Six years old, sitting crossed legged on my bedroom floor. It’s after school and I’m focussed on just one question. My prize possession, two shoe boxes of tiny animal figures sprawled across the room. Rodents the size of elephants, rabbits the size of frogs. Creatures of all shapes and sizes staring up at me. But… which to draw?
For as long as I can remember, that has been the question. And I have explored a lot of possible answers, with one goal in mind – creating realistic representations of animals on paper. Sure, I dabbled in bright pink tigers and furry fish, but it always came back to one thing – drawing creatures as they are, as realistically as possible.
Why strive for realism? Because for me, the beauty is already there. Nature gets it right. The most incredible textures and tones are right there, staring back at me saying ‘catch me if you can’. Perhaps, I thought, if I can capture them in enough detail, I can eternalise them.
Fast forward to today, thousands of drawing-hours later and more pencils than I dare to think about, and here I am – ecstatic to be presenting you my first official series of portraits: Felidae.
This series is my opportunity to really get to know a range of characters from within what is perhaps my favourite animal family. To be up close and personal with them in a way that few humans could ever dream of. To do more than just reproduce their appearance, but to really try and capture their essence, their sentience, their soul.
The work I have done so far on this series has been a powerfully emotive and humbling experience. It has made me think not just about these incredible felines, but about my place in the world, my responsibility to these creatures and to the planet, and my intentions as an artist. Each cat has truly taken me on a journey. They’ve shared themselves with me and I with them. I feel like a piece of me is ingrained in each portrait and I hope that adds something to the finished article.
But why cats?
Cats have a special place in my heart. They have been part of my family my whole life and there are few creatures I find as inspiring. Unfortunately we’re living in an age where human activity is encroaching on cats like never before and in many cases pushing them to the edge of existence. This project is an attempt to showcase cats through my lens, to highlight how I see them and to try and share that with you.
Felines are often presented as powerful, fierce, majestic creatures and of course they are! But I also see different sides to them that I’m trying to portray. I want to show their fragility, their vulnerability, their stoicism and their determination. I want to give you an opportunity to connect with them in a way that you haven’t before – to feel their emotions and know that they are truly alive, just like you.
Perhaps, if we can learn to see cats in this way, we might be able to reverse our impact and build a better world for us all.
Beyond that, most people only ever experience big cats on a screen or as pictures in books. At these scales, something is lost. Few will ever have the chance to stand nose to nose with a full size Lion and even fewer live to tell the tale! I want to give people the opportunity to experience exactly that. To get within touching distance of these creatures and appreciate their magnitude. Several of the drawings in this series are drawn to scale (and some even larger than life!) for exactly this reason. It’s not just the details but the scale of these beasts that fill me with awe.
Cats have enriched my life in so many ways. I owe it to them to try and return the favour. For that reason, 25% of the proceeds from all artwork in this series will be donated to charities supporting cat conservation. Right now, they need our help more than ever so I’m thrilled to be able to support them however I can.
One of the aims of this series is to represent a wide range of the Felidae family and showcase their diversity. I’m not certain how many portraits I’ll need to draw to create the diversity I’m after, but time will tell. For me, that’s the beauty of a series – it’s finished when it’s finished. When I get there, I think I’ll know.
Each new portrait in the series will be released one at a time, with an accompanying limited edition print run. They will be released first to those on my mailing list, before being released to the public.
I’m excited to continue working on this series, and if you experience even a fraction of the emotional connection with these portraits that I have while creating them, then my goal is complete.
If you told six year old Emma that she’d one day make her living drawing things she loved, I’m not sure she’d believe you. To be honest, I don’t think the thought even crossed her mind. She just spent her time doing what she loved. Many things have changed since then, but perhaps more have stayed the same. I’m still completely enamoured with animals. It’s still just me, the pencils and the paper. And the same two boxes of animal figures may or may not still be under my bed.
I struggle to put into words how incredibly fortunate I feel to be able to call this my job. I’m acutely aware that it’s only possible because of you, my supporters, and for that I thank you. I’m thrilled to bring you this series of portraits and I hope they bring you joy.