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There was no Aha moment. It was simply a gradual realisation that there is a lot wrong and there’s a lot for so few to do. My first forays into the African Bush were in my tender years when I lived in the Free State, South Africa. A few cursory visits to some Game Reserves but many more visits to the beaches of the Southern African coastline. I was privileged to spend many happy hours exploring the beaches and bush in the then Transkei, which is now our Wild Coast. A time when children could run free and explore from dawn to dusk without a worry of whether you would be seen again.

Then life took over and for many years I paid a few cursory visits to some parks like the Kruger in the North East of South Africa. But, I was raising children, running a business and spending all my free time chasing the sun. In between all this I managed to get deeply involved in craft related activities which led to the realisation that I could comfortably and easily see in 3D and I indulged in a part time occupation of a sculptor, working in wood.

In the year 2000, on a whim I registered for a Bachelor in Visual Arts at UNISA (an open University). It was during this time that I “discovered” that I could “draw”. A lecturer in a crit session remarked, “so you can draw, so what!” Well, the “so what” was quite a big deal to me and the remark left me somewhat perplexed, but by the time I had completed my 4 year Honours Degree I knew why.

I dabbled in portraiture and drawing animals and found that despite having much experience in other mediums that I found charcoal the most evocative medium. I often still sit in front of my work and admire the seductive, velvet tones of charcoal on white paper.

Life took over and diverted me, but then around 2009 I had my first up close experience (with an elephant) in the African bush in the North Eastern Corner of KwaZulu-Natal. It had a remarkable effect on me and armed, at that stage with a very basic camera I spent hours and hours exploring and absorbing an experience that was to shape my life.

Like peeling an onion, layer by layer, the magic of the African landscape revealed itself to me and I could never get enough. A visit to Botswana was the event that really opened my eyes. I immediately noticed that the animals there behaved quite differently from those in the Reserves I had been visiting. There was more tension in the air and an alertness that I had not seen before. Many a discussion ensued with the Rangers who were my first teachers and it emerged that animals in unfenced reserves lived very differently. Thereafter years ensued of dashing around from Botswana to Kenya, to Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia. I preferred the areas where the animals were freer where the excitement of being in the open bush presented many more wonderful experiences.

Along with this chasing after the light came the realisation that the animals of Africa (and the world) are in dire straits. They are hunted, poached and encroached upon and as such extinction is an imminent threat. I made the decision that I needed to add my voice to those who are already out there shouting from the rooftops. I decided that my images should try to make the viewer aware of the dangers lurking while being as beautiful as possible so as to attract attention.

Once I had settled into the kind of image I was comfortable with I decided that I should join the Artist’s Conservation Community. I entered the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year and was very fortunate to have my work exhibited at the Mall Galleries in London where my Rüppels Griffon vulture got a special mention and was the first art piece to sell on opening night. I followed that up with an entry into The Golden Turtle Awards in Moscow where my African Wild Dog won the competition. This set the course for me. Now I work as much as I can trying to help where I can. I have inevitably become involved in many charity events. A piece I did of a Rhino went to raise funds for Borana Conservancy in Kenya, at an auction in London. This has been followed by many other opportunities, the latest of which is my 100 Prints for Nathan fundraiser that helped to bring some ex-circus lions from Ukraine to South Africa and another 100 Prints for the Desert Elephants of Namibia where a joint effort raised much needed funds to protect water installations on the Ugab River.

I spend most of my days creating new pieces and looking for opportunities to help the animals I have become so sentimental about. There is an urgency in what I do, and I hope that in the future I will be responsible for many more fundraisers through my work. I work almost exclusively from my own photographs and as such each image has a special story attached to it. It is the moments that I capture in the African bush that I hope translates into impactful and evocative images that evoke in the viewer the same desire I feel, to be aware of our natural heritage, wherever it is, and to do something constructive about saving and preserving habitats so that the myriad of earth’s creatures can continue to share the a space with us.

In between fundraising efforts I create bespoke pieces of art for fellow animal lovers from around the world. My work hangs in homes in the USA, Australia, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Namibia, South Africa and many other destinations. Anyone who is interested in having something done specifically for their home, office or corporate space is welcome to contact me where I can discuss your requirements.

I leave you with the following, a Prophecy from the Cree nation (an American Indian Tribe)

When all the trees have been cut down,

when all the animals have been hunted,

when all the waters are polluted,

when all the air is unsafe to breathe,

only then will you discover you cannot eat money.


THE FORMAL STUFF

Education and Training

Bachelor of Visual Arts (hons) - (2004), UNISA


Techniques Used

Graphic skills on various substrates to produce work that can be seen as realistic without being super-realistic

A specialist in wildlife as a subject, I take my own photographs to use as reference.

Awards

2014 Highly Commended David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year

2015 Highly Commended David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2015

Golden Turtle 9 - Winner Graphics 2015 Golden Turtle 9 -

Runner up Graphics 2015 Golden Turtle 9 - 3rd Graphics


Exhibitions

1998-2003 Quarterly group exhibitions held at The Johannes Stegmann Theatre, Secunda, South Africa 2001 Sasol SecundaArt Exhibition, Gracelands Secunda, South Africa

2002 Earth Summit - World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa.

2004 Group Exhibition Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa

2005 Group Exhibition, Polokwane Art Museum, Polokwane, South Africa

Group Exhibition, Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Group Exhibition, KZNSA, Durban, South Africa

2014 Group Exhibition, London Mall Galleries, London, UK - David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year

2015 Group Exhibition, Moscow Museum, Moscow Russia, Golden Turtle 9 Art Exhibition Group Exhibition, St Petersburg, Russia, Golden Turtle 9 Art Exhibition

Group Exhibition, London Mall Galleries, London, UK - David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Robert Badenhorst Art Gallery, Clarens, South Africa.

2016 Solo Exhibition, Imbizo Art Gallery, Ballito, South Africa

Decorex 2016 Johannesburg - Solo Exhibitor

Cites CoP17 Conference, Sandton, South Africa

Group Exhibition - Kuns Uniek, Pretoria, South Africa

2017 Art in the Park, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Group Exhibition, Imbizo Gallery Hoedspruit.

Decorex 2017, Johannesburg

Hilton Arts Festival, Hilton, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Group Exhibition, Kuns Uniek, Pretoria, South Africa.

2018 Kayamoja Exhibition Windhoek, Namibia Kayamoja Exhibition Swakopmund, Nambia

2019 Solo Exhibition Fine Art Gallery, Swakopmund


Galleries

Fine Art Gallery, Swakopmund, Namibia.

Zulu Lulu, Howick, South Africa

The Showroom Art Gallery, Pretoria

Fillingdon Fine Art, UK


Art Competition Judge

Golden Turtle Art Festival 17, Moscow, Russia.


Charity Donations

2015 David Shepherd Wildlife Art Foundation UK

2016 David Shepherd Wildlife Art Foundation UK

2017 Borana Art Conservancy, London, UK

Kayamoja Trust, Windhoek, Namibia

David Shepherd Wildlife Art Foundation UK

2018 Lawrence Anthony Foundation Ukraine Lion Translocation

2020  Fundraiser for EHRA, Namibia for the Desert Elephants of Damarland