Art for Conservation
Since 2012 Jane Lee McCracken has raised funds through her art, for several conservation organisations. Many artworks created for her practice, which explores loss to both humans and animals generated by human destruction, feature endangered species.
As part of her philosophy of giving back to those animals and communities that have inspired some of her artworks, over the years she has created Biro drawings specifically for auction with a selection of these drawings below:
South China Tiger Quadriptych
The South China tiger quadriptych is part of Jane's In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia print and fine china collection and includes Yin and Yang, Butterfly Lover, Butterfly Lover Zhu Yintai and Cherry Blossom Girl. All four artworks illustrate The Legend of the Last South China Tiger written by Jane for Save Wild Tigers (SWT) a UK conservation charity.
The quadriptych symbolises the fate of the South China tiger subspecies, which is thought to survive only in captivity, with many tigers bred in tiger farms to supply the illegal trade in fur and body parts. This body of work was also created to raise awareness of the plight of tigers and conservation organisations like SWT and Born Free who are working tirelessly to ensure that all remaining tiger subspecies continue to play with butterflies.
Butterfly Lover, Cherry Blossom Girl, a book of The Legend of the Last South China Tiger and Weeping Durga were auctioned in London and Malaysia at Save Wild Tigers events to raise funds for wild tigers.
Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang
2014 black and neon orange Biro drawing
The first artwork of the quadriptych and Part One of The Legend of the Last South China Tiger this drawing was inspired by the following films: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2000 Ang Lee, Hero 2002 Zhang Yimou, House of the Flying Daggers 2004 Zhang Yimou 2004, Red Cliff 2008 John Woo and 2046 2004 Wong Kar-wai.
An image of an emaciated captive South China tiger from a tiger farm is reflected on the sword of the most powerful Tigress Warrior in Yin and Yang. Images of Chinese actors Zhang Ziyi and Faye Wong inspired the cloud Goddesses of Yang.
And so the legend of the last wild South China tiger begins …
Under the constellation of the White Tiger of the West, protected by the sacred Tigress Warriors of Yin, the last wild South China tiger cub, Amoy cowered behind the most powerful of the Tigress Warriors for he heard the distant thunder of horses’ hooves. In the East under the constellation of the Azure Dragon, the warriors of Yang rode in search of Amoy. Clouds of dust raised by the galloping cavalry formed Goddesses of Love in the sky, anticipating his capture, for the Azure Dragon prized the bones of the White Tiger’s children. Misguidedly the dragon thought their body parts cured disease and heightened passion and had slain Amoy’s relatives one by one. But the Tigress Warriors were brave and fearless and their swords sharp. Amoy’s eyes widened with fear as the cavalry drew closer.
2014 black and neon orange Biro drawing
Butterfly Lover is the second drawing of the quadriptych and Part One of The Legend of the Last South China Tiger. This drawing was inspired by the epic Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, 1959 (梁祝小提琴协奏曲 the Chinese title appearing on the fur of Amoy’s shoulder). The face of the heroine Zhu Yingtai from the old Chinese legend Butterfly Lovers was inspired by the actor Faye Wong in Wong Kar-wai's 2004 film 2046.
Amoy had survived and thrived under the protection of the Tigress Warriors and grown into the most magnificent male tiger that ever lived in China. He loved to roll on his back in the sunshine and play with butterflies. One day two enchanted butterflies appeared. Their fluttering wings played the most beautiful music. The notes enveloped Amoy and glistened on his sleek fur. Suddenly, the butterflies began to transform and the beautiful face of Zhu Yingtai appeared on the wings of the first butterfly. Amoy was so entranced by her beauty he began to dream of a mate. Then the face of the most beautiful tigress he could ever imagine emerged on the wings of the second butterfly. Zhu Yingtai and Liang Shanbo, the Butterfly Lovers, began to materialise through his stripes. Amoy smiled and rolled over to dream of the tigress and the survival of his species.
Butterfly Lover Zhu Yintai
Butterfly Lover Zhu Yintai
2014 colour Biro drawing
The third drawing is largely a study for Cherry Blossom Girl artwork but also pays homage to Jane's passions for film and nature.
Cherry Blossom Girl
Cherry Blossom Girl
2014 Biro drawings on Chinese fan
The fourth artwork in South China tiger quadriptych and epilogue to the The Legend of the South China Tiger.
