turtle drawing

Illustrator of the month: Zoe Keller

Explore the natural world through highly detailed illustrative, charcoal drawings intended to educate and inspire audiences of at-risk species.

Zoe Keller creates stunningly detailed drawings of animals and fauna, done completely in graphite. They are annoyingly amazing! These drawings act as visual research into the various kinds of species of the native land in which she travels. Namely, the U.S.

Originally from New York, and currently based in Portland, Oregon, she draws and gathers inspiration from her exploration of the landscape. With a meticulous, scientific approach, she spends hours thumbing through her field guide collection, recording what she finds. And what a find!


There is an abundance of juicy, naturalistic detail in Keller’s drawing’s; you could spend an infinite amount of time staring and examining, and still not see everything. And I think that’s what Keller intends us to do; examine these pieces as though they are a scientific wonder.

“My curiosity about the natural world is what keeps me dialed in to my work,” Keller told Colossal. “Drawing is the best way that I’ve found to understand how organisms and ecosystems work. In order to draw something realistically you have to understand how it sits in space, how it moves, the mechanics of its insides. So for me tuning into the natural world means chasing an endless series of questions. On the most minute, piece-specific scale, this can mean asking how many whorls are in the shell of a particular species of snail. On a larger scale, I’ve been developing bodies of work that ask big questions about visually engaging with the natural world in ways that honor it and inspire others to protect it.”

Quote from Colossal interview, 2017


Drawn from her surroundings, leafing through her guide books and plucking what’s left from her imagination, her drawings build a narrative of the real and the imaginary. She’s like an intrepid explorer and for some reason my mind goes to Eliza from the Wild Thornberry’s. Now hear me out. I’m not saying Keller can talk to the animals, but the Thornberry’s were documentary filmmakers of wildlife. And there was always an underlining understanding with the creatures they found; their habitat; their behaviour and their character. Who could forget the ridiculously eccentric pet chimpanzee Darwin!?


Her drawings have character and heart. They come from a place that is grounded in a thirst for knowledge and truth about these beautiful creatures, whilst gently bringing to the fore and reminding us that they are at risk. Her work, albeit beautiful, shows her ongoing concern for the natural world. And like Darwin, Keller’s documented drawings are evidence of existence and will ensure that these animals live on in art.

You can see more of her project and how you can contribute by visiting her website

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