How far would you go to take reference photo’s for your pencil drawings? Would you go on safari to get up close and personal with a lion or an elephant? That’s exactly what wildlife artist Kate Jenvey does to gather her inspiration for her finely rendered graphite and coloured pencil artworks. In this video Cindy Wider interviews Kate to discover more about her background, her inspiration and her art.
More about Kate
Hi and welcome! Here I am in the Shangri-la North Bar in Cairns and it’s a gorgeous day, it’s starting to clear,
it’s been pelting down. I’ve got a really special guest here today. Kate Jenvey is an amazing wildlife and
equine artist from Victoria. Hi Kate.
Kate: Hi Cindy.
Cindy: Welcome to DrawPj.
Kate: Thank you.
Cindy: And you’re just visiting Cairns aren’t you.
Kate: Yes, just a short visit at the moment.
Cindy: And what brings you here to Cairns?
Kate: I came to visit my sister and also to see a lovely retrospective exhibition of William T Cooper at the Atherton Regional Gallery.
Cindy: And you create the most amazing… I mean Kate’s work is absolutely incredible she works in different mediums and she’ll tell us about those in a minute, but, I just want to get to know Kate a little bit more and let you know more about Kate too.
About Kate Jenvey
Cindy: So Kate could you tell us a bit more about yourself.
Kate: I was originally from East Africa. I was born in Nairobi and lived my whole childhood in Kenya
and Tanzania which was an incredible childhood to be out with the wild animals.
Cindy: Were you scared of like the Lions and all of that? No, there’s always an element of danger but but you adapt to your environment I guess.
I can remember drawing at four. Pretty much always animals and I was lucky, educated and encouraged by my parents. They were very supportive and my father in particular always critiqued my artwork.
Cindy: Wow! Was he an artist?
Kate: No, well he could draw very well but he didn’t do it as a hobby. I’ve got some beautiful drawings of his.
He was honest and he would say what was good about it but he’d also point out what was lacking. They were also both of them great photographers so I think its their eye for detail that, you know, passed on to me that I love to get the detail.
Cindy: And when did you move to… was it to Australia next that you moved to?
Kate: We did a year in England and then out to Australia. So I arrived in Australia when I was 10.
Cindy: Kate creates the most amazing artworks and she chooses to create wildlife and equine and I’d love to know a bit more about that, about what inspires her to do that, so Kate can you tell us some more about that.
I’ve got some images here… we’ll have a look at those in a moment but can you tell me what inspires you and when you were first inspired to create the subject matter that you create?
Kate: Cindy, my passion was African wildlife growing up and being involved in the bush as I was. And I kept on a realistic path because I think nature is the best designer and I like to pay homage to that and not change it and abstract it. But when I arrived in Australia I was taken aback that there was no large
wildlife here so…
Cindy: Because you also have… you also create equine art, what’s the connection there?
Kate: Well I just developed that more in Australia because I suppose it’s accepted more than the African wildlife although that is my deepest love is the African wildlife but I equally do enjoy horses…drawing horses.
Kate’s Coloured Pencil and Graphite Pencil Drawings
Cindy: So I’ve actually got some images because I asked you to send some for me so we could chat about it and I thought we’d just spend some time…
I’m going to go through these images with you, and with Kate, and we’re just going to chat about them. So let’s have a look at this first one here.
Artwork: “Profile of a Prince” (lion image)
Cindy: Now this is… this is a beautiful lion… can you tell me some more about that… oh I just love the look on that lions face… I mean how did you get… did you get the reference photographs yourself?
Kate: I do… I pretty much always use my own reference. I still go on safari whenever I can every few years to just soak up a bit more Africa and collect my own reference. Because I think you build it into the artwork, you’ve experienced the sight and sounds and the atmosphere that’s there, It comes more from your heart. You can portray certain things that you’ve seen and experienced.
Cindy: And I don’t know about you but getting reference photos of a lion could be pretty scary. Kate can you tell us how do you actually get those reference photographs? Are you up close and personal with these animals. Tell us about that, that’s so interesting.
Additional Artwork: “Vigilant” (lioness image)
Kate: Well I use safari companies that have open sided vehicles and very good guides, so they know where to find the wildlife and I only have a 300 millimeter lens but you can get up pretty close to them, but you’ve got to be lucky as well to see them…
Artwork: “Refreshing” (equine image)
Cindy: Now I’m really excited to show you some more of Kate’s work so let me show you some of her equine art, and the thing I really love about her work so much is her ability to truthfully capture the muscles and the skeletal structure, the details in the horse.
Kate: Something you have to realize when you’re drawing is it’s not just the surface that you are portraying. Everything on the surface relates to the structure underneath. So you’ve got the muscle structure and you’ve got the skeletal structure which causes the highlights and the shadows in the animal and they have to be exact too, and I think a horse in particular has to be exact otherwise people notice and its always a challenge to get them to look accurate and…
Cindy: You’ve done a great job there…
Artwork: “Safe in Stripes” (Zebra image)
Cindy: Absolutely beautiful and I love this one here, this zebra and the way that you’ve just captured the little bird right in that focal point area.