The South China tiger quadriptych is inspired by the following films: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2000 Ang Lee, Hero 2002 Zhang Yimou, House of the Flying Daggers 2004 Zhang Yimou 2004, Red Cliff 2008 John Woo and 2046 2004 Wong Kar-wai. An image of an emaciated captive South China tiger from a tiger farm is reflected on the sword of the most powerful Tigress Warrior in Yin and Yang. Images of Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Faye Wong became the inspiration for the cloud Goddesses of Yang. This quadriptych symbolises the fate of the South China tiger subspecies, which is thought to only survive in captivity. It also carry a message of hope, that the vital work of organisations like Save Wild Tigers is ensuring that other tiger subspecies continue to play with butterflies. Butterlfy Lover, Cherry Blossom Girl, and Weeping Durga (below) were auctioned in London and Kuala Lumpur at SWT events to raise funds for the conservation of wild tigers.
High up in the great mountains of China, in a little known village there lived a beautiful young tigress. Orphaned as a cub, her mother killed by hunters, she was found by a villager who rescued her. Loved by all she gained the protection of the villagers and flourished in their care. One day the enchanted butterfly Zhu Yingtai appeared and danced around the tigress. She began to follow Zhu Yingtai as she fluttered in the wind that swirled through the streets, round the houses and over the bridge. Suddenly, the tigress glimpsed the twitch of a black and amber striped tail in the drifts of blossom that had fallen from the cherry trees. Amoy had followed Zhu Yingtai's intrepid trail and travelled up the mountain. He entered the village and there he found his destiny and was united with the beautiful tigress of his dreams. Through the forests preserved by the villagers, Amoy and the tigress were free to roam the sacred mountain, where they and their children continue to play with butterflies.
2015 colour Biro drawing
Part of In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia collection this drawing and Blue Idol sculpture feature Bengal tigers. Weeping Durga was created for SWT and auctioned at the Savoy, London event in 2015
About Save Wild Tigers:
"SWT works towards preventing the extinction of the wild tiger across its most viable landscapes, creating an environment whereby the wild tiger can thrive in its natural habitat. We recognise that to achieve this we need to work towards reducing demand for (captive and non-captive) tiger skins, bones and parts & derivatives, thereby stopping the illegal wildlife trade and poaching of wild tigers. We also recognise that we must protect valuable tiger habitat and interlinked ecosystems. To do this we must ensure that humans living in tiger landscapes share our vision and are fully supported."
2014 colour Biro drawing
American Dream was created for the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in 2014. The artwork features WCC's Ambassador wolves and celebrates the American wilderness. The original drawing was auctioned at WCC's Wine & Wolves fundraiser later that year.
Winter howls through Yellowstone National Park, sweeping across Ambassador wolf Zephyr’s fur. An intrepid stag plunges through a deep blanket of snow, pursued by wolves, as a bison battles against a blizzard on the plains between the mountains. A mountain bluebird heralds the arrival of spring, as a bear wakes from hibernation and a bison calf is caught in a spring shower, while Alpine flowers blossom on Zephyr’s legs. Summer shimmers on the wings of a monarch butterfly announcing the arrival of Nikai, the Wolf Conservation Center’s newest Ambassador. Nikai listens to the bluebird’s song as bison rut in a summer meadow.
Fall flickers over Zephyr, as a pup, and turns to winter over Alawa, also as a pup and the wolf pack led by Atka return to their winter trail. Atka, the leader of the WCC Ambassador Pack, gleams like the sun on the wings of a monarch butterfly. He watches over Zephyr, Alawa, and Nikai in a landscape where wolves roam free.
Zephyr and Alawa detail
Atka, King of New York
Atka, King of New York
2013 Biro drawing
Atka, King of New York, inspired by WCC's legendary Ambassador Wolf Atka, was the first drawing Jane created for the center. This drawing was auctioned by the WCC in 2013. Jane also created a T-shirt for WCC featuring the drawing. WCC has subsequently sold thousands of this design known as The Ambassador.
Jane said: "I imagined the rock Atka sits on as his favourite spot where he surveys the world around him and thought this is how I should draw him, as the King of New York!"
Five years after creating this drawing, Jane finally realised her dream and in March 2018 she met Atka. Sadly Atka passed away that year on September 22 and was mourned by many. Read about Jane's meeting with Atka here.
