Art for Conservation

As a child, and I confess even as an adult, it is the work of people such as David Attenborough and Jane Goodall that warm my south, and inspire me to believe that there is good in this world, and we are making positive steps towards change.

In the face of climate change, globalisation, war and overpopulation, animals are under greater threat than ever before. However, in 2017 we are in a better position than ever to protect and conserve them. Conservation has never been easier than it is in the 21st Century: we have social media, email, worldwide broadcasting and many other forms of media to share stories of struggling species, but also to share success stories and to encourage people and communities to work together.

David Attenborough Art Conservation
David Attenborough’s Planet Earth 2 was an epic explosion of art inspiration and admiration. You too?

For me, art is just an extension of this means to spread the word of conservation and its importance. David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, Richard Leakey and Peter Singer (to name just a few) each have their own unique platform, presenting to use conservation not necessarily through heart-wrenching images of suffering or tragic tales of failure, but through provoking in us a sense of awe, wonder and hope.

For just one example, read about Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme, a  marvelous initiative helping communities to learn about the environment, and actively participate in it.

For me, art is conservation, Through paintings of rare and unique animal species and presenting them at exhibitions, showcasing them online and turning them into wonderful stationery and household products, wildlife is taking centre stage in a medium previously reserved for landscapes or religion. Beautiful paintings, just like those of Franz Marc, or those that I myself am painting, give us a unique insight into the world, and encourage us to care.

Through the promotion and sales of such paintings, we can also actively participate in conservation projects, through donating a percentage of sales and commissions to worthy conservation projects. It is your choice. This is why I paint, to inspire, to conserve.

Albatross Painting for Conservation

Click here to view the paintings currently up for sale for conservation.

Art Inspired by Nature – this is my passion project

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No Forest Too Far

The world is quite literally on our doorstep. Thanks to globalisation, immigration, airline travel and our amplified imagination, almost every corner of the world has been discovered, trampled on, and had a selfie taken with it.

Yet there are still places in the world that most of us have never heard of. Species we’ve never heard of; a habitat we never knew existed. What is even more surprising and sobering, is that some of these species could be gone before we even realise they were ever there.

A prime example is the saola, affectionately known as the Asian unicorn, an animal as legendary as its name implies. The saola is only as old as I am (in terms of its exposure, having only been discovered officially in 1992), but already it is facing severe pressures. Its evergreen forest habitat sits caged in from all sides, hemmed-in by the Annamite mountains, along the borders of Vietnam and Laos. The saola is unfortunate enough to be caught between two extremely industrialised and developing countries, and it faces habitat destruction, which people to exploit to hunt for food, traditional medicine and more.

Saola Watercolour Painting

“Only recently discovered, saola are already extremely threatened. At a time when species extinction on the planet has accelerated, we can work together to snatch this one back from the edge of extinction.”

Dr. Barney Long, WWF Asian species expert

 

No forest is too far away for us to ignore any longer.

Finding Harmony in Art Through Nature

The process of formulating a painting is fraut with difficulties.

What may seem to be a very simple relationship between colour, subject and form to an outsider, is often a complex web of decisions that you made, un-made, and didn’t make at all.

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Songs in Miniature, Oils on Board

The above painting is at first glance a fairly straightforward piece, in composition and chromatically. There are only really two tones here, and the piece holds itself together thanks to this quiet harmony.

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A beautiful location, painting in a 16th Century Palace…and I love the shot of this painting, but somehow, the harmony just wasn’t there. (I will paint this piece again one day!)

Nature works in harmony with itself; even though it doesn’t always seem to be the case. Raging savanna fires restore the balance of populations and fertilize the grass, the weak die so that the strong can survive. There is a delicate, complex web that unites all species, all habitats and all natural phenomena.

The harmony of nature is the theme I approach in painting. And New Zealand’s sparky, fat parrot the Kakapo is a perfect example of this. This unfortunate flightless parrot had evolved in perfect harmony with its natural forest habitat that was free of ground based, furry predators. But times change, and we, like the Kakapo, have to evolve with them or find a new harmony.

The purpose of this blog is for me to lay down some ideas for my next painting; figuring out what harmonies I need to figure out before I put paintbrush to canvas. It’s important for a painting to appear unified and effortless, whilst at the same time evoking a sense of a deeper meaning behind it (and I’m not talking the meaning behind a black square, either, I’m talking something real). How do I transform a subject, a topic that moves me, into a canvas that moves others?

