Artists are inevitably drawn to subjects that they feel a deep connection towards - we draw what inspires and matters to us. Often those connections are formed over an entire lifetime’s worth of experiences, creating a profound bond between an artist and their art. I find this personal element of art to be hugely important, which is why I want to talk a little bit about why I draw animals, and the connection I have to the natural world.
I find it especially rewarding to have a deep and personal connection to something that mattered to the generations of my family that came before me. Knowing that my love of animals comes from somewhere familial and personal makes it that much more important. I have so many stories I could tell of how my Grandad cared for animals throughout his life, whether it was the pit ponies he trained, the Yorkshire terriers he raised with my Gran, or the countless different animals they always had around whenever I went to visit them in Wales.
As I grew up, this love of animals became an important part of my life too. My bedroom became something of a menagerie of found animals, hidden away from even my parents. I had gerbils, snails, and even stag beetles! Not that it always went to plan (if ever), the snails eventually staged a mass escape, leaving me with nothing but slime, and stag beetles are quite the fliers.
Of course, no lover of animals can help but pick out their favourites, and for me that has always been birds. One particular memory of birds in my childhood stand out - I found what I thought was an injured baby crow in the forest, and brought it home. We were then living in the basement of a pub, so not the best environment to raise a bird. Still we had it for a few weeks before being found out - turns out ravens look like baby crows, and when they grow, they are big and noisy!
Unfortunately, right now I don’t have the time to look after any birds of my own, but I do have a couple mice that I cherish (along with my two children of course). I used to have rats, and nothing is nicer than a freshly-bathed rat. Once a month I’d do a little spa day for them, complete with floral shampoo and a light blow dry, that leaves them looking adorably fluffy.
Animals hold a special place in my heart, and they’ve always brought me such joy. For me, this deepens my art and makes it something that I can take tremendous enjoyment from. Ultimately, it means that the art I create is a part of my personality and identity, connecting me not only to my own history, but also that of my family and the community they belonged to.