According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 85 per cent of the animals officially recognised as endangered species face their biggest threat in habitat fragmentation, due to human development encroaching on and destroying the areas of land where they graze, hunt and live.
In an exhibition opening tonight at The Old Street Gallery titled On This Planet, over 30 UK-based and international illustrators will be displaying and selling their work in an effort to raise awareness about the severity of this issue and generate funds to combat it. In conjunction with World Land Trust, proceeds from the sale of prints at the exhibition and online will be used as part of the “Buy An Acre” scheme, which translates each £100 donation into one acre of land preserved and protected against destruction. Jenny, the exhibition’s organiser, tells us that “I was drawn to World Land Trust’s Buy An Acre scheme because it’s a very clear call to action that people can get behind. I think that one of the barriers in fundraising for similar causes is that tackling climate change and preserving the natural world can seem like an overwhelming and hopeless mission. By allowing people to purchase land through the scheme, it creates a tangible impact and is an accessible way for people to take part in environmentalism”.
An illustrator herself, Jenny says, “I have always loved animals and the natural world – in fact, that’s what got me into drawing in the first place. As a child, I would continuously be drawing creatures and making up my own too, whilst binge-watching Animal Planet”. Having first begun On This Planet as a self-initiated project, Jenny was approached directly by World Land Trust for collaboration: “World Land Trust actually contacted me after finding out about the beginnings of the event on social media. From there we formalised an agreement and it was great working with them to realise the event!” She says that “when deciding on illustrators, I already had a lot of them in mind – I had either met them at events or seen their work on Instagram. I collated them into a giant spreadsheet (I’m exciting like that) and went through them considering their style, whether they had experience drawing animals and if they could potentially work well in Risograph. I tried to get a broad range of styles, but they are generally tied together with their characterful depictions of animals”.
On This Planet’s approach, right down to the details of the exhibition, reflects its conservational agenda. All prints are made using a Risograph printer – a comparatively environmentally friendly method of printing – and soy-based inks. The artworks are also framed using recycled wood, and purchased prints will be packaged in biodegradable corn starch sleeves, while the exhibition’s signage is executed in PVC-free vinyl. Speaking of what she hopes to achieve with the show, Jenny states that “my first goal is to, of course, raise money for the scheme, however even if people just connect with the cause and want to find out more about the natural world around us then I will feel I have made a successful event.”
“I understand the subject of environmentalism can easily be quite dour,” says Jenny, “so I wanted to create a positive, fun and accessible atmosphere – I think illustration and the arts are a great way of communicating and raising awareness in this way.” With a private view this evening, On This Planet will be on display at The Old Street Gallery until 21 May. Not only will visitors get to see (and maybe take home) some fantastic animal-orientated illustrations, but they’ll be helping to prevent the devastation of our planet – and what could be more of an incentive to attend an exhibition than that?