I was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa in 1976 and from an early age I’ve had a fascination for animals and the natural world.
After graduating high school in 1994, I became actively involved in conservation when I began working for the Blouberg Conservation Project on Blouberg Nature Reserve in Limpopo province South Africa, and had the privilege of interacting with all manner of wildlife.
In 2007, when the Blouberg Conservation Project sadly had to close down, I took up a position as Cattle Manager on one of the local farms in the Vivo area, and during this time, discovered a love for horses, which ultimately led to me becoming a Stable Manager at a livery yard in Pretoria in 2010, where I pursued the riding discipline of dressage.
At the end of this year, I will be getting married and moving to England on a permanent basis.
When did you first become interested in art?
I’ve always had an interest in art and as a child I used to do pencil sketches of anything that interested me. But it was only in my very late teens that I started painting, inspired by my brother’s girlfriend of the time, Marianne, who was an acomplished artist in her own right. The first painting I did was of a Yellow Billed Kite done in watercolour paints given to me by my brother, Quinn. The painting turned out much better than I could have hoped for, and I was hooked. The next painting I did was of a Crowned Eagle done in oil paint. My father got me interested in photography, as he was an accomplished photographer himself. At the time I was living and working on a nature reserve in the north of South Africa, which really was the ideal setting in which my painting and photography developed from hobby into passion.
What style of art do you use most?
All my work is done as realism. My focus when painting is on animals. I’ve painted a number of different subjects including snakes and frogs, but most of my work has been of wildlife, horses, birds or people’s pets. My photography tends to be more eclectic and includes subject matter such as architecture, animals, scenery, people and anything else that catches my attention or fancy at the time.
Has your style changed from when you first began as an artist?
I don’t think my style has changed, although I do believe that my technique has become, and continues to become more refined. Each painting that I do, exhibits some improvement or refinement from the last, and, as a result, each new painting is more exciting than the last. That’s one of the things I love about creating art, be it painting or photography: Limitless potential for growth, improvement and expansion.
What medium do you use?
When painting, I mainly work in watercolour, acrylic and oil paints, but I also enjoy working with charcoal and pastel pencils. My photographs are digital, which is convenient, and my camera is a Finepix S3 Pro professional camera.
What made you choose that medium?
I don’t really have a preference for one medium over another, each has it’s own beauty and ‘personality’, and each as intriguing to work with as the next. I would really like try my hand at some other mediums as well, such as soft pastels and gouche.
Do your ideas come from life or imagination?
My ideas and inspiration come from nature, the sheer beauty and magnificence of the natural world, in particular the animals. The eyes are most important for me, and they are always the starting point for any painting that I do. If the eye’s look good, then I know that the rest of the painting will be okay too. To capture an animals personality, it’s essence in the expression of the eyes is what I strive for in my paintings.
How do you choose your images and colours?
Many of my paintings have been specifically commissioned, and so the subject is pre-chosen. If it is a horse, or someone’s pet, I will use a photo as reference, either one that I have taken myself or one given to me by the person commissioning the work. I prefer to have the subject on it’s own, so I don’t usually paint backgrounds. As for the subject itself, when I start I usually have only a slight idea of how I would like it look when it’s done, preferring to let the picture to develop naturally as I go along. With photography, it’s simply what catches my eye at the time. Trying to capture a particular feeling or look dependent on shutter speed and aperture, is a delightful challenge.
Do you work in a studio?
My studio is where ever I’m comfortable at the time! My fiance gave me an artist’s box for Christmas which is large enough to hold most of my paintbrushes and paints, and also doubles as an easel, allowing me the freedom to work anywhere I choose, be that in the lounge with the tv on, or outside in the fresh air.
Who is your favourite artist?
There are a number of artists that I admire, but my favourites are Jon Hamilton-Fford, Eric FJ Wilson and Bill Muck. Each are superbly talented artists and truly lovely people.
