Wildlife Artist of the Year
Welcome to our Finalists’ gallery for Wildlife Artist of the Year 2023. Our judges whittled over 1,400 pieces down to 157 for final exhibition, below are the shortlisted artworks and winners.
Please show your support for your favourite artist and artwork by voting in the DSWF People’s Choice Award below.
To Amber Tyldesley, the okapi is one of the most fascinating and beautiful animals on the planet. Threatened by illegal hunting and logging, it is thought that their population has halved over the last 20 years. In Amber’s sensitive painting she aims to capture the refined beauty and gentle nature of this elusive and endangered species.
Amber Tyldesley’s high-impact pieces celebrate the beauty of the natural world in striking detail. Working in acrylics, Amber builds her pieces in a series of layers to create a lively sense of depth, detail and luminosity. The interplay of light and colour play a key part in bringing a sense of life and individuality to every one of her subjects. Often incorporating high gloss resin, this allows Amber to achieve a heightened contrast and distinctive, contemporary finish to her work. Amber’s originals feature in private collections across the UK and internationally, including Europe, Canada, Australia and the USA.
Justin Mark’s carefully observed drawing ‘Coming of Age’ shows two young lions grown in confidence, body size, and overall maturity. His sensitively drawn piece portrays two lion brothers, quickly approaching the age in life where they will be exiled from their family pride to fend for themselves, in one of nature’s most pivotal ‘coming of age’ moments.
Justin Mark has always had an interest in wildlife, particularly African wildlife. In 2019 he travelled to Zambia in the hope of seeing lions in the wild, and South Luangwa National Park did not disappoint, providing him with many close encounters with his favourite species. He has explored a variety of mediums, however he feels most at home with graphite pencils, which allow him to capture the smallest details with the aim of portraying accurate to life depictions of his subjects. Justin has met his favourite and renowned wildlife artist, Robert Bateman, on two occasions and in his teenage years, Justin was selected as a winner in a National Robert Bateman Art Contest directed specifically at youth. More recently, he was selected as a finalist in the 2022 DSWF WAY competition and feels honoured to be selected once again in 2023. Justin will be travelling to Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park and the Maasai Mara for more inspiration this October.
Joey Kennedy’s dynamic composition in watercolour, coloured pencil and India ink demonstrates a insightful close-up of the life of a seagull as viewed through the lens of an eye.
Joey Kennedy is a young artist from Seattle, Washington USA where much of his time is spent outside watching and photographing birds. Joey works in many mediums including watercolour, textiles and pencils. Joey’s inspiration comes from observing the common birds around him, acknowledging and appreciating their behaviour.
Anisha’s watercolour painting aims to record the glorious lives of wild tigers as they would look in man’s faded and distant memory. Anisha prays that a time when wild tigers no longer exist will never come.
Anisha Heble celebrates the natural world through her art. She endeavours to capture the infinite beauty and energy of wildlife that is so fragile in today’s world. Anisha loves the fluidity and spontaneity of watercolou, along with the mastery required to control this medium to capture the undefined beauty of nature. After spending over 20 years in advertising and design, Anisha now dedicates herself entirely to her passions of wildlife and painting, and donates part of her earnings through art towards conservation and animal care. Anisha lives and works in Dubai.
Ze Ze Lai’s evocative sepia-toned watercolour painting illustrates how the Yellow River captivates man with stunning displays of nature’s magnificence. In her painting Ze Ze acknowledges how the river plays a crucial role in sustaining the wildlife that inhabits the surrounding area and provides essential sustenance and habitat for a wealth of wildlife including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, offering shelter from predators and becoming a sanctuary for endangered species.
Ze Ze Lai is an acclaimed watercolour artist from Hong Kong. She draws inspiration from nature, and her expertise is in painting animals and birds. Ze Ze adopts an impressive range of styles in her art practice. From painting soft and dream-like scenes of small birds in the forests, to her use bold dynamic strokes and granulating textures, she takes her viewers on a journey of imagining the peculiar lives and small moments of the little animals in nature. Ze Ze has received numerous awards for her paintings, her works have been widely exhibited around the world.
Cy Baker was named Overall Winner of Wildlife Artist of the Year 2022. With the prize money he travelled to Uganda to experience the wonderful work of the Uganda Conservation Foundation. Whilst there he went out early one morning with one of the rangers, Jimmy, for a day tracking a group of lions as they hunted. Cy’s wish with this drawing is to capture the way the pride of lions interact with each other and the way their prey interact with them.
