Elizabeth R. Smith
Elizabeth R. Smith studied art and illustration at Western Washington University and completed the University of Washington Natural Science Illustration Certification in 2013. Her work focuses on plant and animal subjects in a variety of media, including watercolor and graphite. She prefers working with subjects that she can see in person, including local wildlife and the residents of Woodland Park Zoo, where she is a frequent visitor.
How did you get to gorillas?
When I was a child I discovered gorillas at the zoo and through nature shows on television. They were memorable then, but seeing them now through adult eyes is a more touching experience.
What do you think makes gorillas so special?
When I visit the gorillas at the zoo I feel strongly that I’m sharing a moment with them. It isn’t a matter of me observing them, but of both of us observing each other. We gaze at each other and I wonder what they’re thinking. Do we amuse them? Irritate them? I can see intelligence in those eyes and I’m sorry that I don’t know how to communicate with them. This sense that gorillas and humans can almost speak to each other seems to infect many zoo visitors who grow deeply attached to the gorilla residents and make regular trips to visit them.
How do you think your work can help gorillas?
All of my artwork is motivated by a love of the natural world and a desire to share that love with others. I hope that my portraits of gorillas will engage the viewers’ curiosity about the individual gorillas and about the genus as a whole, improving the chance that those people will support conservation efforts on the gorillas’ behalf. The world would be a lesser place without these beautiful creatures.