The SFS Introducing Wildlife 100 Artist of the Year – Short-List Announced

From an intricate geometric Tiger-Tail Sea Horse, one the most heavily extracted seahorse species in the world,   to a beautiful oil painting of a critically endangered Orangutan, this year’s short-listed artists in the Sketch for Survival Introducing Wildlife category have just been revealed. 

From left: Christian Azolan; Lee McManus; Jess Ridley; Stephanie Clarke, Bianka Hudson

All 100 SFS Introducing finalists have something in common: they have all depicted species vulnerable to extinction and will feature in a special fund-raising exhibition celebrating the beauty and colour of the natural world whilst also helping to highlight threats posed by human activity.

One of twelve short-listed pieces has the chance to scoop the coveted Sketch for Survival Introducing Artist of the Year (Wildlife Category) award, won last year by Nikki Canham with her beautiful portrait of an orangutan, titled ‘Chester’.

Among the twelve short-listed artists is Renay Shaffer, a Canadian artist living in the USA. Shaffer is one of 18 international artists selected within the top 100.

Other successful international contributors come from Iran, China, South Korea, Australia, Turkey, Germany, France, Sri Lanka and the UAE.

Shaffer’s Atlantic Puffin attracted high praise from the judges who described it as “a beautifully drawn and composed artwork.”

Shaffer said: “Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, Atlantic Puffins are one of the quirkiest looking birds,  and I love their habit of scooping as many fish at one time as they can into their beaks. This particular fellow was spotted on the Farne Islands. ”

Shaffer’s puffin is one of three birds selected in the short-list of 12 alongside Stephanie Clarke’s Philippine Eagle and Laura Martin’s White-backed Vulture.

Clarke, from Brighton, entered the competition to “provide support in the preservation of all vulnerable species” while Martin from York said: “Vultures are the undervalued binmen of their ecosystems. They are also in serious decline, so I wanted to highlight this beautiful species.”

Bianka Hudson is a self-taught artist from Hungary, now living and working in the UK. Her dramatic tiger was described by the selection panel as: “”Moody and dark.”  They commended her “good use of white pencils on black paper.”

Equally dramatic is Christian Azolan’s Tiger-Tail Seahorse, a polygon digital illustration which took over 25 hours to create. Azolan, a London-based digital illustration artist said: “My inspiration comes from people and nature. I believe that we should all be looking more closely at our surroundings and appreciating nature’s beauty.”

This sentiment is echoed by Love Grosmane, also short-listed, whose delicate Crowned Lemur was commended by the judges for its “sparkling eyes.”

A wide variety of species and styles are represented in the collection. Both Emma Swift and Lee McManus from the south-west selected to capture critically endangered orangutans in their artworks. McManus, a pyrography artist, burnt his orangutan onto ash wood while Swift’s orangutan is painted in a loose style, in oil.

Rebecca Cresswell wanted to draw attention to lesser-known species. Her mixed-media piece celebrates “rainforest creatures”. She said of her Blue Python, Australian Tree Frog and Turquoise Dwarf Gecko: “Through deforestation, climate change and fire, these creatures are critically endangered. I adore the detail, iridescence and intriguing quality.”

Some artists were inspired by personal encounters. Jess Ridley, a singer from Hampshire, was inspired by a trip to Africa.

“To see so many incredible species in their natural habitat was one of my greatest life experiences. Since then I’ve been creating pieces as a way of celebrating their unique and wonderful characteristics.”  said Ridley.

Her lovable giraffe was described by the selection panel as “Lively, cute and bold.”

Tamsin Steel’s study of hippos has a “great sense of the African light.” Steel, a former veterinary nurse lived in Africa as a child and worked from a photo taken on the Chobe River in Botswana. Hippos are classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

Other contributors have found art a form of therapy, especially during lockdown. Loretta Battersby from Essex, whose cheetah is also short-listed said: “I’m an amateur artist and I draw for relaxation and as a hobby after spinal surgery.”

From top left: Renay Shaffer; Love Grosmane; Laura Martin; Loretta Battersby.

From bottom left: Tamsin Steel; Emma Swift; Rebecca Cresswell.

To see the artists short-listed in the Wild Spaces category please click here.

The exhibition at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, London runs 11 November – 22 November 2020 with the fund-raising auction concluding Sunday 22 November. All 110 SFS Introducing artworks will be exhibited alongside the Invitational collection and celebrity artworks. Also on show this year will be the Focus for Survival Introducing images.