By Gareth Hook and Kundai Chihambakwe
Gareth Hook was born in Zimbabwe and grew up on his family’s farm on the northern outskirts of Harare.
Taking on the artistic career path began while Gareth was in his junior school years where he was influenced by a few great wildlife artists and with Craig Bone also playing a pivotal role in guiding him down this path. Craig even gifted Gareth with his very first camera, a memento and source of inspiration which he still has today.
Capturing wildlife in their natural element is what most inspired Gareth, but this did not come without many a working hazard, one in particular stands out. At 18 years old he joined Andrew Bone (Craig’s brother) on a trip to Mana Pools. They spotted a bull elephant about 150m away and decided that that would be a great opportunity to gather some reference material. Eager in this, they made the unfortunate mistake of approaching too fast. Once the bull noticed them, he went into a full charge and with no cover they tried to ‘gap it’. After a few paces Andrew, knowing this was a futile exercise, turned and raised his weapon. Two more steps by that bull and Andrew would have had to fire. Gareth’s recollection of that moment is hazy, but he clearly remembers being so pumped up with adrenaline that he couldn’t hold his camera still for 30 minutes after the incident!
With a budding passion for the outdoor life and an appreciation of wildlife and the representation of it on canvas and paper, Gareth went on to pursue a degree, at Rhodes University, where he graduated with a distinction in Studio Practice.
Although his studio is where he completes the majority of his work, Gareth’s heart lies in the bush, gathering reference material and doing small little sketches as a reminder of a certain scene or place. Gonerazhou and Malilangwe are places where he has recently gathered a significant amount of reference material.
Oil paint on canvas is Gareth’s chosen medium. He is particularly fond of using fine brushes to get the intricate detail required to help bring his paintings to life. He quips that it can take ages painting all the hair on a leopard or wrinkles on an elephant’s trunk.
“Elephants always seem to take the longest… wrinkles!!!”
A few years ago when a painting was not going as he had envisaged, he would have tried to ‘rescue’ it, but now, having matured more in his craft, he knows when to call it quits, put it aside, and come back to it later or scrap the piece entirely and move onto something new.
While he is working and if there is test match cricket on, that is what will be playing in the background. Otherwise, music is Gareth’s go to, and he is currently listening to Sixto Rodriguez – thought provoking lyrics.
As with most careers in the arts, whether it is visual or musical, it can take time to become recognised by the local public, and even harder by the international
community. Gareth has found that exhibitions can either be a roller coaster high of emotions or soul destroying. “It all depends how it goes once you put your artwork and yourself out there for people to judge.”
Nevertheless, Gareth encourages anyone looking to take on this career to go for it but realise that though it is a hard profession to break into, it can be very rewarding.
Artwork by Gareth Hook
© Ndeipi Magazine, Issue 109 http://ndeipi.co.zw