I’ve always been fascinated with animals and wildlife. Almost all of my watercolour illustrations are inspired by my love of the natural world. Channelling my love of nature into my paintings is my way of paying tribute to the wonders of nature, as well as inspiring people to protect our planet.
Jem Loves to Draw products are created to bring a sense of the big wide world into your home. Whether that’s a bumblebee birthday card, an awesome animal mug for your morning coffee, an ocean-inspired art print on your living room wall or a cute animal art print in a nursery.
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 third print collection of 2021 – the Fire collection. From inspiration right through to the finished products.
Trust the process
I’m going to start this blog with a big dose of honesty. I really struggled with this collection. With the two collections I had painted before – Earth and Water – I had a clear idea from the outset about the animals I wanted to paint. But this collection didn’t become clear in my mind for months and was an important lesson for me to just. Trust. The. Process.
So what does an artist do when they can’t decide what to paint? For me, I always go back to basics and that means lots of research (watching nature documentaries) and lots of sketches. And I definitely did lots of sketches.
I sketched animals that use fire as part of their life-cycle – like the Australian ‘firehawks’ that spread fires by carrying burning sticks in their beaks to force their prey out of hiding. I sketched animals with fire in their names – like fireflies and fire salamanders. I sketched animals that have a fire-like aspect to their appearance – like red pandas, red footed tortoises and red squirrels.
In the end I settled on animals from desert environments. Think real-life fire Pokémon. My 5-year-old nephew would approve.
Warm oranges and earthy tones
The colour palette for this collection was one thing that I was sure on from the start. Warm reds, earthy browns, yellow ochre and vibrant oranges – with coal blacks and muted greens.
My watercolour palette set has a disproportionate number of reds and oranges. Before I painted this collection, the warmer colours in my paint palette looked barely used in comparison to my favoured blues and darks. It made a nice change to work with these kinds of colours and I enjoyed the challenge.
Awesome desert animals
Deserts are harsh environments, with exposed conditions and extremes of temperature. Every plant and animal that lives in these conditions is specially adapted for survival, which makes them super interesting to paint.
My Fire collection includes three different awesome desert animals – two mammals and one insect.
1. Fennec fox
Foxes appear on every continent across the world except Antarctica and feature in folk tales from cultures across the globe. Fennec foxes are the world’s smallest species of fox, native to the Sahara Desert, Egypt and Israel. Their unusually large ears help to dissipate heat and keep them cool in their desert homes.
2. Scarab beetle
Insects are really fun to paint. I love their symmetrical form and the different textures – shiny, scaly, furry, glistening. I knew I wanted to paint a beetle for this collection. In keeping with the desert theme, I chose a type of scarab beetle called scarabaeus satyrus. This species of African dung beetle is one of the few known non-vertebrate animals that navigate using the Milky Way.
I knew I wanted to include an endangered animal in this collection, to highlight the fragility of life in harsh desert environments. It’s hard to find an animal more at risk than the pangolin – these scaly mammals are sadly the world’s most trafficked mammal. I chose to paint an African ground pangolin, which is found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Painted using modern watercolour techniques
Once I had decided which animals to paint, the rest of the painting process for this collection flowed quite quickly. All four pieces were painted within a week or so and I took over the whole of my studio desk to paint them all simultaneously.
All four pieces in this collection were a joy to work on and the vibrancy of my favoured Japanese watercolour paints really came into their own – the oranges and reds actually feel warm to look at.
Delicate hand-painted details
Continuing the theme from the previous collections, each design features delicate illustrated details. These were meticulously added using fine paintbrushes and super-sharp coloured pencils.
There are two particular elements in this collection that I’m really proud of from a painterly perspective. The blended layers on the scales of the pangolin and a variegated desert gourd.
Bring warmth to your walls with these four new art prints
The pieces from my Fire 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 perched on a shelf next to an air plant collection, 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 Desert souvenirs print is inspired by the plants and natural ephemera you might find in the desert and grasslands. It features gourds, plants, sticks, stones and other snippets from nature. Like the kinds of souvenirs an explorer might bring back from a trip to the desert.
This print measures 8 x 10 inches. It would look gorgeous in a natural wood frame, displayed next to a collection of air plants.
High quality prints that will stand the test of time
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 eco-conscious packaging, but also producing products that are high quality and long lasting.
One of the best ways to reduce waste is to produce products that are designed to be kept and loved for a long time, rather than low-quality throwaway goods with a short lifespan. 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, packed with a recycled board backing in a biodegradable and compostable clear wrapping sleeve.
Designs to bring the wild into your home
The prints from my Fire collection will bring the warmth of the desert into your home. Whether that’s a triptych of animals on your living room wall, a framed print to keep your air plants and cacti company, a new addition to a wildlife-themed gallery wall or a cute pangolin print in a kid’s room.
Painting this collection was a great way for me to soak up the wonderful colours of autumn. I’m looking forward to continuing this seasonal approach in my final collection of 2021 – the air collection.
Raising funds for charity
While working on this collection I was reminded of the fragility of our planet. Climate change and poaching are two of the biggest threats facing wildlife in desert regions. 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 Fire collection of prints will be donated to WWF UK via Work for Good. WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation organisation. Their mission is to create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together.