 seaside souvenirs, or hung on the wall in a kid’s bedroom.
With three different animals to choose from, you can pick your favourite or collect the whole set.
My Coastline souvenirs print is inspired by the things you might pick up while beachcombing along the coast. It features seashells, driftwood, seaweed, pebbles, sea glass and other snippets from nature. Like the kinds of treasure you might collect on the beach.
This print measures 8 x 10 inches and has a definite beachcombing vibe to it. It would look gorgeous in a natural wood frame, displayed in amongst nautical knick-knacks.
Eco-conscious prints and packaging
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 digital printing techniques to reduce waste, but also extends to the materials used to package them.
Each print is packaged with a recycled cardboard backing, which stops the print getting creased or damaged in the post. You will also find a printed paper with information about the print, stuck on with paper tape. All of my prints are packaged in biodegradable eco-cello sleeves made from corn and potato starch, which keeps the print looking fresh until it’s framed.
These packaging materials are easily recyclable or compostable:
- Recycle the board backing with cardboard – or reuse it in a craft project
- Recycle the paper label and tape with paper
- Compost the clear wrapping sleeve and sticker in your food waste collection – or shred it and add it to your compost heap
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 ocean into your home
The prints from my Water collection will bring a little splash of the ocean into your home. Whether that’s a triptych of animals on your living room wall, a framed print to keep your nautical knick-knacks company, a new addition to an ocean-themed gallery wall or a shark print in a kid’s room.
Painting these pieces was a lovely way to feel connected with the sea while staying at home in grey Bristol. I’m looking forward to some more summery weather and getting back out into nature a bit more to find inspiration for collections inspired by the other elements, with fire next on the list.
Raising funds for charity
While working on this collection I was reminded of the importance of our seas. We depend on our ocean waters for so much – food, energy, transport. I also really value my time by the ocean. Whether that’s climbing sea cliffs, spotting seals from the coast path or swimming in the sea – always return from the coast feeling refreshed and full of creative inspiration. It’s important to me that I find a way to protect our oceans.
5% of sales from my Water collection of prints will be donated to Surfers Against Sewage via Work for Good. Surfers Against Sewage are a community dedicated to the protection of oceans, waves, beaches and wildlife. They’re focused on fighting plastic pollution and water quality issues.