2019 Biro drawing
Home was created for WCC's 2019 fundraiser. Jane said:
"This drawing aims to speak to those who knew and loved Atka: Atka is finally home, raising his family, wild and free in the Arctic landscape. The wings of the snowy owl layered through Atka also suggest that beyond his much-mourned passing, Atka is with those he loved and who he was loved by, always."
The artwork features a Biro drawing of Atka layered with drawings symbolising the lands of his Arctic heritage. Included in the drawing layers is a portrait of Atka roaming the Arctic Tundra followed by tiny drawings of his mate and pups and a frenzy of charging caribou, antlers entangled.
Further highlighting the beauty and charisma of majestic Arctic wolves, on Atka's back leg is a small drawing of Ellesmere Island wolf Scruffy, who featured in Scottish wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan’s BBC film The Snow Wolf Family and Me. This breathtaking film features unforgettable footage of Scruffy approaching to within touching distance of Gordon. The remarkable and tender moments when Gordon and Scruffy enjoyed a game of fetch can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/jADusZXICdQ
2018 painting on fabric
2018 blue Biro drawing
Layered over a rare blue moon is a portrait of Magdalena, one of WCC's critically endangered Mexican gray wolves. This drawing was also auctioned at the 2018 WCC fundraiser.
About Wolf Conservation Center:
"The Wolf Conservation Center's mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. The WCC accomplishes this mission through onsite and offsite education programs emphasising wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves and other large predators, and the current status of wolf recovery in the United States."
2014 Biro drawing
This drawing was created for Chengeta Wildlife and inspired by some of the most hunted and trafficked species on the planet. It was also influenced by Sir David Attenborough's BBC series Africa. In 2018 Jane was honoured to be invited to introduce Chengeta's visionary Founder Rory Young at its fundraising event in Edinburgh where her Rhino drawing was subsequently auctioned at a further fundraiser in London.
Tragically, on 26 April 2021 Rory was killed by terrorists while on an anti- poaching patrol in Burkina Faso. He dedicated his life to protecting wildlife and working with local communities and is survived by his beloved family wife Marjet and their two children. As Rory would have wished it, since his passing, Chengeta Wildlife has continued its vital conservation work.
Inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s ionic drawing Rhinoceros, 1515, Rhino Biro drawing symbolises man’s curiosity and relationship with the natural world, from Dürer’s epochal representation to the present day. Within 500 years of Dürer’s creative legacy, rhinoceros species teeter on the brink of extinction alongside tigers, pangolin, sharks and other keystone species. Lions, elephants and manta ray have also reached threatened status. Where once rhinoceros roamed in vast numbers, treading a 50 million year old evolutionary path, from the 1600s onwards, rhino numbers have plummeted by 90%. Hunting, habitat loss and poaching for their horns to use in traditional Chinese medicine, factor amongst the reasons for their more recent and rapid decline. From a 16th century artist who executed man’s inquisitive propensity to study species never seen before in the west, this drawing underlines our vast 21st century knowledge of wildlife and the threats that face life on earth. Ultimately this piece aims to highlight the beauty, majesty and the importance of the depicted species.
“The creatures that inhabit this earth – be they human beings or animals – are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.” Dalai Lama
Paying homage to BBC documentary series Africa, 2013, the films are used as pivotal inspiration as the majority of species represented in this artwork are from the African continent. A monumental wildlife series, presented by David Attenborough Africa reveals the breath-taking beauty and fragility of Africa and the species inhabiting its lands. Jane photographed 1000’s of images of Africa as it played onscreen to give a sense of cinematic transience. There is also an evanescent quality, symbolising that species are disappearing at a rate beyond that of their natural cycle.
By portraying specific animals that feature in Africa, presents the individualism of each animal, both aesthetically and characteristically; thus emphasising the fact that each animal is unique and precious to the survival of its species. Selecting some of the most poignant scenes from the documentary, including perhaps the most touching of all, the death from drought enforced starvation of an elephant calf and the “little chat” between David Attenborough and a blind rhino calf, Jane confronts the threats these species face both naturally and at the hands of man.
