This artist paints hyper-realistic images of animals

Written by Kayla Smith, CNN

A whale shark beneath the waves, caught in a ray of sunshine, a snow leopard striding forward with its eyes locked on yours – these images could easily be mistaken for photographs, but in fact they were captured with a brush stroke.

British artist Sophie Green creates hyper-realistic paintings of endangered species to raise awareness and inspire conservation. With over 115,000 followers on Instagram, she’s not doing so badly.

In November, one of Green’s works was auctioned at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It was a painting of a chimpanzee named Wounda who had been rescued from the illegal bushmeat trade by the Jane Goodall Institute in the Republic of Congo. Wounda means “close to death”.

Wounda the Chimpanzee by Sophie Green. Credit: Sophie Green

Wounda needed urgent medical attention when she arrived at the institute, but since receiving treatment she has made a full recovery and now lives with her new daughter, Hope, in an island sanctuary off the Congolese coast.
The piece sells for £19,500, (about $24,000), which Green donated to the Jane Goodall Institute. A portion of the proceeds from all of Green’s artwork goes towards funding a range of projects from shark and turtle research to conservation of African land mammals.

Art with a message

As a child, Green was diagnosed with selective mutism — essentially a form of crippling anxiety, meaning she didn’t want to speak in class or with her teachers. This immersed her in nature. “I think it’s very common for kids with selective mutism to see the world through a different lens than communicating kids,” Green explained.

Green believes that painting can be more effective than wildlife photography because it offers more control over composition. “If you want the animal to look you straight in the eye, you can do that,” she said.

“Snow leopard.” Credit: Sophie Green

“I try to let the animal’s personality shine through so it feels like someone is actually looking at the animal rather than at a photograph of the animal,” she added.

inspiration everywhere

Green’s process differs from piece to piece. She finds images for inspiration everywhere, sometimes using photos taken by herself or her friends, and sometimes scouring the internet to find images of the creature she wants to paint. The finished piece is often created from a combination of several images.

Although many hyperrealism artists prefer oils, Green’s preferred medium is acrylic paint due to its quick-drying properties. She likes to apply it quickly to add depth to the image. Her paintings typically take about six weeks to complete, and she paints “every day, seven days a week.”

“African wild dog.” Credit: Sophie Green

Their goal is to inspire action in people looking at the artwork. “When you feel like you’ve actually made a connection with an animal and you’ve looked into the animal’s eyes, I think it’s a lot harder to forget that there’s so much going on in the world right now and so many animals they need our help,” Green said.

Green’s most recent exhibition, Impermanence, held at [email protected] in London last month, grew out of an expedition to the Arctic where she saw firsthand the impact of human encroachment and climate change on wildlife.

“whale shark.” Credit: Sophie Green

Although the title could be seen as a nod to the fragility of the endangered species highlighted in the works, Green says the meaning is ambiguous. “Possibly our problems could also be ephemeral,” she said, “so there’s a more hopeful side to the collection as well.”

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