Ideas Development and Tutorial

How can the act of visual documentation and illustration inform ecological or environmental issues?

Focus = how helpful are zoos? Who are zoos really for? Zoos: a sanctuary or a cell?

Starting points to consider…

  • Historical context – illustrations and zoos used to be the only way of seeing animals until photography and film, especially more recently with programs such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ and other similar series.
  • Statistics and facts – what are the laws behind zoos? How does this differ from other countries?
  • Exotic animals in inappropriate climates – everyday animals not interesting enough? Quote intro to ‘Mice All Over’.
  • Cultural context – different treatments, approaches to animal care globally.
  • Photography vs drawing – what is more effective? Why?

Background information (per paragraph):

  • Gerald Durrell was a leading conservationist in the field of helping endangered animals. His Jersey zoo is not only a zoo, but a wildlife centre that works to educate others and improve the environments of animals.
  • Peter Crowcroft was one of the first zoologist to publish books about the average house mouse. He also was a member of many zoos worldwide, helping to improve animals’ habitats.
  • Adverts – Durrell posters, Durrell logo, zoo logos, significance of animals used in logos, TV adverts, WWF adverts
  • Books
    • Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ illustrations and other children’s books he wrote
    • Peter Crowcroft’s ‘Zoo’ book shows people animals they can’t usually experience like encyclopaedias, and technical drawings of rodents
  • Illustrators
    • Rory Mcann – large murals of animals to inform people of what is worth saving. I painted a couple animals when he did a mural at my secondary school.

The purpose of zoos:

  • “Save animals” only true for wildlife centres like Durrell, Monkey World
  • Show people animals – necessary in an age where we have so much access to photos, videos etc? At what cost? (Eg. Blackfish documentary)
  • Make money – for conservation? What percentage goes towards conservation? (Find statistics for Durrell, WWF)
  • Protect species – is this climate healthy for exotic animals? What evidence is there to suggest they are better off behind bars rather than wild/free?
  • Entertainment – circus? Thai elephants forced to do tricks.

Illustration approach:

  • Screen prints – jail bars motif? Too cliche?
  • Paper cuts – sliding bars revealing jail bars
  • Forms – books, adverts, poster
  • Gifs – find out easiest program, animals turning into cell bars



During my tutorial we discussed my concern that my essay is currently lacking in the illustration link, and my tutor warned me to make sure this is the main focus and not get carried away in the background topic.

She suggested that whilst there is much merit to creating a lifelike depiction of an animal, it poses a question of why make a drawing when you already have the photograph? What does illustration offer that photography doesn’t?

  • more emotive than a photograph
  • allows you to bring out certain features, highlight what you think is important
  • more personal, one of a kind
  • stylistic / trends for an audience

Illustrators to research – Ella Bailey, Emily Hughes, Henri Rousseau, Charley Harper


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