Wildlife artist working with Zoos and Wildlife Parks.
I was born in 1958 and grew up in Hampshire. I went to Winchester College where I discovered a love of painting – mainly in oils with a palette knife very different to what I do today. I applied for Art School and after an enjoyable and successful Foundation year at the West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham, I went to Camberwell School of Art in London to start a BA in Fine Art.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out for me and I left during the first year and gave up all thought of life as an artist. I worked on a farm, in a green grocers, a garden centre and a variety of shops before securing a position in a small Design Studio called Hedgerow. We were involved with graphic design and even some product design for the Body Shop when the business was in its very early days. During this time I used to earn extra money drawing people’s houses. My next “career move” took me into sales for a giftware company, John Hine Ltd who produced David Winter miniature cottages. I also designed a series of three dimensional pictures with scenes of British countryside and wildlife (Country Rambles). In my late thirties whist working in a Primary School (teaching Art and PE) I decided to have another go at the “art thing”. I had a very simple idea – I like drawing and I like zoos so I will draw animals in zoos for zoos. I thought that I could get it out of my system in maybe 6 to 12 months. 18 years later and I still haven’t managed to! (The business idea is still basically the same though).
In 1997 my family and I moved up to a village in North Wales near where my wife Lynne grew up. My studio, which is in the garden of my house, has views over the Clywedog Valley to Minera Mountain – beautiful in the summer, very windy in the winter! Over the years we have had many pets including cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, stick insects, hamsters, ducks, ferrets and a rescue pig called Polly. We currently host a cat, a dog and half a dozen chickens.
I produce prints, greetings cards, fridge magnets and key rings from my own original pencil drawings of animals I see in the Zoos and Wildlife Parks I visit. I work in pencil so that I can concentrate entirely on the animal and its character. I use a range of Derwent pencils from 2H up to a black 9B and draw on Fabriano art paper. I work in my studio from the hundreds of photographs I take while on visits to zoos. I plan new ideas whilst I’m photographing an animal trying to capture a pose and expression that will give the impression I want. Occasionally these ideas are easy to get down on paper but more often a series of drawings will need to be made before I get to a result I am happy with. I am probably my own worst critic!! A drawing may be on my drawing board for a long time because I tend to work in short bursts. Since I design, market, print, produce, finish and dispatch all my products I sometimes struggle to fit in sufficient drawing time!
I currently supply zoos including Edinburgh Zoo, Blackpool Zoo, Chester Zoo, Flamingo Land, South Lakes Safari Zoo, Longleat Safari Park, West Midlands Safari Park, Marwell Zoo, Knowsley Safari Park, Highland Wildlife Park, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Colchester Zoo, New Forest Wildlife Park, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Five Sisters Zoo and also Dublin Zoo. In 2014 I supplied Zoo Aquarium de Madrid. Hopefully I will get more opportunities to work with European Zoos in the future. There are also a small number of high street galleries that stock my prints including the Framemakers Galleries in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire and Wold Galleries in the Cotswolds.
I try to give something back by supporting a variety of charities, both national and local, by donating my work for fundraising. I have been involved with fund raising for organizations working in the wild with Asian Elephants, Orang utans, Rhinos (Black and White), Gorillas, Sumatran Tigers, Lemurs and many more. Recently I have supported two local charities Nightingale House Hospice, Wrexham and Coedpoeth Memorial Park.
Away from the studio I enjoy walking particularly if the route involves any historical features. I love to wander around an Iron Age hill fort or imagine how scattered stones and foundations were once a medieval castle. I enjoy watching most sports (too old to play now!!) and I always look forward to my annual trip to watch Wales play 6 Nations rugby either at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff or Murrayfield, Edinburgh. In the summer I always plan to be in the studio during the cricket test matches. There is nothing better than working on a new drawing listening to Test Match Special on the radio with the sun shining in through an open door. I am involved in many local community projects and I am currently vice chair of Coedpoeth Community Council. I have an extensive and varied music collection covering rock, pop, folk, blues and some classical. I also love the sound of the bag pipes – particularly when driving in Scotland! I have never managed to play a musical instrument successfully but at the moment I am trying to learn to strum a ukulele!
One of the perks of my work is having the opportunity to regularly visit Zoos and sometimes to get to go behind the scenes. (Ever since I was about 2 years old the day out at the zoo has been my favourite past-time – funny how things work out.) I have had plenty of exciting animal encounters over the years; for example spending a morning in an enclosure with 2 baby bonobos (relatives of chimpanzees), checking the depth of a fully grown male lion’s mane, walking with elephants on many occasions (both African and Asian), feeding lemurs and giraffes. Every year I look to develop and increase my portfolio of currently about 80 drawings in print. Maybe one day I will even have another try at painting in oils. Working on my own with assistance from my family, the team at Fineline Print, Ruthin and of course Milo, my extremely helpful cat, in a studio with views over beautiful welsh countryside I realize how fortunate I am to be doing this job.