Visual Art’s Ode to Nature

The late wildlife artist David Shepherd set up the UK-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) in 1984 to conserve the animals that helped him become a successful artist. The conservation charity works across Africa and Asia to end wildlife crime, and to protect endangered species in their natural habitat.

In 2008, the DSWF founded its annual Wildlife Artist of the Year competition to raise funds and awareness for wildlife conservation. This year, 850 artists from 55 countries entered the competition (in association with BBC Wildlife), and now the winners have been announced. Here we feature some of the short-listed and winning artworks.

All 187 short-listed Wildlife Artist of the Year 2022 artworks are available for purchase on the DSWF website, with 50 percent of the profits going directly to the foundation. The People’s Choice award is yet to be awarded, and anyone can vote on the DSWF website until Sept. 30. To find out more, visit DavidShepherd.org

Kenyan-born artist Gordon Pembridge knows the wild African bush well. He lived in Kenya until he was 10 years old, experiencing the country’s rich wildlife firsthand. Although now based in New Zealand, Pembridge often visits the African bush for artistic inspiration and adventures. In his painting titled “Dappled Respite,” a confusion of guinea fowl shelter in the dappled shade of some dry branches that cast long shadows on the parched savanna. Pembridge has deftly rendered all the different details: the dry grass, the dancing sunlight, and the birds’ dotty feathers and alert wrinkled heads that look and listen for any predators. David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2022 competition runner-up: “Dappled Respite” by Gordon Pembridge (New Zealand). Oil painting; 35 3/8 inches by 22 1/2 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
A cast of crabs crammed together fills the picture frame in pet and wildlife artist Jacqueline Bright’s striking pastel artwork titled “A Cast of Crabs.” In the top right of the painting, the cream-blue underbelly of one crab first draws us into the painting. Then our eyes are drawn down its leg along the right side of the painting and further into the writhing action of these hard-shelled, shiny creatures. Bright believes that crabs are often overlooked, but she sees them as beautiful and incredible creatures. Winner in the Into the Blue category: “A Cast of Crabs” by Jacqueline Bright (UK). Pastel drawing; 11 3/4 inches by 11 3/4 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
In “The Sentry” by artist Garth Swift, a lioness on a granite outcrop keeps watch while the rest of the pride shelters under a gnarly tree, away from the intense midday sun. A rare hot wind breaks the still air, and the warning trill of the go-away-bird sounds out across the land, Swift said in his artist’s statement. Swift’s pale palette captures the African heat well. And having grown up in Zimbawe, he’d be familiar with the lay of the land and the bird’s eerie alarm warning all other animals on the savanna of the pride’s presence. Short-listed finalist in the Animal Behavior category: “The Sentry” by Garth Swift (South Africa). Oil painting; 39 3/8 inches by 48 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
We’ve just disturbed a red squirrel. In wildlife and pet portrait artist Clare Parkes’s pastel drawing “Little Red,” she’s captured the squirrel on its hind legs, peering out of the drawing at us in surprise, as it gently clasps its paws as if to conceal a foraged treasure. Parkes fondly recalls seeing red squirrels in Norway when visiting her father. In all her animal art, she loves defining the animals’ unique details and personalities. Parkes discovered this love for realism while working as a wax figure painter at Madame Tussauds, where she’s worked for the past 14 years. Short-listed finalist in the Facing Extinction category: “Little Red” by Clare Parkes (UK). Pastel drawing; 13 3/8 inches by 18 7/8 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
“Graceful” wouldn’t be a word normally associated with a rhino, but award-winning wildlife artist Neal Griffin has managed to paint one. In Griffin’s “One Horned Rhino” painting, a rhino slowly wades through shallow water. Sunlight showers down on the animal’s tough skin, illuminating a patchwork of pretty textures. We can almost hear the moving water, and the bird and insect chatter beyond the scene shown. Griffin derived the composition from a friend’s photograph he’d taken on a trip to India. The painting shows what Griffin excels at: capturing the essence of a subject through light, form, and movement. Short-listed finalist in the Facing Extinction category: “One Horned Rhino” by Neal Griffin (UK). Oil painting; 29 7/8 inches by 20 1/8 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Wildlife artist Alex Fleming stays true to nature in his art. He’s so fascinated by nature’s beauty that he finds no need to embellish it with imagined art. Fleming’s pastel and pencil drawing “Home” (inspired by wildlife photographer Rick Beldegreen’s image “Polar Bear and Ice Fog”) shows the powerful polar bear amid a vast snowscape that extends like billowing clouds for miles behind it. The polar bear seems aware that it’s being watched, but unaware of its near extinction. Highly commended in the Earth’s Wild Beauty category:” “Home” by Alex Fleming (UK). Pastel and colored pencil drawing; 35 3/8 inches by 23 5/8 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Korean-born artist Yun Gee Bradley is in awe of wild animals, from their colors to the details of their eyes and coats. “It reminds me that there is a touch of God in everything,” she said in her artist’s statement. Bradley’s artwork (of a tiger) is titled “Patience,” which is also the virtue she applies to making each of her pieces. For centuries, Korean artists have used “hanji” (Korean mulberry paper) for weaving, felting, and cording, but Bradley uses the paper for a new technique. She uses tweezers to pull fibers from the hanji, which she then glues fiber by fiber onto her work to create detailed tactile compositions that appear as sculptural reliefs. Short-listed finalist in the Earth’s Wild Beauty category: “Patience” by Yun Gee Bradley (U.S.). Mulberry bark and paper; 11 3/4 inches by 16 1/8 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Short-listed finalist in the Animal Behavior category: “King of the Serengeti” by Nick Day (UK). Colored pencil drawing; 11 3/4 inches by 15 3/4 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Short-listed finalist in the Wings category: “Egrets, I’ve Had a Few” by Kathryn Hansen (U.S.). Pencil drawing; 7 7/8 inches by 5 1/8 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Short-listed finalist in the Animal Behavior category: “Ring-Tailed Lemur” by Alex Fleming (UK). Pastel and colored pencil drawing; 17 3/4 inches by 11 3/4 inches. (Courtesy of DSWF)