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September 1, 2021

Introducing: Now You See Me

Creeping stealthily out of the shadows with only one thing on her mind. The moonlight illuminates this jaguar's face just moments before she delivers her fatal blow – a sight most only see once in a lifetime. 'Now You See Me' allows you to explore that moment. Experience this formidable creature in her element, showcasing her hunting prowess in all its glory.

Drawing From Photography

All of my pencil artworks draw heavily from photography – it’s the only way to be able to learn the textures and details of a subject and understand how to represent them on paper. Wildlife photographers love capturing big cats, often in striking and powerful positions. Photos capturing these moments look incredible. They showcase these creatures at their most fierce and powerful.

In order to take such photos, you must be patient – waiting for the right moment, in the right place. However, there are limitations to this craft. You have to be a safe distance from your subject, watching from the sidelines. With this piece, I wanted to capture a moment that you couldn’t photograph (or at least, could only photograph once!).

Conceiving The Piece

From here, the idea for ‘Now You See Me’ was born – a piece striving to capture the magnitude of the moment when you realise it’s too late. When this most powerful of predators appears from the darkness with her eyes fixed on you. I wanted to create something that elevates the heart rate. With the strongest jaw of any cat (around twice that of a tiger), a jaguar seemed perfect for the job.

More than that, I wanted this portrait to really create an interactive experience in any space in which she’s displayed. In low light, just the whites are visible – the eyes follow you around the room as they hang in the darkness, framed by a glint of whiskers. As the lights come up, she comes into view, and it becomes clear what you’re facing.

Now You See Me in moonlit room.

The Process

The majority of my works are completed in graphite. In this case, that just wasn’t going to cut it. To get the darkness I was striving for, I called on charcoal. Whilst charcoal is a beautiful medium, it presented me with a fresh set of challenges.

Charcoal smudges much more readily than graphite. As such, I had to change the order in which I completed the drawing. I worked in segments from left to right, completing each area as I went rather than building up several layers over time as I usually do.

Beyond this, I had to get creative when combining graphite with the charcoal. I still wanted the control and lightness of graphite for some areas, but had to add it on top of the charcoal base, which meant working from dark-to-light rather than my favoured approach of light-to-dark.

Close up of Now You See Me.

The Cause

As I get deeper into this series with conservation as a central pillar, I’m learning many things. Not least that as humans we have a tendency to not see things until it’s too late. With a conservation status of Near Threatened and an ever declining population, it is my hope that Now You See Me helps raise awareness of the potential calamity approaching jaguars before it’s too late.

For that reason, 25% of the proceeds from this drawing and its limited edition prints will be donated to Jaguars Into The Wild – a foundation based in Mexico. They are working tirelessly to release captured Jaguars back into the wild and helping to increase Jaguar populations one cat at a time. They’re also committed to preserving the genetic makeup of the wild jaguar population and raising awareness within the local population. It is an honour to play a part in the effort to help recover this magnificent species when they need us most.

Limited edition fine art prints are available now from my shop.

Emma with a Now You See Me print.

Upon Reflection

Within my Felidae series, I’m exploring personality. Not necessarily just how it appears in a moment of drama, more so who the cat is; how the cat looks at you; how the cat makes you feel.

Whilst individual cats have lots of distinguishing marks, as humans we rarely see them as individuals. When presented with two lions, we see two lions. This series examines the characteristics each species exudes as a whole. In the case of Now You See Me, it might be unclear what she’s thinking or feeling, but there’s an undeniable confidence in her stare.

Entering my studio each day in the final stages of this drawing confirmed that I had achieved what I had set out to do. This piece gave me a jolt each day before I turned the lights on and I’d often find myself turning the lights off and on just for my enjoyment. I was truly saddened to say goodbye to this drawing, but I look forward to bringing others joy for many years.

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