Our Cheetah Champion for November is Maria Elena Piedra, a wonderful artist who is using her talent for good. Elena loves animals, and they are the subject of a lot of her paintings. When she heard about the work CCF was doing to save the endangered Cheetah, she decided to donate a percentage of her sales of Cheetah paintings to us. This is the story of how Maria Elena became an artist and an advocate of animals. You can buy her paintings by following the link to her online Etsy Shop!
Since I was a little girl growing up in my birthplace, Ecuador, my three favourite things have always been art, music and animals. I grew up with dogs (German Shepherds and one Dalmatian), listening to music (on the radio or performed by my guitarist brother) or admiring art (paintings by local and foreign artists and European sculptures collected by my family).
In my late teens, I came to the United States to learn English and study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise in Los Angeles, where I also took Fashion Design as well as Post-Graduate courses in Colour Theory and Interior Decorations to nurture my boundless love of art and its many expressions.
After graduation, my dream of an art career was delayed as I took jobs in hospitality, publishing and Real Estate, but after a few years my love for the arts made me become what I always wanted to be; an artist.
Taking some art courses to improve my dormant skills, I originally focused on fashion illustrations using pencil, charcoals and watercolours. Once I had I mastered the use of acrylics, mixing them with gel mediums, the idea of painting one of my favourite subject, animals, came alive.
My first work was a little Boxer puppy, then a Lion, a Jaguar, a Panther, a Tiger (my first original) and finally, my biggest work: “Cheetah Mom with her cubs” (30”w x 40”h Acrylic and Gel Mediums on canvas).
I am an advocate against any kind of animal cruelty, be it dog fights, poaching, animal testing, etc., and I belong to various animal cruelty prevention organisations. When I restarted my Art calling a few years ago, the thought of helping some of these organisations through my work was constantly present but I did not know how.
The answer came last year (2016) when my piece, “Eye of the Tiger” was awarded a People Choice Award in Pasadena, California. After that, I started working on opening a business online selling my art. I looked around for different animal foundations related to my art and came across the Cheetah Conservation Fund. I knew Cheetahs were endangered, but I didn’t know how serious the extinction was, so I decided to donate a percentage of my sales of each Cheetah item I have in my online Etsy Shop to CCF – it is such a worthwhile cause. Eventually, I will try to do more donations with other endangered animals.