Esther van Hulsen

Meet the artist

Van Hulsen’s award-winning work has appeared in a broad range of publications worldwide, from Nature Magazine and National Geographic, to the Prehistoric Times, American Falconry Magazine, and even Popular Science. Her originals are featured in numerous museum collections in both Europe and the United States. Her Black Footed Ferret, currently with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is destined for the Smithsonian Museum to help memorialize that agency’s and its collaborator’s unprecedented effort to save an animal once thought to be extinct. Van Hulsen was also the principal artist for 22 books on natural history and palaeontology encompassing over 1500 individual paintings and drawings, published in Norway, Holland, France, Belgium, Denmark, China, Japan and the U.S. Her Grey Wolf was featured in Expedition Art’s opus “IN DANGER: Threatened and Endangered Animals.”

An unusual opportunity came her way in 2016, when Van Hulsen was commissioned to illustrate an extinct octopus with 95 million year old ink extracted from the original fossil, re-creating a long lost technique pioneered by paleontologist Mary Anning and her colleagues in 1826.

Current projects include numerous private and public commissions. As principal artist for a major new work on Scandinavian wildlife, Van Hulsen will be illustrating the volume with over 150 paintings and drawings executed in styles similar to the famous 19th Century naturalist notebooks of Darwin, Merian and Audubon.

She has also been commissioned to do a series of large format water color portraits of endangered animals, representing keystone species in each of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s eight global conservation hubs. Van Hulsen is a passionate conservationist, and has donated numerous works in support of international programs to prevent extinctions.

Born in the Netherlands in 1981, Van Hulsen completed a Bachelors in Communicative Design and Scientific Illustration at the historic Dutch Art Academy Minerva, founded in 1798. Ever since she has been working as a professional wildlife artist. She moved to Norway in 2006, where she and her husband Stian live surrounded by beautiful forests and fjords and abundant wildlife. The Internet and frequent travel to far away places keep her connected with global wildlife and her many followers.

Artist Statement:

I have been drawing and painting animals for as long as I can remember. My parents tell me I had to be pushed to start learning to walk, as otherwise I would just sit around and draw animals all day long. There have never been other subjects of more interest to me…it has always been animals, both living and extinct.

There is really something so magical about animals. The sheer diversity of wildlife, so many different sizes, colors, characters, and yet all part of the nature of this world. It is a subject of which I never get bored, a fascination for a place where we humans once belonged, but are no longer truly part of. Yet for me there is always that pull to the wild, the need to explore that world, to see the beauty and raw existence of its inhabitants.

I want to capture the essence of it on a personal level. I want to get to know not just the animal as a species, but as an individual. Like people, each animal has a character, its own unique personality. How does it fit into its world? Is it careful and shy, or perhaps bold and adventurous? I want to bring the animal close. I do this by creating highly detailed art in traditional media like watercolor, pencil and acrylics, putting a lot of focus on the eyes and other small hints hidden in the animal and its environment. This way the observer can not only marvel at the intricacy and magnificence of nature’s creature – the softness of fur, the deadliness of teeth, the beauty of patterns and shapes – but also meet the individual animal behind the eyes.

This high level of detail requires a thorough study of each of my subjects. Reviewing anatomical drawings, studying skeletons, museum pieces and fossils, observing live animals in the field, and watching video are all part of the process. This makes each project less dependent on simple photography, as I produce numerous studies prior to completing the final piece. My goal is that when you see my art, it is easy to imagine the animal “walking off the canvas. `Om hun Magie tot Leven te Brengen!` To bring their magic to life!

© 2024 Esther van Hulsen

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