By Dijon Ross
The prestigious Wildlife Artist of the Year (WotY) exhibition is an annual art competition curated by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). Whilst the exhibition is usually held at the Mall Galleries in London, the 2020 exhibition had to be moved online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and is open to artists across the globe. From nearly 1200 entries in 2020, 159 artworks were shortlisted. Part of the proceeds of sales from the exhibition go towards the DSWF’s efforts in conserving and protecting endangered wildlife, carrying on the legacy of its late founder, David Shepherd, arguably the most renowned wildlife artist, and perhaps the original conservation artist. The DSWF is involved in several conservation projects, including helping to protect the African Wild Dog in Zimbabwe, through the funding of educational bush camps and anti-poaching efforts.
It has been a goal of mine to be shortlisted for the DSWF WotY Exhibition since I resumed my art journey, and I was honoured to be shortlisted this year with my drawing of a young wild dog pup, titled “Curiosity”. The drawing was done in pencil, which is a medium I have focused on and grown to become most comfortable with. However, I do not want to be pigeon-holed into one medium, and I tend to dabble in other mediums including watercolour and oils. In 2018 I was fortunate enough to spend a few days with Larry Norton in Victoria Falls, who encouraged me to focus on oil painting. Whilst I haven’t become as proficient an oil painter as I would like, Larry’s words still ring in the back of mind to this day, and who knows, down the line, I may find myself focusing on oils, rather than pencil.
My art journey has not been a typical one. With an affinity for both art and wildlife embedded in me growing up, it was only natural that I ended up combining these two passions. I was schooled at St George’s College, which itself has produced some excellent artists including David Filer (a former winner of the DSWF WotY overall prize in 2011), Gareth Hook and Craig Martin. Upon finishing high school, and attending university in Cape Town, I didn’t so much as pick up a pencil for nearly 6 years until I returned to Zimbabwe in 2017, and whilst I have since relocated to the UK, I haven’t looked back since.