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2019 reflections

Jan 05, 2020

Another year gone! And what a pivotal year it has been, for so many reasons. This article pulls together ten of the biggest moments for Under the Skin.

But before we get started, we want to express how fortunate we feel to be able to contribute to the conservation movement through our passion for design and printmaking. Not only have you been supportive of our creative venture, but also the charities who work on the front lines of conservation to protect the fragility of the natural world. These are the ones who are truly making a difference.

So how will we remember 2019? On the one hand it’s been another frustrating year of debates and headlines dominated politics. Meanwhile, scientists continue to highlight the facts and figures, warning us of the consequences of what will happen if we do not drastically cut global emissions to avoid the catastrophic levels of global warming. All of this has been going on whilst California, the Amazon, Indonesia and of course Australia blaze with wildfires at levels never seen before in history.

On the other hand, public concern in climate change at an all-time high. We are witnessing figures from different backgrounds joining the conservation movement, bringing a new voice to the political debate in a way we could never have envisaged when we both embarked upon Under the Skin five years ago. The needle has shifted. People all around the world are understanding more about the importance of biodiversity loss and the impact this is having on all life on earth. We now have the rise of Extinction Rebellion who are bringing civil disobedience to the streets, empowering everyone and anyone to join the conservation movement through nonviolent direct action. And of course we have Greta Thunberg, a strong,16-year old heroine thrown into a world of the highest ranking politicians and cutting through the noise with her calm, concise lines of argument and extraordinary clarity of thought. Science is always at the forefront of her reasoning.

The whole situation we are in really feels like the stuff of fiction. It’s all a little dystopian. School kids demanding adults to take things seriously, banners of Extinction Rebellion flying on the streets, background news reports notifying us of rising sea levels, wildfires, random weather patterns, ecological breakdown and the potential collapse of society as we know it looming on the horizon. What a crazy time to be alive. But one thing is for sure, there has never been a more relevant time for us to continue our fight to protect nature in all its facets and colours.

Ed & James

Co-founders & brothers

1. Natural History Museum

In August we were invited to the world famous Natural History Museum in Oxford. This has been one of our biggest achievements to date, where we invited the public to engage with our work through our pop-up exhibition on the last holiday of the Summer holidays. We had fascinating discussions with people from all walks of life – some knew nothing about the extinction crisis, others who had a wealth of knowledge greater than us. This photo summarises what we do and why we do it, in a nutshell, engaging audiences of all ages with the mass loss of biodiversity whilst celebrating the awesomeness of animals that we still have left.

Audiences young and old shining a light on extinction at the Natural History Museum

2. Our first short film

Filmmaker Luke Ripley accompanied us in the studio for the making process film behind the Wandering Albatross, documenting our creative process from sketchbook to silkscreen. The film ends in the fitting location of the Natural History Museum, where we launched the artwork at the Conservation Optimism annual film festival. The result is an intimate handheld film that perfectly captures our collaborative process as brothers and attention to detail that we strive for within every aspect of our work. We hope you enjoy this film as much as we did making it.

3. Vietnamese mouse deer rediscovery

Just before Christmas we were delighted to learn about the rediscovery of the Silver-backed Chevrotain, a tiny, elusive creature which can only be described as a miniature ‘fanged-deer’ that was recorded tiptoeing through Vietnam’s coastal forests after it was lost to science for almost 30 years. In today’s age of mass extinction, this brings some much needed hope for biodiversity and reinforces the message that there is an incredible amount still worth saving. But it doesn’t stop there. To add to the excitement, we are honoured to be partnering with Global Wildlife Conservation, the team behind the rediscovery. We are now back in the studio, busying away and preparing to launch the Silver-Backed Chevrotain in a limited edition of just 40 screenprints. So make sure to keep your eyes peeled and ears to the ground for this fascinating little species this January!

4. Artist Awards

We had the honour of being shortlisted for a few awards throughout 2019, most notably the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year at the Mall Galleries and World Illustration Awards in Somerset House. Although Under the Skin didn’t win any over over all prizes we were privileged to make the shortlists, and these events provided a great platform to highlight environmental issues through our artwork.

5. Rising up with Extinction Rebellion

Isn’t it incredible to think Extinction Rebellion have only been going for a year-and-a-bit? Alongside Under the Skin, we have been getting active and using our skills as designers and printmakers for the united cause. James has been putting the power of his traditional screenprinting skills to use, creating flags for protests, printing XR logos onto up-cycled t-shirts, and designing brochures for the streets. Ed has been using photojournalism to document protests and write blog articles, from his hometown of Cardiff all the way to the streets of London, where he camped out at Westminster Abbey for several nights whilst helping out the Extinction Rebellion media team.

6. Whooping Crane

Comprised of a striking red crown, stick-thin legs and an angular beak, we launched this intricate screenprint to help protect one of North America’s most endangered birds from extinction in exclusive partnership with the International Crane Foundation.

A drop of ink can create an ocean of change.

We will continue our mission in harnessing the power of art and design to shine a light on species and habitats in threat, encourage others to take action and continue to support the dedicated charities who are caring for the natural world. From coral reefs to rainforests, scuttling dung beetles to breaching Blue Whales, our future depends on all of them.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We wish you a very happy New Year.

Ed & James

Co-founders & brothers

Ed and James take a moment to reflect on things in the Cairngorms National Park last February.
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Under the Skin

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