Kakapo Watercolour Painting
Watercolour study for the upcoming Big painting!

Instead of looking at the finished painting as the goal, look at the whole process. An evolution in itself.

Our Place in the Universe

Monarch Butterflies Acrylic Painting
Monarch Butterflies Acrylics on Canvas

Rulers of the sky,
No vulture ever soared so high
As to see its own creation.

No butterfly ever flapped its wings
And changed the beating of our planet’s heart.
Rulers of the land,
Our footprints trampling the carbon
Out of stardust-turned fossils.

The lion never left so much waste
That the decomposers decomposed.

Rulers of the sea,
The humpback’s moonlight sonata
Drowned by hulls, by steel, by the sounds
That even silence cannot ignore.

Rulers of the cosmos,
The persieds streak through matter
To which we have no consequence
We are merely matter
That does not matter.
Against what we cannot contemplate,
Numbers to great, heat too hot,
Horizons that cannot be broken.

Looking up to the heavens we should realise
Only we can see this.
Looking down to our planet
Only we can save this.

A Baby Boom for the Booming Parrot – The Kakapo

I always love reading about conservation success stories, they fill me with hope and the drive to continue painting, researching, and just generally getting involved in nature.

I find the kakapo’s heartwarming story particularly moving, partly because of my love of New Zealand and it’s stunning wildlife, partly because it shows just what we can achieve when we put our minds to it. A story of conservation and human dedication at its finest.

The kakapo might be world famous, but its current population would just about be enough to fill every seat in New Zealand’s parliament.

There are many reasons to admire the kakapo and want to save it, not only because it is one of the few, tough, island survivors from New Zealand’s era of great flightless birds, but because it is a prime example of evolution ‘gone wrong’. A squat, fat parrot that lives on the ground, sleeps during the day, can’t fly (but seems to have forgotten that it can’t) and makes a highly unusual low-frequency boom; very unlike our typical view of a chirpy, delicate parrot flitting around the trees in the sunshine.

Kakapo Watercolour Painting
The Parrot that Goes Boom, Watercolours

The kakapo is unfortunately under threat due to its changing habitat. Since humans arrived, many flightless birds, marsupials and other species fell victim to humanity’s vices including their tasty appeal and easy capture for the cats and dogs that found their way onto the islands. The kakapo is no exception, now restricted to a few predator-free islands and living in a state of permanent intrusion, in the sense that humans are constantly monitoring their movements, their health, mating habits, breeding successes etc. But in this case, human interference is actually their salvation. And, thankfully, this year, the population of booming parrots are having a little baby boom.

If there’s hope for the world’s rarest parrot, there’s hope for every species.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160715-baby-boom-for-worlds-rarest-parrot

Read. Watch. Learn. Get to know about these little stories; get involved.

You too can join the Conservation Conversation. Click here to find out more.

What Black Robins Can Teach Us About Conservation

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? “
– Douglas Adams

A 15cm high songbird that struggles to fly more than a few yards might not seem like conservation’s great success story, and in a way, it’s not, but the story of the black robin of New Zealand can teach us a lot about how and why small changes can make such a big difference.

In 1980 Old Blue was the only breeding female of a group of just five, the only five representatives of her species, which had been in rapid decline since the introduction of weasels and other foreign predators to their island home. With the dedication of a small team of conservationists, and the help of some unwitting tomtits, Old Blue became the sole progenitor for her entire species, and helped bring them back from the brink of extinction.

Though today, there are still only enough black robins to fill a few handfuls (around 200), this small success story speaks volumes for the small societal and political changes that we need to make, in order to make much bigger changes.

If one bird can inadvertently save her own species, the small changes that we can do as the human species, can help save the planet in big ways. It all starts with awareness. What might seem as something inconsequential can have a profound effect on an ecosystem. It’s not just about the big, eye-catching species that we see splashed all over the Vatican or the media; it’s about habitats, it’s about mentalities, and it’s about desire to change.

Read. Watch. Learn. Get to know about these little stories; get involved.

You too can join the Conservation Conversation. Click here to find out more.

Below are some more inspiring stories about conservation:

http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/change-the-way-you-think

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/cecil-african-lion-anniversary-death-trophy-hunting-zimbabwe/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/10/sea-otters-global-warming-trophic-cascades-food-chain-kelp

 

All paintings featured in this blog post are for sale unless otherwise specified. Enquiries may come to cjwaterfield@gmail.com

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