Illustration

The Inspiration Behind My Wildlife Art

‘Rough Gecko’, watercolour painting based on reference photo by Grant Macredie. © Auntie Betty Illustration, 2020

The Background

I have always loved animals. I was blessed growing up with many pets: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, a tortoise,  African grey parrot, rosellas, pigeons, budgies, canaries, love birds, various finches, chickens, geese, quail, pheasant and more. I always wanted a horse and nearly got one but was advised that he was a vicious brute and my parents backed out at the last minute. My dream pet was a Komodo dragon and I would still very much like having a lizard and some fish, however, I have three large greyhounds and live in a very small house and there is simply no space for a menagerie.

When I was eleven or twelve, I had to do a school project on endangered species. Mum suggested that I research the rarer endangered species in South Africa (where we lived at that time). I learned about the Riverine rabbit and insectivores like the aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, etc.

The Turning Point

It was then that I realised how fascinating the animal world was and hoped to write and illustrate children’s books about animals. Ten years of effort did not give me a foothold in the picture book industry. Experience taught me that publishers and writers generally regard illustrators as far less important than authors – illustrators are often paid very little for work that takes weeks and months of effort and employs very expensive materials, and they receive little or no credit in comparison to the author. Publishers determine which art style they will promote at any particular time and will not even consider work that does not fit the prescribed fashion. It is extraordinarily difficult to break in as a new artist and I decided to focus on wildlife drawing and painting, my other love, where I can deal directly with clients rather than through an agent.

The Goal

There are so many endangered and rare species. We are aware of the plight of orangutans, gorillas, rhino, elephants, pandas, turtles, etc. I have painted some of these, and plan to paint more; however, I also have a deep concern for those species which are so rare that we never hear about them, even when they live on our doorstep. For example, there are twenty-one species or subspecies of endangered GECKOS in New Zealand, and most people here know nothing about them. https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/reptiles-and-frogs/lizards/geckos/#:~:text=Twenty%2Done%20species%20or%20subspecies,as%20Nationally%20Critical%20by%20DOC.

I would love to raise awareness for these species through my art. They deserve exposure and are just as fascinating as koalas and pandas.

I am extremely excited to be embarking on two projects:

  1. Painting New Zealand mudfish species, which are all threatened. I am grateful for the help I am receiving from Angus McIntosh, Professor of Freshwater Ecology, University of Canterbury, who is kindly allowing me to paint from his beautiful photographs.
  2. Creating embroidered artworks and developing embroidery kits, using the gorgeous Strand embroidery yarns, manufactured in New Zealand by Mary at http://nancys.co.nz/store/

You will be able to follow the ‘works in progress’ on my Facebook page or Instagram account. I am painting another pink katydid and then some mudfish.

In my next blog, I am looking forward to interviewing Kiwi artist, Bella O’Mahony. I hope to interview more Kiwi artists in the future too.

Until next time…

Illustration

Why I am rebranding my illustration business

After months of blogging silence, I wanted to reassure my fellow bloggers and readers that all is well. Like many of you, my family has lost loved ones during this pandemic, and our hearts go out to those of you who too have lost family or friends. I hope you are well and safe and continue to be so.

The COVID lockdown has been a time of reflection and given me a much needed opportunity to evaluate my life and decide what I should focus on for the future.

As many of you know, I love illustrating picture books and have worked extremely hard to break into this very competitive industry. Unfortunately, I have been fighting a losing battle and have been no closer to gaining picture book illustration jobs than I was five years ago. In fact, I believe that the better my drawing and painting skills got, the less interest publishers have shown in my work. Go figure!

I realised, during the lockdown, if I cannot make it in the picture book world, why not try to make headway on a different path.

Many of you will also know that I love wildlife art, and for a long time, toyed with focusing on fine art instead of picture book illustration.

Wildlife art, particularly New Zealand flora and fauna, and endangered flora and fauna from around the world, is now my all consuming passion.

With this in mind, I have finally finished redesigning my logo to reflect my business redirection. The bee is also a pun, as my surname is Busby; but more importantly, it represents the growing vulnerability of so many species in our world.

I am now available for commissions, and can be contacted through my website: http://www.auntiebettyillustration.com/

Over the next few weeks and months, I am going to develop my brand with several new ventures. I am so excited to be sharing these with you soon, so please watch this space.

If you are interested in keeping up to date with my work, please follow me on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/auntiebettyillustration/ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuntieBettyIllustration/