Over the years, there have been a range of artistic, personal and conservation influences that have greatly inspired me.
From an artistic perspective, I can level it down to three key artists, Francisco Goya, Francis Bacon and Ray Harris Ching. Goya was essentially a visual journalist, chronicling and commenting on his era, but instead of using a camera, he was drawing and painting. His unique expression, use of colour and the power of his images struck me immediately. Francis Bacon and his work also had a great impact on me. The fact that I was able to meet him in my early twenties and go to his studio in London a couple of times to watch him paint was a huge influence. Although it was a relatively brief period, I definitely fed off the ways he would tackle a painting and some of the imagery or brush strokes he would use. Ray Harris Ching is another brilliant artist whose work has also greatly inspired me. You may not be able to put Goya, Bacon and Ching together in the same category, but the energy and power that emanates from each of their work is the same. It is this energy and power that I strive to embody in my own work.
From a personal perspective, you can look back on your life and if you’re really fortunate, you can identify two or three people who’ve had a great influence on you. Although my Dad and I often did not see eye to eye, he had a significant positive impact on me. He was also an artist, a brilliant copper plate engraver who taught me his skills. I hated doing it at the time, giving up my holidays to work with him, but the fine work that is achieved with engraving is phenomenal and taught me a discipline that is an essential element as an artist. Even now, when I doodle I find myself preoccupied with drawing elaborate copper plate designs – flowing forms and entwined characters. This characteristic can be seen in some of the brush strokes I employ in my paintings. I still have my Dad’s engraving plates and tools in my own studio and I continue to use them. I have a strong connection with them and they have definitely influenced where I am today. My mother was also artistic and loved drawing as a child. Her enthusiasm and commendation was always well received and encouraging for me.
As a young artist, I worked for Lawrence Graff in his first jewellery salon in Knightsbridge, London where we were surrounded by the most magnificent pieces of jewellery. We were not only exposed to the finest and exotic gemstones – diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires, but also to the ways in which the artisans put the jewellery together. They were artisans of a very high calibre. Graff himself, is a collector of art and had exquisite examples of jade sculpture and objet d’arts displayed in cabinets that surrounded us everyday. Although it was a short experience, this time was memorable and influential.
From a wildlife and conservation perspective, there have been a number of influences starting from when I was much younger. I have strong recollections of growing up in a rambling, old, colonial farm house set in the middle of the bush. Animals would regularly come into our garden to eat our vegetables and occasionally my Dad would go out to protect the family from some dangerous creature, armed with just a dustbin lid as a shield and broomsticks. Forget about a National Park ranger, he’d go and do it himself. Of course we would always have a menagerie of wild and domestic animals to look after as well. We lived a short distance from the great Matobo and Hwange National Parks and these too became a play ground for me and my brother. Later on in my life, my family and I were very involved in Chipangali, a wildlife orphanage situated just outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Animals that were rehabilitated there were not confined to small cages, but were given space and individual attention. I would go there regularly to study or photograph and gain specific information on the anatomy and characteristics of various animals. It was a beautiful source of inspiration, information and education for me, right on my doorstep.
My parents, my wife Ann and my three sons have always given me the freedom and support to pursue my art career. All these influences together – artistic, personal and conservation, have worked together to create the artist that I am today.