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
I have two favourite paintings, one I did in 2007 of a Meerkat (Suricate) on commission. At the time I was hand rearing a baby Banded Mongoose, which is similar to a Meerkat in some ways. I particularly enjoyed trying to capture the alert, intent curiosity that that is a trademark of these gregarious little animals and their relatives. It was A3 size, approximately 50cm x 40cm, and done with watercolour and colour pencil on paper. My second favourite painting is one I did recently as a gift for my fiance of a Tiger entitled ‘Golden Siberian’, also measuring 50cm x 40cm and done with acrylic paint on canvas. Of my photographs, one in particular stands out for me: a black and white photo of a horse whilst been worked. The concentration on the equine’s face really caught my attention and I was really pleased with how the photo turned out.
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
It really depends on the individual piece that I’m working on. I once did a serious of wild bird paintings on commission, all the same size, all in watercolour, but each one took a different amount of time to complete dependent on the particular bird I was painting. Generally though watercolour paintings take less time to complete than acrylic paintings, and oil paintings take longest due to the drying time needed.
How well do you take criticism?
I believe that criticism is integral to any artist’s growth. All criticism, both good and bad is valuable, the trick is not let it get personal and to find ways of using it to improve your work. If you really don’t feel that it’s useful, then let it go. At the end of the day you have to remember that everyone who sees your work is part of your audience, whether they be artists themselves or have never picked up a brush, pencil or camera in their lives, every opinion counts.
What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?
I sometimes develop a block if I’ve been working for too long, and too intensely. Sometimes all I need to do is just distance myself from the work for a bit. A good long walk in the park, a book or a movie is all it takes to re-balance myself. But if the block persists after that, it’s usually a good idea to let go and start over. Sometimes (not often though) a painting just doesn’t work regardless of what you try.
How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?
That’s a difficult one to answer. It’s just a feeling I get really, that any more would be too much. It’s never completely easy to walk away. I put a lot into my paintings and also into my photography. It’s a lot of time, and work and often a lot of emmotion goes into it as well, so it’s really a part of me. I do have one rule though: When it’s signed, it’s done!
Have you had exhibits in galleries?
Almost all of the paintings that I have done to date have been on commission. I have not had any works available to display at a gallary, and so I have not as yet had any exhibits.
Have you any exhibits in galleries planned for the future?
No plans as of yet for any exhibits in the future, as I do not have any works available for display.
What are you currently working on?
I am finally, after all these years, working on a painting for myself: A Timber Wolf, which will (hopefully) match the Tiger I painted for my fiance. It will measure 50cm x 40cm and it is acrylic on canvas.
What are your plans for the future?
If all goes well, my fiance and I will be married by the end of this year and I will be moving to England permanently. I will continue to paint and photograph and I’ll be working towards building an audience and client base in England.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
At one point I was feeling a bit low and I asked one of my favourite artists to look at my work and tell me what he thought. His reply, having seen my paintings was simple and emphatic: “Keep at it, girl! You need some refinement and practice, but the talent is there. Just keep at it!”
What advice would you give new artists?
The same advice that was given to me: KEEP AT IT! Regardless of how you feel, regardless of what anyone says JUST KEEP AT IT! The beauty of art is that there is no wrong or right, no set rules on how things should be done, or what you must or must not do. Anything goes, and at some point, someone somewhere is going to like what you do!
Have you done any courses to help you?
I am completely self taught, although I follow artist websites and pages on the internet and regularly pick up useful tips that I try out.
What do you do to market your work?
I market my work on the internet via sites like Fine Art America and Facebook. I also have pamphlets which I hand out, but most of the commissions I have had have been word of mouth via previous clients. The best advert for any artist I believe, is their work.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
Are you available for work (commissions)?
Yes I am, I can be contacted via either of the websites mentioned above.
Have you got hobbies?
Horseriding, crochet, gardening and plants,
Where are you based?
I am currently based in South Africa, but will be moving to England permanently at the end of this year, where the county of Hampshire will be my home.
© 2013, Isabella Francesca Abigail Shores. All rights reserved.