British artist Tom Shepherd shares a captivating portfolio of light-filled watercolors based on his love of wildlife. See more by visiting his website.
As a child my two greatest loves were art and wildlife. As an adult, things haven’t really changed much!
After finishing a geography degree in 2006, I came to a crossroads. My choices were either some sort of role in conservation, or the even scarier idea of becoming an artist (I had absolutely no formal training or any idea how to even start.) Yes, I chose to be an artist, and sixteen years on, I am so glad I did.
I began by creating hand painted artwork on musical instruments, plus any design or illustration work that came my way. After a few years I realised I was creating the sort of artwork that I thought I should be creating, rather than what I wanted to create.
Shortly after, I transitioned to more traditional mediums. This is when things really opened up for me.
I am fascinated by the technical side of painting and am often quite geeky about gaining knowledge. This is always in balance with the excitement, oftentimes frustration, and ultimately pure joy found in exploring the unknown creative side of art. For me, where these elements collide is what really fires me up. This is where I am happiest, in pursuit of that elusive something that is always just out of reach.
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Strangely, it took many years for my first loves of wildlife and art to meet. Once they did—wow—that’s when I felt I was closer than ever to finding what it was I really wanted to achieve with my art and closer to finding my artistic voice.
Whilst wildlife and birds are probably what I am best known for, I do truly love to paint a broad range of subjects. Light, atmosphere and colour are what I am hugely drawn to.
After starting with oils and acrylics, it was an injury that forced me into the wild and often out of control rollercoaster that is watercolour. I liken it to trying to contain a wild beast just long enough to get some sort of sense down on the paper, which is exhilarating!
It’s funny how things can come full circle. I am now hugely grateful to be able to use my art to raise funds for, and spread awareness of, conservation issues that are very important to me. Combining my art with conservation has become a vital part of who I am.
One of my other joys is teaching. I do this in person through workshops, demos and painting holidays, as well as online in various forms.
I feel that all I have learned so far is not mine to hold onto. Teaching is a way to pay forward everything I am grateful for. To be able to help and inspire others to pursue their own artistic journey is incredibly rewarding.
I owe so much in my life to the simple act of picking up a brush and some pigment.
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