Fourteen-year old Kyle Trefny has turned his love for the elusive snow leopard into a series of fantastically creative, intricate works of art that reflect his concern for the cat and its ecosystem. He has printed his work on greeting cards which he sells through an Etsy shop, donating all the proceeds to conservation. To date, he has raised more than $2,000!
We caught up with Kyle a few days ago and asked him about his passion for snow leopards.
Kyle, how did you learn about the snow leopard?
Seven years ago I was introduced to the snow leopard through the great children’s book World Above the Clouds. It was full of paintings of the snow leopard’s life and it really drew me into the world of the cat. Additionally, I got a snow leopard stuffed animal which helped keep the snow leopard in my heart. As I got older I continued to read the story, and in the back of the book I learned that the feline was endangered. I was very concerned, and this new feeling drew me to organizations including the Snow Leopard Trust.
What do you like about this cat in particular?
I really like its shy and elusive behavior. It kind of gives it a ghost-like aspect and a little bit of spirituality for me. It’s really beautiful, as well — its eyes and its complexion. It can keep or restore people’s interest in nature, so that makes it a really important animal to have around.
How did you get the idea to create greeting cards and raise money for conservation?
I was inspired by the World Above the Clouds and by other artists I saw. There is a passage in the back of the book that talks about conservation, and that motivated me. I thought through art I could capture what I felt about the snow leopard. My parents suggested I transfer my paintings and drawings onto cards that I could sell to raise money and awareness, and I’ve been doing that now for five years.
What are the inspirations behind your unique artistic style?
I’m really inspired by art with a meaning. I like artists who incorporate a message into their work such as Robert Bateman, who made conservationist art about the human influence on nature.
Normally, my artwork is realistic, but in this new series I really wanted to bring about an idea and have it evoke something with viewers. So I took a different approach and drew the cats as landscapes. This opened up a lot of doors for me in terms of showing that the Himalayas and the cats are intertwined. To protect that part of the world, we have to protect the snow leopard. The concept also allowed me to play with the idea of relationships between people and the cats. In one piece, I include youth to represent the future. In another piece, I show conservationists and locals working together. These ideas played into the third piece, called Symbiosis, where I show how snow leopards contribute to our ecosystem and how we must contribute to the snow leopards’ ecosystem. Throughout the series, I include forget-me-not flowers to remind us that we must care for the cats so they don’t become merely memories.
What kind of reactions have you gotten from your parents, friends, and customers?
I think people really respond to work with a purpose. I’ve received a lot of support and generosity in regards to this work. I’ve inspired some of my friends to show interest toward conservation as well.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? As an artist? A conservation scientist? Both?
I see myself as a field biologist, because I really love working in an animal’s environment. I think that connects me with the species a lot more. But I definitely want to keep my art with me, and either use it in the job or use the job in my work, in the sense that being out in nature can really inspire some of my creations.
Is there anything you’d like to say, any message for people out there?
I encourage people to let themselves be inspired by nature and by the snow leopard, and through that inspiration to make a contribution, so the snow leopard will be around to inspire others for years to come.
Thank you so much Kyle!
If you’d like to get these incredible greeting cards and support Kyle’s mission to help protect snow leopards, please head to his online store on Etsy.com, PawArtWorks, today!
If you’re an artist partner who’d like to share their personal story of snow leopard support, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and feature your work as well!