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Rob Glen & Sue Stolberger

Rob Glen & Sue Stolberger
2010

Sue Stolberger and Robert Glen are internationally renowned artists living their dream as the only residents of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. They specialize in depicting African wildlife, and are recognized as leading experts and advocates for the park and its inhabitants. Sue and Rob are committed conservationists and co-founders of the Ruaha Conservation Fund and the Idodi Environmental Center. 

Artists for Conservation is extremely proud to present Sue and Glen with the Simon Combes Conservation Award this year, recognizing them for their hands-on dedication to conservation and environmental education through their extraordinary artistic talent. 

As a painter with a distinctive style, Sue holds both solo and collaborative exhibitions around the world, including major city centres such as London, New York, and Johannesburg to name a few. In 2003, she published The Ruaha Sketch Book, depicting in 200 watercolour studies and numerous pencil sketches the seasonal variations of her home, the Ruaha National Park, one of Africa’s last remaining wildernesses. 

Sue always works exclusively in the field, with her studio set up on the banks of the Great Ruaha River in Ruaha National Park. She finds the peace and solitude of the remote area not only conducive to painting but the best way to learn about the vast array of wildlife that surrounds her home.

“My motivation is to direct the viewer’s attention to the fascinating design and beauty surrounding us in the natural world. The patterns and combinations of colours used in display and camouflage are all so perfect in their detail. I like to focus on a subject to highlight its design, which can be almost abstracted from its form and yet still be part of its environment.”

“In addition to the more design-orientated paintings, I also like to capture fleeting moments, for that is all they ever are: the constantly changing light, the seasons, and the mood. Although the overall effect may be different, my interest in composition and design always remains paramount.”

Known for his dynamic and monument-sized bronze sculpture creations, Rob’s work resides in many private collections including those of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the actor James Stewart. He has held many solo shows in the USA, Canada, England, Monte Carlo, Spain and South Africa. 

His public commissions include one of Texas’ proudest monuments and one of the largest equestrian sculptures made in history - the Mustangs of Las Colinas. This impressive work (one and a half times life-size) depicts nine Mustang horses galloping through water, and celebrates the arrival in North America of the Andalusian horse. The monument was commissioned for the City of Las Colinas, Irving, Texas, and may be seen in Williams Square.

“My interest in art and natural history began in my childhood in Kenya where I was born in 1940. I was fascinated with birds and all living things and spent many hours at the Museum of Natural History in Nairobi. I established a life’s friendship there with John Williams, the curator of ornithology at that time – my work was greatly influenced by him.”

At merely sixteen years of age, Rob was accepted to serve an apprenticeship in taxidermy at the renowned studio of Coloman Jonas in Denver, Colorado. It was then that his particular interest in sculpture was born. Returning home after three years of training, he began a transition from taxidermy to sculpting animals in the European tradition of animaliers, and after working in various media, he cast his first bronze in 1970. 

“I moved with Sue to Ruaha National Park in Tanzania in 1994. It is my true love of the African bush that has led me here. This is where I have sculpted and sketched for the past sixteen years, allowing me to be in close proximity to some of Africa’s most engaging wildlife. Here, Sue and I have the peace and tranquility to inspire each other’s work as well as fuel our passion for natural history, ecology, and conservation.”

Rob and Sue have also contributed substantially to our understanding of African ecology and conservation of its habitats. Shortly after arriving in Ruaha, Sue discovered a new species of hornbill (Tockus ruahae). Since then, Sue and Rob have also discovered a new species of Chat, which is currently being described for publication in scientific journals. In his early years, Rob also discovered several new species of bats.

After serving for a decade on the Friends of Ruaha Society committee, Sue decided to branch off and lead her own conservation projects in the buffer zones surrounding the Ruaha park. As a child, Sue would visit the various game parks of Tanzania with her parents during the holidays. These trips into the wilderness were without doubt a great influence on Sue’s desire to make a career from art and wildlife and fuelled her later passion for the conservation cause. 

“I was born in Jamaica in 1995 - we moved to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania when I was four years old. I began painting seriously after leaving school. At eighteen, I held my first show in Nairobi. Four years later at 22, I was steadfast on making a career as a wildlife artist. I packed my bags and moved to Italy to study the great masters.” 

Sue funded everything by selling her paintings. After two years, she finally returned to East Africa where her adventures in the bush - paint brushes in hand – began.

Since Sue and Glen’s arrival in the Ruaha National Park sixteen years ago, they have led efforts to protect and preserve the Ruaha River valley, and shared a dream of building an environmental center as a base for environmental education and support. Their dream became a reality with the opening of the Idodi Environmental Center in 2007. The solar-powered center has become an essential part of the Idodi community. Its library, film and lecture hall have become invaluable for the discovery process and growth of the 400 boarding-school children nearby. 

“This is really quite an honour and we were surprised we were chosen to receive the award and very flattered. The nice thing about it is that Sue and I both knew Simon very well. He was not only a good artist but a fantastic person. We thank AFC for their work, highlighting the vital role art plays in the conservation arena.”

Today, Sue and Glen still live and work out of their camp studios in Ruaha National Park. They are a remarkable story of two rare, dedicated and extremely talented individuals who inspire each other and those they meet through their work and their passion for nature and people.

 

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