ENDANGERED: Art4Apes Virtual Artist in Residence - November 2020

“I would love it if “endangered species” became a term that we didn’t hear anymore.  Something needs to change. Change is possible. Change is scary and right now we really don’t have a choice… ”

During my travels in the deep jungles of Borneo, the eyes of the orangutans struck me.This was the catalyst for my mission to raise funds and awareness for endangered wildlife. At the time, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the rehabilitation centre for orangutans.  I remember how heavy and steamy the air was as I walked towards one of the enclosures. The heaviness eased as my eyes met the most loving, big brown eyes I had ever seen. These eyes captivated me. The love shining from her eyes was the key to unlocking the personality and sentience that I burn to express through each of my works. 

When I draw, the eyes are what I notice first. They mesmerise me. Once I have drawn the eyes, the rest of my work follows. I aspire to show not just an “animal” but a living, breathing being who shows intelligence and has feelings – who belongs to a family and plays an essential role within our ecology that balances our intricate web of life.

Before I start, I take time to connect with the animals and imagine being in their world – to listen to them so I can tell their story. I take all the time and care I need to perfect each mark I make. This is my way of honouring their story and respecting them at the deepest level of my being. It’s a slow and deliberate process that unfolds one stroke at a time. We are living at a tipping point for nature at this stage in our history and as a matter of urgency I feel we need to heal our broken relationship with it and treat ourselves and all living things as one big family.

I realised that when an animal looks at you or you witness them looking at each other, you can see there’s no judgement, opinions or need to compare or compete. They show us how to just “be” and that is one of the main reasons why I focus on primates as my main subjects. They teach us how to connect with our hearts. Respect, trust and connection are instinctive to them. These are the very qualities that mankind needs to embrace and stop exploiting if we are to protect and conserve the bio-diversity that sustains us all.

I feel so blessed to express myself through my wildlife portraits; to reach others through the beauty and innocence that shine from an animal’s eyes. No matter which species I draw it feels only natural to me to portray sensitivity as a common denominator; something that animals don’t hide and inspires us to re-connect.

When people view my work I hope they are drawn in by some quality that they admire and can connect with. For thousands of years mankind has turned to animals for inspiration, to give us strength and hope, and to lift us up. In what appears to be such a chaotic, competitive and aggressive world I hope my work some how softens that blow.

Conservation is so important to me because the thought and very real possibility of living on a planet that is unsustainable and devoid of the life force that nature gives us is simply not an option.” Life on our planet is dependent on us respecting the perfect balance of our ecosystems that includes all of our beautiful wildlife and every single living thing; no matter how large or small, that is sustaining our web of life. We must leave them alone and give them the space they need to do their job of keeping themselves, and in the end – us alive.

Why Geraldine Entered the ENDANGERED Fine Art & Photography Contest

When I open an email and learn about elephant populations plummeting even further as a result of the illegal ivory trade, rampant deforestation, wildfires, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent pangolins to make shoes, handbags or served as a delicacy, sharks losing their lives only for their fins to made into shark fin soup, or a defenceless baby chimp or orangutan ripped away from its mother to be sold as a pet – initially I feel so shocked I shut down and even feel nauseous.

I feel like these situations have gone so far that it’s out of my depth to do anything. I take some deep breaths and realise maybe, just maybe, there is hope to turn things around. This is where exceptional organisations like the Centre for Great Apes make such a difference through the ENDANGERED Fine Art & Photography Contest whose mission is to raise funds and awareness about the plight of endangered species. That’s why I support them. Knowing that all funds raised are giving rescued chimps and orangutans a peaceful and safe environment in which to live and be themselves inspires me to enter.

How Can Artists Help?

As visual artists we have a powerful platform to move and educate others on the plight of animals that are on the brink of extinction. During these times of uncertainty and change I believe we have an opportunity to raise more awareness and encourage the conversations that will inspire people into taking action to preserve these beautiful, magnificent animals and their habitats. These animals need a voice and we can be their voice.

I know it can seem overwhelming knowing about or even witnessing the rampant environmental destruction and massive loss of species but we are needed now more than ever to reach as many people as possible!