I started this drawing first in pastel pencils just after completing my large tiger piece ‘Patience’, but just couldn’t get it to work. So I started again, creating this piece in coloured pencils. Over a year passed from start to finish due to commissions and various commitments. I was approached by Sarah of the African Cat Project, asking if it could be ready in time for 2019 fund raising calendar. The deadline gave me the motivation to complete it, squeezing in hours between commissions and working late nights after days at work. This is the only piece of my work over the last three years to include a detailed background. I usually work on the animal only as I prefer them to be the focus of the portrait, but I loved the composition of the reference (wildlife reference photos) and wanted to create a piece where the animals environment was incorporated too.
The beautiful African lion has been vulnerable to extinction from the late 90’s and in just two decades their numbers have dropped an alarming 43%. Due to habitat loss, lions are being forced into closer quarters with humans. This, coupled with a decrease in their natural prey, causes them to attack livestock. In turn, farmers often retaliate and kill these big majestic cats.
They are the second largest living cats after tigers, found in savannas, plains, grasslands, dense bush, and woodlands. Both males and females roar—a sound heard as far as 8 kilometers away.
While most cat species are solitary, the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork, division of labor, and an extended family unit. The average pride consists of about 15 individuals, with five to 10 females, their young, and two or three territorial males. These are usually brothers or pride mates who have formed a coalition to protect their females. They are also a very affectionate species, interacting with each other with lots of touching, licking, head rubbing and purring.