Birmingham-based freelance illustrator Zahra Jetha channels her love of the natural world into her images of plant life. In the process, she wants to evoke a sense of optimism and tranquillity.
It makes sense that Zahra focuses on the natural world in her art when you hear how close to it she was when she was growing up. From a young age, her mother always encouraged Zahra and her siblings to take part in creative activities such as pottery and painting, which just so happened to coincide with her father’s spontaneous adventures to local waterfalls and hiking spots.
“These pastimes and ventures really paved the way for me as an artist, as I found myself picking creative subjects in school and then in college/University as well,” Zahra tells Creative Boom. “I found myself combining my experiences with nature with the art I created.”
She adds that, in her opinion, nature is so comforting to the human soul because there is a deep connection between the two. “Most people don’t even realise this until they spend a generous amount of time absorbed in nature. And when they do, they notice the body interacting with nature and vice versa.
“I also believe that humans are created through soil (earth) and brought to life by God’s breath. Hence, the idea of nature and the soul’s intimate connection makes so much sense to me.”
Yet despite her obvious affinity with nature, Zahra took a somewhat more urban approach to her higher education by choosing to study architecture alongside graphic design. Aren’t buildings and the natural world something of a conflict of interest? According to Zahra, apparently not. “I think architecture is heavily influenced by nature,” she argues. “Whether it’s in creating forms or using sustainable structural solutions to create spaces, nature has a great deal to offer to the architecture industry.
“I recall using patterns found within nature to create structures for an exhibition during one of my studies for a project, along with discovering biophilic ways to incorporate nature within my work, not just to create aesthetically pleasing spaces, but to create sustainable and practical spaces.”
It was during her university studies that Zahra’s interest in illustration started to blossom. When tasked with creating illustrations for technical drawings, she realised it was an artistic approach she wanted to follow further, so she enrolled in a Master’s course for illustration and animation after graduating.
Today Zahra creates illustrations based on nature in order to promote the ideas of gratitude and hopefulness because she reasons that “nature is so much more vast and expansive than us.” And as you’d expect, the world around her is a huge inspiration for these images. “I’m always intrigued by textures, such as linen, concrete and sand. I have to resort to creating a Pinterest board so I can always visit my favourite textures when creating art!”
While textures and neutral tones form the basis of her illustrations, Zahra also realises that her style is still evolving. That said, the colour green is a recurring element in most of her art. “Whenever deciding on a colour palette, green tends to be one of my default choices,” she explains.
“I feel that simply using this colour aligns perfectly well with promoting the right emotions. That’s because, psychologically, simply looking at the colour green evokes feelings of security and comfort. And once you’re in a comfortable state, it becomes easier to feel hopeful and grateful for your surroundings.”
At the minute, Zahra is working on a commission with an author looking to create a series of illustrated children’s books based on the chapters of the Holy Quran. And even though it’s still early days, she has already discovered much about illustration from the project.
“We are about to complete the first book,” she concludes, “which is so exciting to me as this is my first experience illustrating a children’s story. I have learnt many things from this commission, from artistic techniques to creative ways of laying out a book spread!”