Cy Baker lives in a time where most of the world is finally waking up to the environmental crisis mankind brought into being. He considers his job as an artist is to spread the message of how valuable, beautiful and fragile our planet is. He feels his part in this is to try to capture and communicate some of the raw, spiritual emotion felt when interacting with nature. Cy comments that he cannot capture the way these moments touch one’s soul in words, photographs or music, so he does so in the only way he knows, through his artwork.
Stephanie Cunningham’s elegant sculpture was created response to the artist’s despair at witnessing these majestic and super skilful birds floundering and dying on Cornish beaches from Avian flu last summer. It is Stephanie’s hope that this piece can represent the spirit of so many of our beautiful sea birds who have suffered and continue to do so.
Stephanie Cunningham’s work is rooted in the natural world and is an expression of her deep love and respect for all animals and birds. The ceramic forms she creates are stylised to emphasise power, elegance and grace. Stephanie has a love of wild places, especially Scotland where she grew up, and of West Cornwall where she now lives and works, walking the coast paths and woodlands observing the wildlife she finds. Stephanie is self-taught, having previously worked in theatre. It was on moving to Cornwall in 1998 that she discovered a love of working in clay.
A hunter, a mother, and a fearless protector. The lioness prowls, stealthy and graceful, amidst the shadows toward her prey. This was the inspiration for Gale More O’Ferrall’s sensitively rendered painting. Gale recalls that, as a Zimbabwean, she has spent time in close proximity with these wildcats and on becoming a mother herself grew a deep admiration for the maternal behaviour of the lioness.
Gale More-O’Ferrall is a full time professional representational artist who works mainly in oils and acrylics. Growing up in Zimbabwe, Gale went on to study fine arts at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Gale’s work is eclectically rich in subject matter and reflects her sincere appreciation of the people and places that have formed her life’s journey so far. She has been teaching internationally for 25 years and in 2011 moved to Vancouver where she has made her mark on the north American art scene.
To express the fight for survival, Nicolas Planson’s painting aspires to expose the tragic outburst of the elements which is a consequence of our dreadful anthropocene. He wonders if the great kudu, as well as so many other beautiful but forgotten creatures, will manage to save themselves from the burning smoke of our world on fire?
Nicolas Planson is a self taught French artist who lives in Britain. His work is inspired by his belief that mankind is an integral part of nature and he is convinced that if we were to turn our back on the natural world this would have disastrous consequences. Conscious of the ecological debt that us humans owe, Nicolas has used his art platform for artivist engagement, hoping to stimulate a response to respect and protect the animal world we live in. His dynamic work elevates his subjects, highlighting their magnificence as well as their weakness, and it is his hope that by doing so mankind will start to reverse the anthropocene.
This beautiful Mexican Wolf is the most endangered subspecies in the world. In his hyper-realistic monochrome drawing Alex Fleming was captivated by such a glorious image from which to work, and his challenge was in rendering the dissipated light, and the sleek fur of the wolf.
Alex Fleming creates realistic art because he enjoys the challenge of it, and finds it very fulfilling to succeed in doing a subject justice as it stands. Alex might alter the odd thing in an artistic rendition, but it is always subtle, and rare. The real, natural world is immensely interesting to him already, so he leaves imagined alternatives to those more appreciative of them. Nature covers a gamut of size, colour, personality and beauty which Alex feels should be worthy of anyone’s attention. It is also constantly changing, largely for the worse, so he choses to donate a portion of all of his wildlife sales to animal charities.
This sculpture by Christy Symington is two-sided, to be viewed in the round and from both sides, with the scrolls hanging supported between two light wood lengths. With this piece Christy wanted to symbolise the corridors of land that link fragmented pockets of tiger populations and their prey so they can breed and feed across the Himalayan countries, between reserves in India, and in other tiger countries in the fight against extinction.
Sculptor Christy Symington lives in London. Across the body of her work she responds to imbalances – historical under-representation, socio-cultural/socio-political disparities and human versus nature tensions. Christy studied in Paris, New York Studio School with exchange to the Slade, has an MA from UAL London and a PGCE degree. Her sculptures are in Permanent Collections of UK Parliament, Royal Museums Greenwich and the International Slavery Museum. She is a Member of the Royal Society of Sculptors. Solo exhibitions include Stephen Lawrence Centre Gallery London, ‘Avril/Symington’ Marist College, NY, Angel Orensanz Foundation NYC and over a hundred group exhibitions – Royal Scottish, Cambrian and West of England.
