Australian photographic illustrator Josh Dykgraaf has created a series of digitally rendered portraits of animals made entirely from found natural materials like flower petals and leaves. Titled Terraform, the series reimagines the shapes and textures of feathers, fur, and scales using natural materials. Each creature in the series looks like a hybrid species from an alien planet.
Dykgraaf’s inspiration for Terraform came from a simple observation he made while surfing through some images he had taken on a different project. He noticed that some rock formations in the Swiss Alps looked like the skin of an elephant. This became the first piece in the project, which he named Ourea. Dykgraaf then started applying the same idea to other forms, noticing that some leaves resemble bird feathers, and magnolia petals look like reptile scales.
During the lockdown in Australia, Dykgraaf began working with flower petals and leaves as the natural materials could be sourced close to his home. Each artwork is incredibly complex and requires a lot of patience, taking anywhere from 30 to 60 hours to complete and involving around 2,000 to 3,000 layers in Photoshop. Despite the challenges, Dykgraaf continues to create intricate and beautiful pieces that capture the scaly texture of his subjects.
While Terraform is impressive to look at, it also highlights the importance of our planet’s species. Dykgraaf is passionate about conservation and plans to use his art to draw attention to the plight of Australia’s wildlife. The bushfires that ravaged the country in 2020 killed around three billion animals and are projected to push koalas to extinction in the wild in the coming decades. Dykgraaf plans to release a series of works based on the material he shot in the fire fields, which will focus on the importance of conservation.
Dykgraaf’s Terraform series is a testament to the beauty and complexity of nature. His ability to capture the patterns and shapes of animals using flower petals and leaves is a reminder of the wonders that surround us. Follow him on Instagram to keep up to date on his new works and to see more of his beautiful creations.