My 30 Animal Portraits That I Painted Using Watercolors And Pencils

My name is Ashley McDonald. I am a 19-year-old artist based in New Zealand, and I love to create art using a variety of mediums, including pencils and watercolor paints.

Throughout my life I have always been interested in the beauty of nature; especially animals of all shapes and sizes. I am currently in my second year of university, studying towards a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Ecology & Biodiversity and Environmental Science.

In my spare time, I love to combine my passion for animals with my passion for creating.

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I have been creating artwork since the moment I could hold a pencil, but I started taking art seriously around the age of 15 when I received my first commission. Since this moment I have been practicing as regularly as the school would allow.

Completing portraits of people’s beloved pets has helped my skill development, and has given me experience painting all sorts of animals, from isopods to horses, and anything in between. I am mostly known for my watercolor creations, and that I love to add a unique twist to some of my animal portraits, which can involve using a purple and blue color palette, or adding stars to give a ‘galaxy’ feel to the piece.


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A ‘galaxy’ themed commission of a pet bird. Mediums used include watercolours, pencils and pens.

My most recent pencil portrait was titled ‘Full of Life’, which was my first attempt at exploring a fantasy-like genre of artwork. This piece was originally based from an image of a pet rat, which developed further from inspiration which included a forest environment, which has lots of mosses and branches. Additionally, flowers and a bee are both subjects I have wanted to paint, so they were also added. I currently have plans to create further non-realistic portraits, as I really enjoy having full freedom in terms of concepts for an artwork.


‘Full of Life’ – a semi-realistic portrait, based on a rat. Mediums used include watercolor, markers, pencils and pens.

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Conservation is another huge passion of mine. My love for conservation is due to New Zealand being home to so many unique species of wildlife, including birds. Many are being threatened by extinction due to the introduction of mammalian predators, such as possums. An example of a bird species in trouble is the Kakapo. These large, green flightless birds have gone viral online, as a video showed an adult male ‘shagging’ the head of a cameraman! Unfortunately, there are only 144 adult birds alive today.


A Kaka – one of New Zealand’s native parrots. A semi-realistic watercolour and ink piece.

Organizations such as Kakapo Recovery are valuable for the conservation of Kakapo, and accept donations from people all over the world. Of course, I wanted to contribute, so I created a Kakapo portrait in the hopes of raising donations for Kakapo Recovery. Thus, I began to draw my first Kakapo portrait. This was based on a photo of a male named Sirocco, and the process took many hours and was created using a variety of mediums including watercolor, markers, pencils, and pens. Amazingly, over $500 were donated from this print.


The success of my Kakapo print has prompted me to think of further conservation-based organizations in which I can raise money for in the near future. I would love to be able to donate towards various sanctuaries around New Zealand, including Lake Rotokare and Zealandia; both of which play critical roles in the conservation of New Zealand birds.




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My Kakapo Portrait. This piece was based on an individual named ‘Sirocco’.














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