Having spent the past few months painting black grouse to illustrate a book, the temptation has always been there to see how others have painted wildlife through the years and to take inspiration from other artists. The most famous British wildlife artist has to be Archibald Thorburn, whose paintings of gamebirds are some of the best known pieces of popular art from the late Victorian and Edwardian period. Everyone has a favourite Thorburn, and while the old master has arguably been matched by modern artists like Rodger McPhail, his paintings still have a very special appeal that’s hard to beat.
One surprise discovery during my research was Bruno Liljefors, a Swedish artist and contemporary of Thorburn, whose paintings of Swedish wildlife are in a league of their own. Many of Liljefors’ pictures have a hunting and shooting theme, and some of his black grouse are absolutely perfect. I’ve struggled to make my pictures of black grouse look exactly how I want them to, but he certainly cracked it. A quick Google search for Bruno Liljefors reveals dozens of pictures, many of which I would love to hang on my wall.
The example of “foxes” (above) is just one of many which really capture the moment and make a real statement. How on earth he was able to paint fox brushes with such a realistic texture is totally beyond me, particularly since he mainly painted in oil. You can almost smell them.
I’ve got a long way to go if I’m ever going to come close to the great wildlife artists, but ever since I first blew a through a recorder, people have been telling me that practice makes perfect.