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Atsu Harada’s “White Ghost” was the winner of the Endangered Wildlife category | click images to enlarge

Late last month the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation announced the awards for their annual Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition. Beginning in 2007, the initiative has raised over $200K for conservational projects.

One of their most important categories is Endangered Wildlife: portraiture of animals threatened or endangered. This year the winner was Atsu Harada, a Tokyo-based artist who creates stunningly realistic and artistically composed portraits of wildlife.

Atsu Harada’s “White Ghost” depicts the endangered snow leopard; it was estimated in 2003 that there were, at most, 6,590, of which fewer that 2,500 would reproduce in the wild. In Harada’s exquisite painting, executed in gouache, the beautiful creature is dramatically posed with its head looking backward, and alert.

“There are so many species that could disappear from the world within my lifetime as a result of human beings’ actions,” said Harada. “I’m very happy if I can make even the smallest contribution to preventing that, and I’d like to thank the foundation for allowing me to support its work.”

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“Colors, Forms & Life,” mixed media, 38″ x 51″

The 52-year old artist has no formal training in art. His interest in wildlife dates back to his early childhood but he chose a corporate career over that of a painter. However, about 6 years ago he left the business world to pursue a professional artistic career. Hi other works, which include foxes, birds and other wildlife, are each masterfully executed in their own right. You can see more of his work on his website.

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“On a Snowy Hill,” gouache, 21″ x 35.5″

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Portrait of a Northern Goshawk, mixed media, 19.6″ x 14″