The best sporting artists in the UK will be exhibiting next to the Country Life stand at the Field & Country Fair
The most talented sporting artists in Britain will be exhibiting this year next to the COUNTRY LIFE stand at the Field & Country Fair. From the incredible large-scale sculptures of Hamish Mackie to the startling realism of Roger McPhail, make sure you take a look at these extraordinary works, and meet the artists who create them.
Tania is known for her moving and monumental paintings of hounds and horses on huge square canvases. Brought up hunting in North Yorkshire, she was advised by a tutor at the City & Guilds, Kennington, where she did her MA, to stop painting hunting—but it turned out that he’d had his vegetable patch trampled by hounds.
Her inspirations are Stubbs—she describes seeing Scrub and Whistlejacket at an exhibition as a ‘lightbulb moment’—Munnings, Edwards and Aldin (her favourite, for his simplicity). Although she lives in London, Tania’s paintings all stem from kennel visits. She is a member of the Redspot group of artists and undertakes private commissions of horses and dogs. www.taniastill.co.uk
Dominique Salm (her work pictured above)
Dominique and Tania Still used to share a studio—Tania read the lesson at Dominique’s wedding two weeks ago—but while their individual styles are equally striking, they are very different. Her portraits, mainly of African species, brilliantly capture the animal’s personality, human side and comedy potential.
She has twice been shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year and in 2009 won the World Mammals Category of the BBC’s Wildlife Artist of the Year. In 2010, her contribution to the London Elephant Parade sold for £14,000 in aid of the charity Traffic, and she is in great demand with other conservation charities. She is a regular exhibitor both in London and America. www.dominiquesalm.co.uk
Hamish is one of Britain’s foremost sculptors, always dramatically capturing the essence and movement of the wild animals he studies. He has been sculpting for 20 years, his fluid, striking works mainly cast in bronze or silver and all individually numbered, signed and dated, and travels the world to find his subjects. His influences range from the ancient Egytians and the Renaissance through to Barye and Bugatti. ‘Observing animals in their own environment is essential to understanding the subject’s physical and instinctive traits. For example, the disposition of a captive predator is very different from that of a predator the wild,’ he says.
A recent major commission was six life- and quarter-sized horses running through the plaza of Berkeley Homes Goodman’s Field development in the City of London. He has a solo show at the Mall Galleries in London on October 10-22, ‘Life in Bronze’. www.hamishmackie.com
Rodger is one of the most admired sporting and wildlife painters in the world—he is considered the natural successor to Thorburn, although his early influence was the Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet—whose knowledge of the countryside and field sports is evident in his work.
Lancastrian born and trained at Coventry and Liverpool colleges, his first published work, as a teenager, was in Shooting Times. His second major break came at the age of 20, in 1973, when London gallery owner Aylmer Tryon asked him to exhibit some work. He is still with the gallery, now known as Rountree Tryon. Rodger is also a brilliant cartoonist and, perhaps less well known, a talented singer. www.rodgermcphail.com
Jonathan has spent a lifetime observing wildlife and is a master of catching those fleeting moments of beauty and atmosphere. ‘Rarely do we simply meditate on the beauty of the natural world into which we are mortally bound… I prod and probe and paint, hoping to reflect something of its complexity and beauty, looking for a glimpse of Eden,’ he says.
Warwickshire born, he has a background in theatre and graduated from Leeds University with a degree in fine art. He lives in Perthshire but exhibits all over Britain and is a member of the Redspot group of artists. He was elected a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists in the United States and a Signature Member of the Artists’ Foundation for Conservation. www.jonathansainsbury.com
Belinda, who was born in Suffolk and still has her studio there, has been drawing since the age of three. She is one of the world’s leading horse sculptors, her work reflecting her accomplishments as a horsewoman in the hunting and point-to-pointing fields. She has sculpted many prestigious trophies, for the Breeders Cup and Hickstead as well as Bramham and Chatsworth horse trials.
She also sculpts hounds, hares, bulls, chickens, rutting stags and dogs and is a regular exhibitor at rural and equestrian events. She is an expert in both the coloured patina and the traditional bronze patina. www.belindasillars.com
Debbie was born in Warwickshire but now lives in the New Forest with an assortment of horses and dogs. Her works vary from detailed paintings of dogs to large-scale monochrome horses and hounds—her favourite subject. She has donated paintings to the Countryside Alliance, Royal Agriculture University at Cirencester and Wye College Beagles and in 2005 was the official artist at Olympia, the London International Horse Show.
Debbie, who won the British Sporting Art Trust prize for the best painting by an artist aged under 20 in 2002, the Polo Quarterly International prize for the best polo exhibit in 2004 and the Banstead Manor Stud for the best sporting painting in 2005, undertakes commissions. www.debbieharris.co.uk
Keith Sykes’s charming canine portraits are meticulously etched onto scraperboard: a thin layer of hardened chalk coated with black ink, which is then scratched off a millimetre at a time to create highlights. A study can take upwards of 30 hours to complete (double that if the subject has a curly coat).
Another member of the Redspot artists’ group, the Lancashire-based artist, who has owned several gundogs and cites Peter Scott and Rodger McPhail (both fellow members of the Morecambe Wildfowlers) as his biggest influences, begins each commission by taking a series of photographs designed to ‘catch a dog’s typical facial expression’.
Although he can capture everything from hares to leaping wild boars, working dogs remain his bread and butter, with the former architectural draughtsman confessing he’s still touched by clients’ reaction to his work. Not long ago, he was asked to etch a flatcoat retriever that sadly died before its portrait was completed. ‘The lady who’d given me the commission came to my stand at the Game Fair, saw the picture and burst into tears,’ he remembers. ‘But for all the right reasons.’ www.kjsykes.com
Now based in Kent, Bill—who’s widely regarded as one of the country’s most gifted sculptors and talented wood carvers—has been working with animals since the age of 17 when he helped to look after dolphins at Windsor Safari Park.
He went on to work with creatures all over the world—from killer whales and sea lions to expeditions in Australia, Congo and Borneo, studying humpback whales in Hawaii and researching echo locations in dolphins in Scotland—before giving it all up 15 years ago to pursue a career in sculpture.
‘I aim to portray aspects of wildlife, sometimes as an accurate depiction of nature, but, at other times, capturing the essence of a particular animal’s behaviour or character, to sculpt a more stylised piece that draws on my own experiences,’ he explains.
Suffolk-based Ben became a professional artist in 1988 after a brief spell in insurance and is entirely self-taught. His vast canvasses reflect Ben’s great passion for— and close observation of—wildlife. Recently, his paintings have grown to encompass sweeping landscapes, as well as accurate and evocative portrayals of the creatures within the scenes.
‘There needs to be some ambiguity,’ he reasons. ‘When a woodcock flits silently across a ride in front of you, you don’t see every leaf, every twig. What is stored in the memory is a feeling, the atmosphere. If I can capture that, I’m happy.’
Ben prefers to paint in natural light, which slows down the process in winter, but is continually inspired by the locations that commissions require him to visit, as well as the shooting season itself.
A keen shot himself, standing on a peg or in a butt helps Ben to create epic sporting scenes, such as a pack of grouse hurtling towards the guns or a covey of wild grey partridge star-bursting over a Norfolk hedge. A founder member of the Redspot artists’ group, Ben has collaborated with other wildlife artists to produce the three books in the ‘Artists’ Impressions’ series, The Woodcock, The Grouse and Deer. www.benhoskyns.com