Since time began, the cute and cuddly animals of the world have occupied a place in our hearts. However, you might have noticed the recent trend that celebrates some slightly more unusual characters. Across the design world, from fashion to art and interiors, insects, sea creatures and birds are having their moment in the sun. These animal illustrations are perfect for establishing a range of moods and styles throughout your home, and also make for great gifts for animal lovers.
Read on to discover the history, symbolism and style-potential of the underdogs of the animal kingdom.
Creatures of the Deep
Perhaps it’s the associations we have of the seaside as a calming, peaceful place that draws us to aquatic motifs. As we grow used to the 24/7 buzz of social media and rarely have time to switch-off, the soothing, decelerating effect of the ocean is something many of us crave. This explains why shells, pearls, and curious crustaceans have been cropping up everywhere in recent times, from jewellery and clothing through to bedding and animal wall art. You may not consider animals such as lobsters or crabs as particularly pleasant, but on second glance, they have an intricate and complex beauty that deserves to be celebrated. As water animals, lobsters and crabs are associated with emotion, sensitivity, healing, and cleansing. As the symbol of the star sign Cancer, they represent typical Cancerian traits such as creativity, imagination, and intuition. If you pride yourself on your creative qualities, check out this Lobster illustration from artist Farina Kuklinski.
Another treasure of the ocean, the octopus, captivates us with its otherworldliness, graceful movements, and the most fascinatinating feature of all: its poisonous, defensive ink. Octopuses, like lobsters and crabs, are a symbol of curiosity, sensitivity, and emotion, as well as the ability to accept the latter. So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by your feelings, let this octopus illustration remind you to simply let the current carry you until the waves smooth out.
Does the thought of a spider roaming free in your bedroom give you sleepless nights? The sight of a wasp inspire a feeling of panic? Bugs have a bad rap, but prints such as Insect 2 and this butterfly illustration from Mie Frey Damgaard might change your mind about creepy crawlies. While alienesque beetles and roaches may never be your favorite animals, insect motifs—when styled properly—can give your home a quirky energy and eclectic aesthetic. Colourful, delicate and detailed, their intricate forms combined with shimmering metallic tones make for surprisingly chic décor.
In ancient Egypt, the dung beetle was a lucky charm. It was also known by the name "Scarabaeus" (lucky beetle) and its movements came to symbolise the path of the sun through the sky: the dung ball formed by the beetle is rolled in front of it and finally buried, mirroring the setting of the sun—strangely poetic, and only a little bit gross. Due to its rapid reproduction, the dung beetle also became a symbol of creative power and was regarded as the embodiment of the deity Chepre. Many beetle-shaped objects and talismans were worn in ancient Egyptian society in an attempt to win his favour. Now you can continue this tradition in your own home, adding a touch of the divine to your décor with beetle-themed animal wall art.
The beetle isn’t the only insect with divine meaning. The bee was first chosen by the Merovingians as a royal emblem, and was later taken over by Napoleon as a symbol of his empire. In the collective imagination, the bee represents a united and harmonious, faithful and hardworking community. However, the bee is making headlines all over the world for a different reason: an increasing number of bee populations are becoming extinct. A disturbing fact when you consider that bees play a central role in the conservation of our agriculture and biodiversity. If bees were to disappear permanently from the planet, human food supplies would be seriously threatened. Today more than ever, bees represent life because their role as pollinators helps to maintain balance within our fragile ecosystem. So, thank the black and yellow honey suppliers by leaving them some food (sugar water) on your windowsill or balcony, and pay tribute to the bee with timeless bee illustrations Bees and Bumblebee 01.
Reptiles and Snakes
Manipulative, clever, cunning—the snake doesn't come off very well as far as its reputation is concerned. Though for many the snake is a symbol of temptation and deception, it hasn’t always had this connotation. Snake symbolism is one of the oldest forms and is found across many cultures. The Ouroboros, for example, is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent eating its own tail and is present in Nordic mythology and the cultures of ancient Egypt and Asia. This mystical symbol represents the infinite cycle of life and its perpetual renewal. Sometimes compared to Yin and Yang, it’s also synonymous with a balance between life and death, and by extension with the balance between two opposing forces. Give the snake pride of place on your wall with Soul Zen's snake illustration Spirit Animal - Snake.
While peacocks and parrots draw us in with their bright colours, and dainty sparrows delight us with their air acrobatics, there are other birds that elicit a less favourable response. Hitchcock gave an entire generation, if not full-blown ornithophobia, at least a feeling of anxiety towards birds with his creepy cult movie of the same name.
No bird has received worse publicity than the pigeon. The 'rats of the skies' are considered a plague in many places, though they shouldn't be underestimated. Thanks to their brilliant built-in sense of direction, they were used throughout Europe as a reliable means of communication until the end of the First World War. They are also regarded as astute and loyal. In addition to its function as a carrier pigeon, the bird is also regarded as a symbol of innocence, loyalty and, above all, peace. In 1949 Pablo Picasso took up the symbol and designed his famous anti-war work "Dove of Peace’, which was shown on the posters of the World Peace Congress in Paris and Prague the same year. Make your peace with birds and choose I Believe I Can Fly and Jeanine Sommer's Dove to strike the perfect balance between humour and style.
Inspired? Explore our exclusive collection to find animal art that symbolises your personality traits.
Text : Caroline Lacaille
Translation: Caitlin Hughes