“Like it or not this generation is responsible for handing on the world’s wildlife to the next. No one knows what the future holds for this little creature (blind rhino calf), nor indeed what changes will take place on the great continent in which he lives ... but one thing is certain, what happens here is more important than it has ever been and that the relationship of the rest of the world to this great continent (Africa) and the creatures that live in it is more important than ever before. On whichever part of the planet we live we all have a part to play in what sort of future this wild continent has.” David Attenborough, ‘Africa’ epilogue
Detail of 'Rhino' back
Elephant Calf (Rhino back) – depicting one of the most moving sequences from ‘Africa’ this drawing portrays the moment a starving elephant calf, too weak to hold up its head, collapses into the drought-ridden grass. This drawing symbolises that elephants endure natural adversities as well as poaching for their tusks.
Mother Elephant – layered above the dying calf is a drawing of its mother elephant weeping for the death of her calf. Having stood vigil and tried to revive the calf, she accepts its death. Elephants are the only known species apart from humans to practice ritual behaviour when confronting death, including grief and have been known to show the same emotions when encountering human death.
Adult Elephant – layered through the dying calf is an image of a triumphant adult elephant drinking from a water hole, celebrating the monumental greatness of the largest land mammal on earth, surrounded by the slight stature of gazelles and zebra.
South China Tigers, Mother, cubs & Male (back & front Rhino legs) - when Jane began drawing ‘Rhino 2014’ in early summer the official number of wild tigers was less than 3500. By August the official number is emerged as less than 3000 wild tigers. There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild. The small tiger cubs represent the future of tigers padding towards extinction, but ‘hope’ that it is possible not only to save wild tigers but all the species depicted in ‘Rhino 2014’.
Dead Elephant Calf and Mother Elephant – a tiny drawing through the centre of the piece shows the body of the dead calf lying in the dust and the moment the mother elephant senses she has to leave her calf and return to the herd. Left behind to tend the sick calf the herd are bound to continue their quest to find water and avoid further death. As she turns and walks away on her journey a faded image of another adult elephant beyond her indicates that she eventually reaches the herd.
Great White Sharks (layered through rhino body) – illustrating the grace of an enigmatic animal that has inhabited the earth for 500million years, Jane’s drawing features a shiver of great white sharks. Penetrating the ocean, sunlight flickers on the sharks bodies with the aim of encouraging appreciation of the beauty and necessity of sharks in a bid to dispel their negative populist image. Shark finning for shark fin soup is rapidly depleting shark species populations; eleven species are endangered.
Dancing Manta Rays (throughout artwork) – drawings manta rays appear throughout this piece and include a group of dancing manta rays layered through the central elephant’s ear. Hunted for their gill rakers to use in Chinese medicine the future of manta rays remains uncertain.
Detail of 'Rhino' Front
Starlit Rhino (Rhino Front)- the main face and body of ‘Rhino 2014’ is inspired from a sequence in ‘Africa’ capturing newly uncovered rhino behaviour. Deemed unsociable, film evidence reveals that rhinos actually gather at night to socialise at a secret watering hole.
Blind Rhino Calf (drawing on main Rhino face) – one of the stars of ‘Africa’, a blind rhino calf’s every move is guided by rangers. This drawing symbolises that each individual animal including this little rhino is precious and holds a key to the future security of its species.
Prehistoric Rhino Etching (drawing on main Rhino face) – prehistoric rock engraving of a rhino found in the Sahara becomes a layered drawing as if tattooed on the rhino’s skin and plays as a reminder as to how long rhinos have existed on earth.
Young Lion – portrait of a noble young lion suggests the majesty of ‘the king of the jungle’, but its eyes betray a reflective demeanour expressing that hunting and habitat loss have seen wild lion numbers plummet from 200,000 a century ago to fewer than 20,000. The lion gazes up towards ‘the future’.
Lion Cub (under main lion) – portrait of a lion cub personifies hope for the future of its species.
Pangolin (front leg of rhino) – armoured body of a pangolin clings on to the walking rhino’s leg, suggesting the precarious status of pangolin species, racing towards extinction, caught for food and used in Chinese medicine. Tens of thousands of pangolin are traded every year.
About Chengeta Wildlife:
“Chengeta Wildlife’s mission is to develop sustainable solutions to protect the integrity of important natural ecosystems, wildlife populations, and the human communities dependent on them. CW shares these solutions via advisory assistance, written doctrine, training, mentoring and other technical support."