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PAINTING PANGOLINS AND WILD DOGS FOR CONSERVATION

Daleen Roodt, info@daleenroodt.com

Exploring new subjects
When first commissioned to paint two watercolour illustrations of endangered wildlife species, I knew that it was going to challenge my usual painting methodology. The request came from a longstanding client for whom I’ve been painting indigenous tree and bird species since 2012. This year they requested the Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) and African Wild Dog (Lycoan pictus). Even though animal wildlife is not one of my major themes, I was excited to expand my repertoire.

As far as flora is concerned, I am fairly particular about working from live plant material, as opposed to working from photos. This hands-on interaction with my subjects has always been an essential part of my process. So, when it comes to having to paint a wild animal, particularly one which is extremely scarce or threatened, the dilemma I face, is that I can’t exactly ask the carnivore to “sit down” next to my desk for me to stroke its tail…

The painting-process
I was fortunate enough that a friend who is very proficient with wildlife photography kindly offered me the use of some of her high definition photos of Wild Dogs to construct a unique composition. It was not hard to fall in love with the lush marbling enrobing these animals. The texture of their beautiful fur coats very much resembled for me the texture of a bird’s feathers, and it felt like pure indulgence to recreate this effect in watercolour.

The process from sketch to painting
The final image of Africa’s Painted Wolves (African Wild Dogs)

When it came to the pangolins, I was more challenged in finding sufficient media to work from. I didn’t simply want to copy a pre-existing web photo. The only way of getting to know how these peculiar creatures move, how they breathe, how their finely grooved armour of scales glide in seamless motion, was to watch hours of videoclips, acquainting myself with as much character as has been captured on film, and then constructing a unique composition from the available information. This journey revealed shocking insight into their unfortunate exploitation on the illegal trade market. There is a sad vulnerability that surrounds these beautiful creatures, but I wanted to communicate hope by portraying a mother with her young.

Bringing the Ground Pangolin to life through hours of watching video clips and sketching
The portrayal of the vulnerability and the strength of the Ground Pangolin

Conservation status

Both of the subject species have been in the limelight of late because of their threatened status of existence. The African Wild Dog, also known as the Painted Wolf, is South Africa’s most endangered carnivore, threatened by loss of habitat due to agriculture and hunted by farmers who fear for their livestock. Pangolins, on the other hand, are currently the highest-trafficked animals on the planet. Their scales are used in traditional medicine, and they are hunted for bushmeat and illegally consumed as a “delicacy”. Even though pangolins may appear tough and well armoured, these secretive, nocturnal mammals have a very fragile existence. Little is known about their habits and behaviour, but the shocking discovery of their gruesome exploitation is a living nightmare.

I felt deeply touched by the newfound awareness of the endangered existence of both these species. I wanted my artworks to have more meaning than mere illustration, to have some sort of contribution to the conservation of these animals. That’s when the idea was borne to sell art prints as a fundraiser initiative.

The EWT ticked all the right boxes to qualify as the beneficiary; its Carnivore Conservation Programme working to re-establish, maintain, and expand safe, habitable space for threatened carnivores, including wild dogs, and their Wildlife in Trade Programme targeting trade-related threats to the survival of species such as the pangolin. They are a reputable organisation whose efforts have received local and international awards, but more importantly, are making a major positive impact on the conservation of many species and environments.

Fifty of each of these certified, limited-edition, high-quality archival prints have been made. All proceeds from the sales will be going directly to the EWT, specifically contributing to their projects relating to Wild Dog and pangolin conservation.

To contribute and purchase your unique limited-edition print, please follow this link.

To life… and its continuation.