Why am I a wildlife and portrait artist? Who are my influences and why did they influence me?

Now that I’m further down the track, I can count my influences in the hundreds of artists but there were a few who gave me that initial desire and I’ll list them below, with reasons. Being born and raised in Africa I relate very strongly to African artists or artists who’s main subject matter is African (be it people or wildlife). I’ve been around Africa, African animals and exotic travel all my life and this is clearly reflected in my art.

David Shepherd

The first artist to influence me was the great David Shepherd who is still very active at the age of 79. As master artists go, he’s up there at the top of the tree as evidenced by his work. Here’s one example. I’m sure he’s sick of this painting “Wise Old Elephant”. It propelled him into people’s loungerooms all over the world – we have a copy ourselves among many other prints of his.

David also painted other images that related strongly with me as a child. My father worked for the East African Railways and Harbours and David seemed particularly taken with Africa’s steam engines, something dear to my dad’s heart too. Here’s David’s painting “On Shed” and anyone who can evoke this kind of atmosphere in a painting is deserving of attention.

David runs the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and has literally raised millions in the name of conservation. Check out the website We as a family sponsor a baby elephant and also a cape hunting dog through this foundation and if you are in need of a good Christmas present for your kids or a friend, give it some thought.

David has galvanised many celebrities to add their names to his organisation, but unlike many other well meaning foundations, it doesn’t stop there. These celebrities not only ‘add their name’ but they actually work in the organisation, people like that great soccer player Gary Lineker and the great cricketer David Gower are integral cogs in the conservation machine that is David

One of David’s daughters, Mandy Shepherd, is also a superb artist, and his granddaughter, Emily Lamb, could be among the greatest of them all by the time she’s finished, she’s so talented.

Simon Combes

My next influence is a late great artist by the name of Simon Combes. Simon was a fabulous painter and writer. A print of the painting below “Protecting the Flanks” hangs in my studio

Simon could paint!  Check out some of his work 

He went all over the world painting the most endangered animals and raising awareness of their plight. I have a soft spot for artists who use their art to create a better world for their subjects and few did this as well as Simon. The world is a poorer place without him but also richer for having had him in the first place. He passed his ability on to his prodigiously talented son Guy who is also an artist whom I admire greatly. Here’s an example of his work

Check Guy’s work out here

Norman Hedges

Finally I will include my own father here. Whilst he may not have been a great wildlife artist in the rich vein of the previously mentioned luminaries, he was pretty decent at it, but more importantly he instilled in me a love of art, a love of Africa and a love of wildlife. He was a great man, able to turn his hand to anything. He flew planes, wrote a book, painted, played sport well, rose as high as he could in the East African Railways, fought in the war, was a great husband and also a father who, despite how busy he was, always had time for his kids. Here are a few examples of his art



There are many other artists who have influenced me over the years and I will continue this series at a later date.

Derby the Champion

I just had the privilege of doing a portrait of a champion Border Collie called Derby. He’s an absolutely gorgeous dog owned by a friend and it’s been a pleasure to work on this piece. It’s a scratchboard, coloured with inks, watercolours and acrylic paints and is 8″ x 10″

Trying a different frame

When you are an artist who sells his work, often your profit is eliminated by the costs of framing. Now, I don’t want to do framers out of a job because they have their own massive costs, and some of them are brilliant at what they do, and in most cases are the best people to advise on frame style, border size and mount colours etc. However, every now and then I simply can’t afford to frame something so it’s time to think outside the box. Firstly, if I’m selling a scratchboard I can ask the customer to frame it themselves. The boards are varnished and sturdy so they can be posted without much fear that they’ll be damaged. The customer knows their location best and can make decisions accordingly, and they can spend as much or as little as they like on framing, but if I want to display a piece prior to sale, I need it to be framed.

Generally I’ve been having frames made for me and I glue my board to the mount in a floating style which looks very nifty and doesn’t require glass which is a huge plus because of cost and visibility. Here’s an example of that.

Total cost for a frame like this could be about $20-50 depending on size and they seem very popular in shows and with my customers.

Now with my latest piece which is quite frivolous, I decided to make a frivolous frame. For four dollars I got a small cheap canvas and painted it with spray paint straight from the can, a bit of masking tape for the ‘Piet Mondrian’ lines and the ‘d’ rings and wire, total cost around six dollars. So I’m not recommending you to go cheap, but every now and then it’s worth thinking outside the box.

This is the frivolous piece with the finished ‘frame’ underneath, it’s an emu I came across travelling near Melbourne