Nicola Gillyon observes that orangutan share roughly 97% of our DNA, yet are facing extinction through deforestation, excessive logging and mining by humans. In her insightful drawing ‘Evanescing’, Nicola wanted to highlight their disappearance by simply allowing the face to fade to nothing, emphasising her thoughts that this is all that will be left of the orangutan if mankind continue on this path.
Nicola Gillyon is a wildlife artist who works predominantly in pencils. This choice of medium allows Nicola to build up multiple layers of tiny details to achieve a realistic appearance with a more contemporary look. Having drawn since childhood and with a love of animals, Nicola resurrected her drawing skills a few years ago. With a desire to challenge herself with her drawings, Nicola is venturing into creating conservation work, recognising that her work can help to raise awareness and inform others of the plight the natural world is facing, something that she hopes will eventually become her full workload.
Inspiration for this painting by Paul Burgess came from the subtle beauty of nature in autumn and the atmospheres it creates. Paul observes how he loves the peaceful calm of this woodland and the mystery of its grey autumn veil, liking the idea that the trees were whispering to each other whilst dancing nature’s samba.
Paul Burgess is a contemporary landscape artist whose unique semi-abstract style has become hugely popular with art lovers and collectors worldwide. The main inspiration for his work comes from the Wye Valley and surrounding area where he has lived and worked for most of his life. There is also a deeply personal aspect to his paintings which explores his interest in how all things in the natural world are inextricably connected.
Inspired by her entanglement and connection with nature, Tilia Holmes’ pyrography piece ‘Entwined’ encourages people to get lost in the layers of detail and diverse colours. Using wood as her canvas, the illustration is burnt in then embellished with oil paints, creating a window into the woodland using a natural resource.
Tilia Holmes is a UK based artist and has exhibited her artwork across the country. She is represented by Dansel Gallery, which specialises in quality contemporary woodwork. Creating a window into forests and woodlands, Tilia celebrates the importance of trees and highlights their beauty by capturing the play of dappled light on leaves and branches using the ancient art form of pyrography. Using natural edged, sustainably sourced timber as a canvas, her process starts with an illustration burnt onto wood, where she creates tones and marks using different levels of heat, and then brings the piece alive with oil paint.
The inspiration for Julie Brunn’s evocative and calm painting ‘Dawn’ was the early morning sunrise before the heat burns, when wild dogs are starting to become active. Her painting shows the sun’s rays starting to skim the horizon, reflecting splashes of amber where day replaces night, the wild dog rising for the day, a long stretch, breathing in deeply and curling his long pink tongue.
Award winning animal artist Julie Brunn achieved a fine art degree from Birmingham School of Art in 2000, after which she pursued a career as an animal keeper working mostly with primates. Starting a family gave Julie the chance to rediscover her painting talents. Combining this with her love for animals and wildlife, Julie is able to capture the characters and personalities of her subjects in her unique ethereal style.
Zoe Burr observes that with zebra populations declining, teamed with increasing urbanisation, her striking composition ‘Zebra Crossing’ may one day be the only memory of we have of zebras. A delicately rendered coloured pencil drawing on hot pressed watercolour paper, Zoe’s drawing is a play on the urban crossings named after the stunning zebra.
Zoe Burr is a coloured pencil artist based in Bristol, UK. She draws a wide range of animals in a modern, realistic style, aiming to capture the subject’s true form and personality.
Henry McAlpine’s graphic painting explores the collision between the natural world and the built environment. With its strong and brooding tonal palette, Henry’s painting brings together animals and humans, portraying them to be part of the same complex puzzle.
Henry McAlpine (b.1998) is a painter originally from Northumberland. Having been surrounded by the landscape during his upbringing, he has always been fascinated by the richness of the natural world in relation to his family heritage; rooted in construction. These varied environments merging together have inspired his practice over the last few years; aiming to balance the architectural motifs that influence his style with animalistic subjects. Henry studied Fine Art at the University of Leeds and learnt traditional drawing and painting techniques shortly after. Since then, he has found inspiration through his travels to Africa and South-East Asia.
Peidi Wang’s compact sculpture depicts a little fruit bat sneakily munching on a hanging banana. Peidi observes that even though caught in the act at it’s feast, the bat manages to retain a dignified presence. Peidi’s sculpture is hand-built in cone porcelain with engobe glaze and epoxy.
