About the artist

Heather Irvine is a wildlife, equestrian and canine artist working from her base in the south west of England.


As a child I had a stable full of imaginary steeds that I used to ride around our garden and when not playing with those, my brother and I would be building camps in the fields behind our house and collecting caterpillars or other such crawlies much to our parents dispair. The outdoors was a playground then and having always drawn from an early age, art and nature inevitably merged - it was never really in question for me, I wanted to be an artist and I was always going to be an artist, regardless of talent! School led to a foundation course and on to a Fine Art Degree and after a brief spell in 'proper' employment, I volunteered with the Kalahari Conservation Society in Botswana and spent an amazing three months working with cheetah at Orapa Game Park. What an experience for a lowly 'unqualified in the field' student - Africa bit into me then and there and hasn't let go since. However, real life kicked in once back in the UK and I needed to pay bills, so set myself up as an animal portrait artist working in oil pastels and fortunately, other people liked my work enough to keep commissions coming in and they have to this day: I have some wonderfully loyal clients. A trip back to Namibia was again possible, including the incredible Etosha National Park which has heavily influenced my wildlife work since. In 2008 we ventured across the pond and travelled for four months in the western States. What a vast and diverse land it is, it takes your breath away and left me with a plethora of ideas, memories and moments that no doubt will make it onto canvas.

Working ethos and influences

In a word....eclectic! I just love the processes of art full stop and respect quite a diverse array of artists who sculpt, print and paint. I have no set 'style', although for my portraits I have always opted for the life-like portrayal as this is what I feel most people can relate to. Having said that, when I draw horses from my head, it is with movement and energy in mind, my Terriers also generally are depicted being Terriers, ie, not static. Although anything characterful with them (which isn't difficult!) is used as a starting point.

After being in Africa, wildlife art and its artists have obviously made a huge impression on me. Bob Kuhn is my absolute hero - painterly with a wide kaliedoscopic palette, he was always true to the animals he depicted with great sensitivity, but without the need for meticulous detail. He and Carl Rungius coupled with Ray Harris Ching's emotion really set the bar for me; Tim Wootton, Brin Edwards and John Threlfall are all working artists I aspire to as is anyone who draws in the field from life. Sketching is an integral part of all of my work, ideas hastily put down in charcoal generally source larger works, along with the secondry references of photographs. I am not a labourer when it comes to painting and having been to Etosha where the horizontal and often empty plains of the pan lend themselves perfectly for large blocks of colour, this way of working suits my flat brushes and their quick application. I do work wet in wet and very rarely spend more than a week on any given painting, if it doesn't work then it gets painted over. Emotion, sense of place (without necessarily having to be particular) and putting the viewer in the space of the animal without being too sentimental are probably my main focus. I am not a pretty picture painter when doing wildlife, I don't do head studies, eyes are often overted, I have a passion for bum views and like all the nasties out there....fantastic!! Seriously though, I just want people to get what the animals depicted are sensing and feeling, or at least feel what I felt in that moment, be it in the middle of a blistering day in the dust, or a lonely, silent eery morning mist. That's the whole point isn't it?

Heather Irvine 2012