From a chipmunk’s whisper-thin whiskers to a monarch butterfly’s antennae that almost seem to quiver, the tiniest details of illustrator Cris Arbo’s subjects capture the imagination. Thanks to sales of the miniature menagerie on eBay, donations are winging their way to Doctors Without Borders in war-torn Ukraine.
“I have many of these little creatures under my belt,” said the illustrator of “The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream,” a children’s book filled with Charlottesville imagery. “I’ve been doing them for ages. Giving them away, mostly.”
The anguish she felt a year ago after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurred her to action. “You want to do something,” Arbo said. “You get so frustrated.”
That’s when she realized that her collection of creatures could accomplish more than gladdening the eye.
The Buckingham-based artist is bringing the North American birds, butterflies and small quadrupeds of her Cris’s Creatures line to life in acrylics, inks and colored pencils on smooth cedar slabs. Each one that leaves the nest, branch or den means another $100 will help provide medicines, bandages and other supplies to doctors and other medical personnel in Ukraine.
To date, Arbo has raised $3,500 on eBay from sales of Cris’s Creatures. She has brought in an additional $1,500 so far from selling depictions of specific animals requested by customers.
One enchanted collector is building “a little gallery” one cedar slice at a time, she said.
The artist cheerfully calls the project “a win-win-win-win-win thing.”
“It’s empowering to everyone who participates, because we’re helping each other,” she said. “I’m a little creature factory. [Customers] are helping, and they’re getting a sweet little creature.”
Joe Anthony, her husband, slices and sands the cedar slabs for Arbo’s art. He also established the home base for the animals on eBay.
“My husband is the techie,” Arbo said. “Joe set it up for me, and that was that.”
The couple chose eBay because it offered the option of sending all proceeds to a specific nonprofit cause.
“I get no money from these,” Arbo said “One hundred percent of the profits goes to Doctors Without Borders.”
The largest animal Arbo has captured in the cedar series so far is a fawn, but in general, she’s thinking small.
“I’m such a detail freak that I concentrate on the small creatures,” Arbo said with a chuckle. “Chipmunks, amphibians, butterflies, birds and little tiny mammals.”
Each leaves her studio on a mission. To learn more about Arbo’s fundraiser, visit www.crisarbo.com.