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Wildlife drawing of African leopards by Naomi Jenkin

Eye to Eye – Behind the scenes

How one wildlife art commission made for a timeless and meaningful gift.


The perfect surprise for a loved one

Back in August 2022 I was contacted by my client Paul asking me to create a wildlife painting for his wife.

They had both seen my wildlife art on BBC Spotlight and fell in love with my paintings. Paul and his wife are regular visitors to Africa and love watching the extraordinary wildlife out there. They had purchased an oil painting of a tiger by a local artist some years before, and so Paul was keen to add to their collection.  Knowing how his wife’s favourite animal was the African leopard, he knew this would be the perfect subject for his wife’s surprise painting. She was currently enthralled with a series on TV following the life of a mother leopard and her cubs, and so we decided the leopard painting should feature a mother and cub, and focus in on the close bond between them.

The planning stages

Paul told me how his daughter and wife were so in tune with each other they were almost like one person! He knew that his daughter Alison would be the perfect person for me to arrange the finer details of the leopard painting with, as she would know exactly what her mother would like!

Over the next few weeks, I put together multiple composition options and sent them over to Alison, who went through them and gave me feedback on which she felt captured the right emotion for the painting. After a few rounds of refining the composition, we had a plan together. We chose to feature a young leopard cub gazing up into his mothers’ eyes, the painting focusing in on their faces and the tender gaze between them both. Having them positioned almost nose to nose cemented the feeling of connection between them both.

The drawing was to be A2 in size, and so I knew I could go all out with the detail to make it look incredibly realistic. I wanted the finished artwork to be a striking centre piece that would attract attention and look fantastic in my client’s home.

Wildlife artist Naomi Jenkin drawing a leopard portrait.Naomi drawing ‘Eye to Eye’. 

Creating the artwork

I chose the background of this piece quite carefully. I wanted the whole painting to radiate that warm African sun feeling, and so the background needed to have some warmth to it. At the same time, I felt there needed to be some contrast between the creamy yellow and orange tones of the leopards’ fur. I chose a diffuse abstract background of blue and orange tones, as if it could be a bright blue sky with out of focus branches behind, or perhaps some early sunset clouds. Keeping it abstract and undefined was key in keeping the focus on the main subjects – the leopards.

Drawing the leopards themselves was a process that took a few weeks. I cross referenced many different reference photos to make sure I got the physiology of the leopards right as I wanted it to be as accurate and realistic as possible. There’s so much detail that goes into creating realistic big cat fur. And of course, I wanted to create that lovely soft feeling, making you want to run your fingers through it!

I also worked hard to get the strong lighting just right, so that you could feel bright sunlight shining on to the leopard’s fur. Adding areas of shadow helped to give extra depth and dimension to the piece.

Since the leopard painting was A2 in size, it meant I was able to get a lot of detail into the eyes, which helped enormously in conveying the tender emotional connection between the mother leopard and her cub. So many different colours were used to get the depth and reflections just right.

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Framing the finished drawing

Paul was keen to use my professional framing service for his artwork. He really liked the frames he’d seen on my other wildlife art paintings. We discussed the options and he chose to go with my recommendation of using UltraVue glass. This type of glass is anti-reflective and is exceptionally clear; it almost looks like there is no glass at all. It’s the perfect choice for ensuring that all the intricate details of the artwork can be fully appreciated. Plus, it gives some protection against ultra-violet light. We chose a dark wood grain frame along with a double mount, the colours of which complimented the colours of the leopard fur really nicely.

Paul came to collect the leopard painting in person from me in the lead up to Christmas. His wife still had no idea about her special surprise, and he was very excited about presenting it to her on Christmas Day.

A uniquely special Christmas gift

I was thrilled to hear how well the artwork was received. Paul’s wife was over the moon with it and it was everything he’d hoped for. His wife was so happy with her special gift and it is something she can treasure and admire forever. Paul’s daughter Alison left me a lovely review which you can read below. 

“Naomi was commissioned by my father to create an A2 pastel drawing of a Leopard and cub as a gift for my mother. Naomi listened carefully to my fathers requirements and initially provided several options to choose from. The final result was ‘eye to eye’ which is nothing short of stunning! The colours and fine details are incredible, the muted background is perfect for showcasing the leopards and the emotional bond between the mother and cub is unmistakable, something that is often missing from wildlife art. The fact that Naomi could create such an outstanding piece in only a few weeks is testament to her talent. Needless to say, my mother was thrilled with her gift. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Naomi’s work, she’s an incredibly gifted artist.” - Alison D

Commission your own wildlife drawing

If you’re interested in commissioning your own bespoke wildlife art painting, take a look at my commissions page. Here you’ll find lots of information including prices, size options and how the whole process works.

To discuss your requirements with me, simply get in touch.  

See the drawing unfold

A few images showing the different stages of the drawing. You can see each image in a larger window by clicking on the icon. 

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