Peidi Wang is an emerging artist who focuses on detailed wildlife sculptures, balancing realism with a dash of artistic interpretation. Her use of porcelain gently reflects nature’s fragility and resonates with the delicate equilibrium of ecosystems. Each piece imbues its subject with unique charm and personality through subtle expressions. Her vision is to cultivate a personal bond between the viewer and the creature, placing emphasis on the individuality of each subject. This approach invites viewers to reflect on their personal interactions with wildlife, encouraging a deeper understanding and respect. While aligning with broader conservation goals, Peidi’s artistic perspective celebrates the individual journey of each creature within our shared natural world.
Inspired by their wonderful colours, Jane intended with her delicately rendered watercolour painting to depict African wild dogs with their extraordinary coat markings, but at the same time show their gentler side. Jane feels that together and united we can accomplish much in the protection of these fascinating animals.
Jane is a self-taught watercolour artist living in the South Downs National Park with her husband and her dogs. Her love of nature led her through painting landscapes with her father, into floristry, several years as a professional mountain bike racer and then onto her specialisation as an animal artist, allowing her to combine all her favourite things! Now running a successful commission-based studio focused on her pet and animal portraits, she also teaches her love of watercolour both in person and online and continues to strive to keep her work loose, light and with a sense of magic.
In Katy Rundle’s colourful and creatively detailed mixed media piece ‘Essential Worker’, a white backed African vulture looks to the sky for his kettle. Katy was inspired by these magnificent birds whilst living in Kenya, although her reference photo was taken at the Hawk Conservancy in Andover, UK. Katy’s aim through her artwork is to highlight the critical importance and beauty of the African vulture.
Katy Rundle is a British contemporary textile artist. Her business was founded in 2017 and she creates her pieces from a studio in Hampshire, UK. Katy is best known for her vibrant embroidered textile collages. An exhibitor at Talos Art Galley and at art fairs, Katy is in demand as a creator of bespoke, original commissions and her work is collected on both sides of the Atlantic. Shortlisted for the Women United Art Prize in 2022, Katy was also selected to compete in Sky Arts ‘Landscape Artist of the Year’ in 2018.
In her painting ‘Love. Light. Wren.’ Priya Gore pays tribute to the abstract quality of change and the abstract illusion of the passage of time. She feels that the wrens speak of changes of season and the acceptance of changes in life with an open heart and open arms. The purple capped wren is one of the most illusive North Australian bird species.
Priya Gore observes how the Australian rainforests offer the abundance of natural wonder and how bush walks and coastal hikes replace the emptiness of the soul with a long-lasting creative energy. Priya’s life revolves around the exploration of nature’s intricacies that are often hidden in the obvious. Being in nature amongst the beautiful birds, animals and trees of the rainforest and the ocean has had a profound effect on the artist’s mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Priya tries to convey her deep love and passion towards nature through her practice of painting which she believes is impossible to express in any other form.
Marie Antoniou’s vibrant and colourful painting of a Black Rhino is depicted through expressive, energised brushstrokes. Marie chose this energetic portrayal to highlight a contrast with the rhino’s firm and still stance.
Marie Antoniou is an artist and art tutor. Her love of animals and nature led her to study Scientific Illustration. After graduating she became a self-employed artist teaching art privately alongside developing her own art practice. Marie has exhibited extensively since 2004 in a variety of venues, including Geedon Galleries, Essex and the Mall Galleries, London. Her paintings are an impressionistic interpretation conveying traditional subjects in a more contemporary style. For Marie this is explored through expressive brushstrokes and bold colour, giving a slight abstract feel to the work. Her work has also been published in books and magazines and used as set dressing in TV and film. To date Marie has been a finalist at the prestigious David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the year exhibition every year between 2014-2021 and now in 2023.
The main objective for Jessica in this painting was to capture a moment between two beautiful souls, recognising that zebras are extremely sociable animals and will often remain with their family herd for the entirety of their life. Jessica also wanted to challenge herself by playing with a limited monochromatic palette.
Jessica Lennox is a wildlife artist based in British Colombia, Canada. She specialises in highly detailed coloured pencil drawings of her subjects and, more recently, the environment in which they reside. Jessica wants the viewer to be able to feel the fur and to read their thoughts when looking into her subject’s eyes.
Katerina Perry’s visit to a big cat sanctuary was where she fell in love with the cheetah, and it proved to be the inspiration in creating this piece. Sculpted in ceramic stoneware, fired, & coloured, it is Katerina’s hope that through her work she will help others to also fall in love with these vulnerable big cats.
Katerina Perry is a ceramic artist from the North West of England. Originally trained in graphics, Katerina’s work combines her love of wildlife with her love of clay. Each of her sculptures is carved in solid form which is then hollowed out, fired, coloured and then fired again.