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Susan Jane Lees

AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for August, 2013

Susan's first love of nature may have been inspired at an early age by a magpie that used to frequently sit on her pram in the garden; she grew up wanting to work with animals. Her artistic side was encouraged more and after leaving school and starting work she was encouraged to attend college and studied Graphic Design (pre-computer era). But it was whilst she was at college that it became clear that for her, the reason to draw or paint was to capture her favourite subjects - animals. Self-taught; she has gone on to win awards and exhibit widely. 



Susan is currently working towards an exhibition of work to raise funds and awareness for the conservation research charity Elephants For Africa. The Trustees of the charity have requested for the exhibition to become the main fundraiser for the charity; this is hopefully to happen in September 2015. A venue has been found, but has yet to be confirmed and may possibly become more than just an exhibition of Susan’s work. 


Special Achievements:

  • 2012 – Selected Finalist for the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year.  Painted small gorilla sculpture (approx 2' high) 'Maximus', for auction to raise funds for conservation projects for Bristol Zoo Gardens. It reached the highest bid of evening and sold for$7,900.
  • 2011 - Painted one of 60 large gorilla sculptures (approx 5' high) 'Distinctly Different' (Dee Dee') for WOW! Gorillas art trail and auction to raise funds for conservation projects for Bristol Zoo Gardens and for the Bristol Children's Hospital. Dee Dee sold for $11,400 and total amount raised for the auction over $646,700.
  • 2011 - Elephants For Africa sold my donated original batik for $1000
  • 2011 - One month field trip for reference to Okavango Delta with the Elephants For Africa Trust. An elephant conservation research charity studying young bull elephants from when they leave the natal herd and integrate into adult breeding bull society.
  • 2011 - Selected Finalist for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition, Mall Galleries, London, UK
  • 2010 - Donated 10 limited Edition prints to the Elephants For Africa Trust
2007 - David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation 'Art for Survival' wildlife art auction, Christies, London, UK
  • 2005 - The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Art Exhibition, Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, Glos, UK
  • 2004 - David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation 'Art for Survival' wildlife art auction, Christies, London, UK
  • 2001 - Big Cats in Art Exhibition in support of Africat, Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, Glos, UK
  • 1996 - Drawing commissioned by Action Comores – Livingstone fruit bat conservation.
  • 1995 - Four man show raising funds for 'Cheetalert' Bristol, UK

"Conservation goes hand in hand with being a wildlife artist, and raising awareness and funds through artwork for conservation bodies, big or small, is a part of the force that drives me. 

I have two blogs – one for my work at the zoo and the other for my work as a wildlife artist. On both there are links to my Facebook albums that have examples of my work. www.zooillustrator.blogspot.com and www.susanjanelees.blogspot.com "

After her first trip to southern Africa in 1995 her focus of subject matter changed from UK native species to African and slowly the ethic of only painting what she has seen for herself became integral in her work. Also that same year her career changed when she was employed at Bristol Zoo Gardens as their sole Wildlife Illustrator, where she still works at present. Suddenly she was no longer painting 'cute and cuddlies' now she was painting any type of animal.... spiders, beetles, snakes, lizards, fish, birds and mammals. Her learning curve was steep and challenging, but rewarding. Her time at the zoo has also helped her understand the importance of the small and unglamorous species, as well as the big and iconic. Now on her travels she takes as much delight finding something small like an ant with golden hairs on its abdomen as she does seeing a leopard or elephant. 



Susan's trip to Africa in 1995 was a dream come true as it was unsurprisingly the only place she wanted to visit since childhood. She stayed with relatives in Swaziland and after visiting the game parks there, went on to the Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. A trip in 1999, with 12 other fellow artists in the company of Simon Combes, to Kenya was next.

 Assisting a fellow artist, who was tutoring art on a cruise ship, and then being the tutor herself enabled Susan to see many places in the world in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009 opening her mind to other countries, cultures, histories, landscapes and wildlife, but her heart for the moment stays firmly fixed on Africa.

A chance meeting in 2007 brought Susan into contact with an elephant conservation research charity working in Botswana and she now works closely with them raising funds and awareness for their work. Her planned exhibition will reflect her experiences and observations during a month long stay in the Okavango Delta, where the research camp was based at that time.   

Learn more about Susan

Previous Conservation Artists of the Month

(October, 2017)
(September, 2017)
(August, 2017)
(July, 2017)
(June, 2017)
(May, 2017)
(April, 2017)
(March, 2017)
(February, 2017)
(January, 2017)
(December, 2016)
(November, 2016)
(October, 2016)
(September, 2016)
(August, 2016)
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