Kate: Yes, that was a lovely photograph that I cropped down just to make the bird… I guess… the accent of the drawing.
Cindy: And was that bird actually really there in the photograph…oh you’re joking! Oh wow! …and you’ve just captured that so so beautifully.
Artwork: “Eye to Eye” (Elephant Image)
Cindy: You know one of my favourite subjects that Kate is just absolutely amazing at drawing is elephants. She’s incredible at it and elephants have got all that texture it must be so fun to draw them. Can you tell me Kate about your experiences with this particular image.
Kate: They were spectacular for not only their size but their texture. Their huge ears its all just amazing and she was very close to the vehicle so I just sat there and watched her for ages… and to capture that in pencils is just a labour love I suppose because that was huge.
Cindy: Now don’t tell me that you just actually drew in front of her while she’s stood there. No no no… because these take hours don’t they?
Kate: They do… weeks.
Cindy: Yeah, weeks isn’t it… absolutely. What’s that like 120 hours or more?
Kate: Could have been, probably more… yeah plus.
Cindy: So you took a lot of reference photos then when she was close.
Kate: I did.
Cindy: Do you work from very many reference photos at one time?
Kate: It depends on the subject. But I always take as many as I can… different angles to cover everything.
Cindy: In case you need to zoom in on one particular area.
Researching Form and Using Reference Books
Cindy: So that’s really important to you. And when I look at your work the thing that I’m in awe of is, she creates all these amazing delicate gradations in graphite and they’re beautiful soft edges and hard edges and you can really see that she’s thought about the form, not only the outer form but also the underneath form too. I can clearly see that she’s got an incredible understanding of the muscle structure and everything. Do you research anatomy when you’re drawing.
Kate: I do…
Cindy: Yeah? so tell us about that.
Kate: Oh I’ve got some fabulous reference books. Yes I constantly do study them and I think just handling animals as well
helps… so, yes as much knowledge as you can get before you tackle your subject is the best.
Kate’s Favourite Piece of Drawing Equipment
Cindy: So I know how busy you are Kate and I know you’re about to fly out, you’re going home shortly, but I’ve just got a few more quick questions I have to fit in here. One question I’ve been dying to ask Kate is if you only had one piece of equipment… or your favorite piece of equipment… I know there will be plenty but is there one that’s really special to you that you just couldn’t do without?
Kate: Yes, I think it’s my rotary pencil sharpener because I do so much sharpening through a day. It’s just a brilliant tool that’s quick and efficient and helps me out.
Cindy: So is that a handheld or is it battery-operated or electric operated?
Kate: Its hand wound, yes.
Cindy: Does it clamp to the desk does it?
Kate: No, no I move it around so.
Cindy: Oh great!
How does Kate get Started with a Drawing
Cindy: So if you could describe your process how would you say that you get started for example in a graphite drawing?
Kate: I start with a light outline. Either I draw… if it’s a complex piece I draw directly on the tracing paper because that will take a lot of erasing and…yeah, moving around without damaging the paper or I’ll do a sketch on just cartridge paper and then transfer it to my good paper.
Cindy: So with your initial image do you use anything like construction drawing or a grid method or anything?
Kate: No… look, I think because I’ve drawn from little I’ve used shapes. So I start with basic shapes.
Cindy: Construction! That’s what we love at DrawPj! We love construction drawing. See! Even the most professional artists still use the construction drawing method so it’s not just something that you begin with and then lose along the way, so that’s great to hear.
Kate’s Favourite Medium
Cindy: Now I’m really curious because I know that Kate works in several mediums but Kate what is your favourite medium that you like to work in?
Kate: Oh I love the graphite Cindy. I began with that and its very much my favourite.
Cindy: Why is that your favourite? You work in coloured pencil and oils but why is graphite your favourite?
Kate: I think because it’s the most simple of tools. You’ve just got a pencil and paper and sit there with a large sheet of paper glaring at you. To bring it to life is the challenge, that’s what I love.
Cindy: Wow! and to be able to get that incredibly realistic art like you get… and you know Kate can get this amazing realistic art just from a few pencils on paper. That’s truly incredible. So obviously Kate loves her drawing experience so much.
Kate’s Advice for Beginners
Cindy: Kate, what is one piece of advice that you’d love to give to others, to help keep them inspired and motivated just like you are after all these years? What keeps you going? What can you advise others to do?
Kate: Oh definitely, I think practice, follow your passion, use patience and perseverance and you can do anything with your drawing. Just keep at it!
Cindy: That is beautiful advice and I agree. Just keep on going! Now Kate we’re gonna wind up now because I know you’ve got to go, but where can other people find out more about your art?
Cindy: That’s perfect, and we’ll put a link for you just below so you can take a look down there. Now, I just want to say thank you so much Kate for coming along to this fun interview in Cairns at the Shangri-la, and thank you for watching as well it’s been great having you here today with my coffee and I’m going to see you next time, so, just remember to show at the table and the rest take care of itself.