Almost all of my watercolour illustrations are inspired by my love of the natural world – whether that’s animals I’ve seen on wildlife documentaries or landscapes I’ve seen on our campervan adventures around the UK. Channelling my love of wildlife and wild places into my paintings is my way of paying tribute to our amazing planet, as well as inspiring people to protect the environment.
Jem Loves to Draw products are created to bring a sense of the big wide world into your home. Whether that’s an awesome animal mug for your herbal tea, a cute animal print in a kid’s room, a galaxy thank you card or a mountain-inspired print in your living room.
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 final print collection of 2021 – the Air collection. From inspiration right through to the finished products.
Inspired by wild places
When thinking of airy environments, I immediately thought of alpine and Palearctic environments. Places where the mountains rise out of the earth to meet the air, and where the air falls to the earth in flurries of snow. Being as I painted this collection in Bristol in early October, I had to use my imagination a bit and think back to some of my winter adventures in the mountains of Snowdonia for inspiration.
Finding ideas on mountain adventures
Nothing beats a bright, cold, crisp winter’s day in the mountains. The air feels, tastes and smells fresher than any other air and the quality of the light is just stunning.
Some of my best quality mountain days have been in the Glyderau range of Snowdonia, North Wales. While painting this collection, I definitely had those experiences, feelings and sensations in my mind.
Cool greys and pale blues
The palette for this collection includes some of my favourite colours and tones. Cool greys and icy blues, with snow details and earthy tones. I definitely felt like I was back in my comfort zone with this colour palette.
The biggest challenge was keeping the tones light and cool, but still adding enough colour to contrast with the white background of my watercolour paper. It was a delicate balance to get the animals and objects in the paintings to stand out enough, but also keep that snowy camouflaged feel.
Awesome alpine animals
Alpine and Palearctic environments are home to harsh conditions and rugged landscapes. For plants and animals to survive, they need to be tough. But there is also a softness in the muted colours of cooler climes and this contrast was something I wanted to explore in this collection.
My Air collection includes three different awesome animals from alpine environments – one bird and two mammals.
1. Mountain hare
For this collection, I knew I wanted to paint an animal with a pale winter coat on a background of white space and snow flurries. I chose the calm and serene mountain hare, which is a Palearctic hare. It is also known as the blue hare, tundra hare, snow hare and alpine hare.
2. Boreal owl
I couldn’t paint an Air collection without including a bird of some kind. I wanted to choose a bird that would tie in with the snowy alpine theme of the other pieces. In the end I settled on the small but specially adapted boreal owl – an unsociable nocturnal owl that lives in forests and mountain ranges across the Palearctic.
3. Snow leopard
Now that I had chosen animals from the snow and the skies, I wanted to include an animal from the mountains. Snow leopards are well suited to cold, mountainous terrain. They use their thick and flexible tails to balance and as a blanket to protect their face when asleep.
Original watercolour paintings
All of the paintings from my Air collection were painted in my home studio on the outskirts of East Bristol. The pieces were created using watercolour paints, which perfectly suited the light, airy, subtle and cool feeling of this collection.
Carefully hand-painted details
All of the designs in this collection feature my signature hand-painted details. The snow flurries were added one-by-one using fine paintbrushes, super-sharp coloured pencils and a very steady hand.
But for me, the star of the show in this collection is the level of detail in the fur of the snow leopard. Painting this repetitive leopard-print pattern was so satisfying and meditative – I got lost in those details for hours.
Bring a breath of mountain air to your home with these four new art prints
The pieces from my Air collection are now available as high quality affordable art prints. These limited edition 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 hung on the wall in a kid’s bedroom or perched on a shelf in your living space.
With three different animals to choose from, you can pick your favourite or collect the whole set.
My Alpine Souvenirs print is inspired by the the kinds of souvenirs an explorer might bring back from a trip to the mountains. It features natural ephemera you might find in alpine environments – plants, crystals, fallen feathers, sticks, stones and bilberries.
This print measures 8 x 10 inches. It would look gorgeous in a natural wood frame, displayed next to a collection of crystals.
Packaged in reused and recyclable materials
Because my work is inspired by nature, it’s important to me that the prints are produced in a way that is as sustainable as possible and minimises my impact on the planet. This includes using digital printing techniques to reduce waste and choosing environmentally-friendly packaging.
That extends to reusing packaging materials from other deliveries to send out online orders. Whether that’s a cardboard mailer envelope from an Amazon delivery, packing paper from a supplier order of mugs or tissue paper from my new pair of climbing shoes.
Each print is hand signed and numbered in pencil, packaged with a recycled cardboard backing in a biodegradable and compostable clear wrapping sleeve.
The prints in this collection are printed using genuine Canon pigment inks for vibrant and fade-proof colours that will last a lifetime. Printed on 310gsm heavyweight cotton rag fine art paper for a high quality finish.
Designs to bring the big wide world into your home
The prints from my Air collection will bring a sense of mountain adventures to your home. Whether that’s a triptych of animals on your hallway wall, a framed print to keep your houseplants company, a new addition to a wildlife-themed gallery wall or a cute owl print in a baby’s nursery.
Painting this collection was a great way for me to get into the winter spirit and prepare for the festive season – including the launch of my 2022 awesome animals calendar, which features images from all four of my 2021 print collections.
Raising funds for charity
While working on this collection I was reminded of the fragility of our planet and climate. Climate change is increasingly affecting our seasons, which makes animals from cooler habitats particularly vulnerable. It’s important to me that I find a way to contribute to protecting these animals and the habitat they live in.
5% of sales from my Air collection of prints will be donated to Friends of the Earth Charitable Trust via Work for Good. Friends of The Earth are dedicated to protecting the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. They lead campaigns, provide information and drive real solutions to the environmental problems facing us all.