In January of 2014, Kitty Harvil, an accomplished wildlife artist from Brazil had a simple idea – to challenge herself and like-minded artists to paint from a nature photo presented each Monday and to complete it within a week’s time. Using Facebook to connect with the artists, very soon, 52 Weeks Nature Painting Challenge (52 Weeks-NPC) became a source of inspiration and a place for creation of extraordinary paintings related to nature and wildlife. So much so, that from a 3 member team that began working on the weekly challenges, the group grew to more than 400 members in 2 years spanning 5 continents. The artists also got recognition for their work from biologists, conservation organizations and also International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that published an article on its website about the incredible and inspiring art that was helping raise awareness about many rare and endangered species.
Arkansas Elk, by Kitty Harvil
Now, after two full years of the 52 WEEKS – NPC, founders Kitty Harvill and her husband Christoph Hrdina, have transitioned this group into the new ABUN group – Artists And Biologists Unite For Nature. This has been done to focus more intensely on projects involving the conservation of endangered species and their respective habitats. The group is now asking biologists from all across the world to come forward and give them photos and projects to work on. This will give the artists a focused project and the biologists can use the finished artwork for spreading awareness.
Art and Nature
It was a random google search that led me to 52 weeks – NPC group on Facebook in 2014. I am not a professional artist but was struck by the sincerity with which week after week, Kitty posted a new animal or nature photograph as an inspiration and members of the group posted their work based on that within the time frame.
As a member and out of a need to remain connected with this amazing group, I began participating in the weekly ritual too and was pleasantly surprised at how generous all members were in passing their compliments on each and every work that was displayed in the group, though some including me were either beginners, hobbyists or amateur artists.
It was soon clear that the goal was not merely the perfection of your artistic abilities, but to work towards a set project and create something original that would in some way make you think of the species in focus and give voice to its problems through art.
The members included children and adults, beginners, hobby artists and seasoned professionals. The art therefore ranged in complexity but each one stood out as a unique statement made for the bit of nature it was focusing on.
Kitty says about how the idea of the 52 weeks challenge shaped in her mind,
“I had challenged myself to daily painting in 2009 and reaped the rewards of such a strict discipline, but wanted to be a little more generous and not as constricting with a commitment every day for 365 days.”
She also recollects how the nature painting challenge slowly molded into regularly focusing on species that were under threat.
“In August of 2014 a biologist friend of mine in Brazil, Alexine Don, asked if we might feature the endangered species with which she works ¬ the White-lipped Peccary. That week was a great success with the images being used in educational and awareness raising opportunities. The work also appeared in an article of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) website. That request was followed by one from Arnaud Desbiez, working with the threatened Giant armadillo in Brazil’s Pantanal and funded by the Royal Zoological Society, also resulting in images used in educational slideshow presentations.”
Beautiful interpretation of the White-lipped Peccary challenge
The group supported organizations promoting awareness for the endangered Barbary Macaque of Morocco, the Wattled Curassow of the Amazon, the critically endangered Northern Brown Howler of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, the Babirusa of Indonesia and the Philippine eagle. They also partnered with Rainforest Trust in painting the Lemurs of Madagascar, the Sumatran Tiger and the critically endangered Orangutan.
Incredible painting of a Northern Brown Howler
Their partnership with SAVE Brasil (Brazilian affiliate of BirdLife International) led to paint the endangered Jacutinga, or Blackfronted Piping guan and the critically endangered Cherrythroated tanager. They have also painted the Blackfaced lion tamarin and Black lion tamarin, Vinaceousbreasted amazon parrot, Maned wolf, Tapirs, Marsh deer, Giant river otter, Australian Koala and Sea turtles in addition to florals and landscapes.
“We spent three weeks painting the landscapes, the flora and the recently discovered (1995) and endangered Bicudinhodobrejo of the Reserva Bicudinhodobrejo, coordinated with Dra. Bianca Reinert. Recently, ten of our paintings have been selected by Flávia Miranda to make part of the 10year anniversary celebration of Projeto Tamandua a painting for each year. And our work was presented at the Congresso Brasileiro de Primatologia with paintings and drawings of the Sauimdecoleira,” adds Kitty.
ABUN – The next chapter
Having given 2 years to the weekly challenge project, Kitty is now all set for the next level – Artists and Biologists Uniting for Nature.
Kitty with some of her work displayed in Quintana Cafe and Restaurante
Kitty explains, there are no specific time limits on a project unless set by a biologist(s) in order to met a certain goals, such as a specific presentation or conference, etc. All that is needed from interested biologists is a number of reference photos that the artists are free to use (copyright permission) and relevant links to the project.
Once the photos are posted for a specific project, the artists will begin their work, there is no limit on the number of paintings each group member can submit. Once all submissions have been received, Kitty & Christoph will use those images to create a banner for the biologist/project including all artworks. The biologist/project has the right to use any and all images of the submitted paintings as educational and marketing material when they are posted to the group.
The members are currently working on their first project on the endangered Hyacinth Macaw.
If you’re a biologists interested in giving project to the group please contact,
Kitty Harvill, AFC (Artists for Conservation)
You can also take a look at more astonishing works from the previous year of 52 weeks Nature Painting Challenge here,
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