The world is a big place, and there are lots of people out there drawing Otters. But, recently I’ve stumbled upon one of the very best otter artists around. Without further ado, let me introduce the very talented James Williams!

Otter Drawings

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Hi there. My name is James Williams, I’m 32 years old and I work in central London as an architect. When I’m not designing buildings, I dedicate my time painting otter watercolour illustrations in my small A5 sketchbook. It’s safe to say I am Otter obsessed! Most days I sit down and capture the cute, fun and playful nature of everything otters.

So how did you get into illustrating Otters?:

I have always been in love with otters, but only started expressing this until recently. One Saturday afternoon in late 2020 I illustrated my first Otter. I love the playful and carefree nature of these fury aquatic animals, and I wanted to capturing this onto a page. I dashed to my local art shop in South London, picked myself up a small Winsor & Newton travel watercolour set and returned home eager to bring it to life.

The result turned out better than I thought, considering I’d never painted much before, and from then on, I was hooked. Over the next few days, weeks and months my A5 sketch pad filled with illustrations and watercolours of this lovely animal.

And did you show anyone your work at all?

Initially no I didn’t. It was purely a means for me to escape my busy work schedule. The process of sitting down to draw and paint an otter is pure enjoyment for me.

Illustrating an Otter sometimes takes a few minutes, other times a few hours. I sketch out my otters using basic shapes, slowly filling with watercolour and ink the outlines thereafter. I do move quick and often bulk sketch, bulk paint and bulk ink when I find the time.

But those few minutes or hours are complete bliss for me. It’s the most peaceful moment of my day. Every illustration brings me joy and happiness and, in some ways, has helped me through life’s struggles. This has never been truer than over the past year.

I posted a few illustrations of my new found otter friends online and to my surprise they received a lot of attention. I had found a community of like-minded and fanatic otter enthusiasts. And from that moment, I decided to take things to a new level and showcase my work for others to enjoy.

Otter Art
Otter Art

Is this how “Otterly Madness” began?

In a way yes. It was an organic process really. More and more people online started asking me to illustrate funny otters, or design otter caricatures, make otter logos and even request otter greeting cards or prints. That’s when I realised something! When looking for existing otter greeting cards online, I could only find the boring, mass-produced and generic otter artwork you usually find in large commercial shops. And that meant other otter fans were also likely to be uninspired from these as I was.

So that’s why I started Otterly Madness – a place where I illustrate unique, otter watercolour cards, prints and stickers for the obsessive otter fan, that captures the fun and playful essence of all things otters, or “otterly-ness” as I say. I think my artwork offers an original take on appreciating otters, a funny and cute graphic style that you can’t easily find in other shops elsewhere. This was hugely encouraged by the otter enthusiasts online communities, who started buying my work (and requesting more unique designs) – so I have just continued with it.

Tell us more about your art process:

This may not be the most artistic of answers, but I like to keep my process really simple and flexible. My tools are basic and light: with an A5 sketchpad, a travel watercolour set, 1 brush, 3 pens, 1 pencil and an eraser. I don’t have a studio space. I illustrate on the move, finding slots of time between meetings, at the cafe during my lunch hour, sometimes before work at my desk, other times later in the evening at a friends place. As soon as I get an idea, and a bit of time, I find a small space to quickly sketch my design down before moving on to watercolour and ink. This is my daily meditation – a time out during an often hectic work schedule here in London – and it helps me de-stress, reset and replenish.

I think it’s the simplicity and flexibility in how, where and when I illustrate my otters that fills me with inspiration. I never feel stuck for ideas as I usually just observe and illustrate what’s around me. There is so much to take inspiration from if you watch people and places. I just try to inject some “otterlyness” into them, and characterise everyday people and events with otters. Looking at a blank page, in a studio space, trying to conjure up otter artwork is impossible for me – I take my cues from my daily life.

Otter Art
Otter Art
Otter Art

Can you tell us about some of your Otter designs?

One of my most popular selling designs is my Otter Anniversary Card. This is a very cute little otter waiting for his otter half, with flowers behind his back. It’s actually a design I made for Valentines Day this year and it proved very popular. There’s an accompanying otter design too, a female otter waiting to gift a little present to her significant otter. You can find both of these designs in my shop at this Link Here

Otter Valentine

I’ve made many otter birthday cards, but this one has been a popular choice. I think this design captures the playful and energetic nature of otters. And who doesn’t like an otter pun. You can get one in my shop here

I’m a little bit obsessed with illustrating otters smiling or laughing. It just makes me feel good once I create them. Maybe it’s because they become humanised, and the cartoon style brings out my inner child – I think that’s also why other people like them too.

Recently I’ve made specific cards with otter puns as the basis. These are a few here. The puns encourage me to be more adventurous with what I illustrate, almost like a challenge. You can check them out in my shop here at this link.

Otter Art
Otter Art

Do you have any new Otter art coming soon?

I’m planning on creating new otter cards for various occasions. I’ve already created cards for traditional holidays throughout the year (Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day) but now I’m thinking of “Get Well Soon”, “Thank You” and “Congratulations” cards

Otter fridge magnets! After successfully launching a range of otter stickers, magnets are next. This should be coming shortly, if I can find some time.

A friend of mine has commissioned a piece of otter artwork. He has a specific request for a marine themed otter piece that can decorate a nursery for his new born baby. I’m currently formulating ideas, but thinking an otter sailor on a boat is a fun idea, we will see. I am always up for one of commissions if I have the time.

I’ve just starting donating 10% of my profits to the International Otter Survival Fund IOSF – It’s important for me to support a worthy cause to protect the wonderful otters across the world.

Credits and more info:

James is 32 and lives and works in London. You can check out all his wonderful artwork at his website

James W