While very different in style, these two Aussie illustrators piqued our interest recently with their gorgeous take on wildlife – one focusses mostly on native Australian wildlife while the other embraces the full spectrum of the animal kingdom.
“I actually studied photography. I did a bit of art at school, but it wasn’t until about four years ago that I realised I was okay at drawing! It all started with my boys, I drew the animals for the letters of their names. That was it and I just kept going and drew the whole alphabet,” says the artist Emma Lees of Emu & Owl. Using primarily a pointillist technique, Emma’s work is full of detail, achieved simply with black pen and good quality paper. Quite amazing really!
With animals and plants the main fodder for her work, Emma draws plenty of inspiration from her home in south-west Western Australia. “I do really love animals and plants, living near the ocean. I also get a lot of inspiration from the UK as I love William Morris and his wallpapers plus House of Hackney and Timorous Beasties,” says Emma.
“I have started drawing plants and have also started combining my photography into my drawings and merging the two on the computer which is bringing some colour into my work. But I have to say I think my favourite thing to draw are fish. I recently drew a gurnard fish and he has a lot of character and turned out great. Fish are fun to draw – the weirder the better. Scales, fins, wings, gills!” says Emma.
In contrast, artist Aleta Lederwasch’s work, under the banner of Animals and Botanicals, gave me a real nostalgia kick as it reminds me of May Gibbs’ iconic output. “I initially began this collection of Australian fauna illustrations to inspire and nurture my daughter Elke’s interest in nature. It has been a most beautiful experience to spark and share a love of nature and wildlife with Elke through art. With the release of these print collections I now hope to inspire and nurture a love and appreciation of Australia’s unique flora and fauna amongst many more,” says Aleta of her work that is produced with pencil, water colour, gouache paint and cotton archival paper.
“I love everything about animals. I am humbled by animals – watching animals living wild and free in their natural habitats grounds and inspires me at the same time. I feel connected to them and to the land and resources that we share we with them. Animals remind us of how incredibly adapted we are to the natural environment that surrounds us and how full of diverse beauty every living thing is. The seemingly infinite patterns and textures that coat our scaly, furry and feathery friends, and the incredible spectrum of colours that paint them,” says Aleta who is open to custom animal requests too.
Largely self-taught, Aleta attended Ron Hartree’s Art School in Newcastle, an experience she describes as more nurturing than instructive. “I would describe that environment as one which nurtured and inspired my creativity, rather than one of teaching. Ron provided incredible materials including oil paints to children and a wonderful space to create. When I turned eleven Ron invited me to his life drawing classes. There were guides there but I liked to do my own thing, so they usually just left me alone,” says Aleta.
I can see Aleta’s work looking very much at home in a nursery, and Emma’s too. “They are adorable pieces to enjoy in a child or baby’s room. They will bring colour, cuteness and character and at the same time may inspire and nurture a love and appreciation of Australia’s unique and beautiful wildlife amongst the little ones in your life,” says Aleta.