When I rediscovered my childhood love for drawing and painting, I began with horses and the human figure as my first subjects. The thought of painting wildlife didn’t even occur to me. My gran had been a very successful wildlife pastel artist in her lifetime, and I think my lifelong exposure to her work had made the subject of wildlife almost commonplace.
In 2006, during my fumbling first attempts to market my art, I met with a well-known gallery in Zimbabwe, my home country. I was told, unequivocally, that, to have any chance at being a commercially viable artist, I would need to make the foray into wildlife art. I pondered the interview, and my reticence, and realised that it wasn’t so much the subject matter that put me off, having always loved beauty, nature and animals, as it was the traditional take on wildlife in art. How could I do it differently? What would make it special and meaningful to me?
This enquiry led me to experiment with really close crops of the animals in an attempt to gain a level of intimacy with my subjects. It involved forgoing the detailed backgrounds and habitats and zoning in, instead, on the animal, it’s spirity, energy and power, which was always undeniable. And suddenly the miraculous happened, as it always does with art – I became obsessed! A whole new world seemed to have been opened up to me, a child of Africa who had grown up with wildlife and who was guilty of taking it for granted. My search led me to a new understanding and appreciation of the precarious position of our wildlife, who were here long before us puny humans.
Today I consider myself honoured to paint African wildlife, to capture those moments and sights that our children may never see outside captivity if we continue taking their lives and their habitat for our own gain. I feel a deep sense of poignancy every time I attempt to portray the grace, intelligence and instinct they exhibit – qualities that we, as a species, have all but lost. To me these animals are here to remind us of who we really are and my greatest wish, for me, for us all, for them, is that we remember.