Like many natural artists, I have spent most of my life from a very early age drawing for my own amusement and that of friends and family. Having been steered away from a longing for a career in commercial art by an art teacher who felt it was a "man's world" I gave up any ideas of art as a living and trained as a senior secretary which enriched my life in lots of ways with secretarial roles in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London and Peru and the Rugby League Headquarters in Leeds to name but two! This training and experience was later to prove invaluable in my ability to organize and administer exhibitions.
Exhibiting my own work was a new step when I moved with partner Mike and daughter Alex to Sheffield and joined an art class to make new friends and learn how to paint rather than just using pencils – the biggest discovery being pastels which I'd never used before and took to immediately. Through exhibiting my work at shows, fairs and exhibitions, commissions poured in and I was forced finally to give up my "day job" and have never been without commissions in hand for the past 10 years. Fellow artists and the general public appreciate my ability to achieve a true likeness of the subject in portraits and wildlife paintings, and then go one step further to breathe life into them…
My daughter, Alex, now works for CPAWS in Vancouver, so my passion for wildlife has certainly had a positive effect in more ways than one. Meeting fellow artist, Irene Nixon, also a wildlife painter had quite an effect on my working life as Irene came up with the idea of using an annual wildlife exhibition to raise funds for worthwhile charities and between us we have now raised over £20,000 for various wildlife charities including the late and much-missed David Shepherd Foundation. This was a great thrill for both artists as we had both been admirers of David's dedication to conservation and love of painting for many years. Another great supporter of our wildlife exhibitions was the wonderful Pollyanna Pickering and her daughter who is carrying on Polkyanna's passion for conservation.
Spending much of the year travelling around the UK, I gave demonstrations to art groups on how to "paint" with pencils but have now moved to beautiful Shetland where I hope to have more time to devote to my painting and where I am surrounded by the most stunning scenery and wildlife on my doorstep. I have had to leave behind many of my former responsibilities which have been taken up by other willing volunteers in art events and fundraising events in and around Sheffield, but hope to raise awareness of some of the local concerns about wildlife in my new home.
I remain a Professional Associate of the Society of Amateur Artists and continue to support local wildlife charities.
With fellow artist Irene Nixon, for 8 years I administered Wild About Art, an annual exhibition with the main purpose of encouraging art for all ages and raising awareness of, and funds for, conservation and endangered species.
Our tangible contribution is of between £15,000 and £20,000 raised for such wildlife charities as:
The Dian Fossey Foundation for Mountain Gorillas
Global Tiger Patrol
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
British Trust for Ornithology
The Marine Conservation Society, and
The David Shepherd Foundation.
The intangible contribution we have made is enabling such heroes as Sir David Shepherd and Pollyanna Pickering to inspire and educate young and old alike at exhibitions, lectures and informal meetings to make their own contribution to caring for the environment.
Wild About Art was supported by Sheffield City Council from March 2005 when a new venue had to be found and the awe-inspiring Winter Garden - a green oasis in the centre of the city - was made available to us.
Since my move to Shetland, I continue to support wildlife charities in the usual way by donations, offering paintings for auctions and by making donations from sales of my own work. Donations are regularly given to a local wildlife sanctuary, the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary who do great work in rescuing injured wildlife and, where possible, returning them to the wild. I also support local and national animal rescue centres and international wildlife and animal charities.