Wildlife Artist Profile: Dean Lewis

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I was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where I had a fantastic upbringing and made incredible friends right from junior school through to high school where I boarded at Plumtree school, situated approximately 100km south west of Bulawayo. My most cherished memories, when I was happiest, was either riding my bike or walking endlessly for miles through the Matabeleland bush, rifle in hand and not a care in the world. This has most definitely influenced what I draw today as the flora and fauna of southern Africa has been, and always will be, close to my heart.

Protea Power

During high school days I used to marvel at the talent of some pupils and their artwork and remember how I wished I could do the same, but thoroughly convinced at the same time that it was a fanciful pipe dream. However, during my latter years at school, I dabbled a bit in pencil and ink work and found that I had an ability to copy an image pretty closely, although I did not do a great deal and have subsequently found in recent years a couple of unfinished pictures from those days in an old school trunk.

Forever Alert

I have often been told by family that everything I do has to be perfect, and I suppose to a degree that is true and no less with any artwork that I attempt to tackle. I think drawing with graphite pencils at school and nowadays, and recently adding pastel pencils, was a natural progression to make as we were all brought up with either a pencil or pen in our hand. The use of graphite, as with charcoal, is art in its most basic form, but no less engaging than other mediums and certainly as adept in creating tonal shades, texture and depth if placed in the right hand. I would like to investigate the option of drawing with pastel sticks combined with pastel pencils in the future, but I think that graphite will always be my medium of choice and the one that I have become most comfortable with.

Feeding Time

I made the decision to move to South Africa in 1987 and the plan was to pursue a career in electronics, but that did not come to fruition and I found employment in a couple of companies before an opportunity arose in 1999 to start my own transport business. That I duly did and managed to eke out a living in the following years. However, in 2008 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and truth be told, was very naive and never realised the severity of the illness at the time, and the impact it would later have on my life. I was still physically and mentally able to run the business at the time but I became gradually worse and at the end of 2013, because of my ailing health and other mitigating factors, I had to finally give up the business.

Bushveld Spa

During the last couple of years of running my company I had often thought of starting to draw again but having not picked up a pencil since school, a good 30 years before, I was under no illusion how difficult that would be. And so it was proved, with rolled up balls of paper and pencils being thrown across the room in pure frustration. However, in early 2017, I was determined to try again and this time I persevered and managed to draw four or five simple sketches with the encouragement of family. The turning point came when my dear beloved mother, who has since passed away, suggested that I attempt a Baobab tree. It is because of this that I credit a lot of my journey through art to a very special lady who always encouraged and had absolute faith in both of her children in whatever they endeavoured to pursue. That was my first “real” drawing and a family friend on seeing it, enquired as to whether he would be able to get a canvas print made of it. That was the start of what has been an incredible and rewarding artistic adventure.

Pied Piper

I think the most rewarding aspect of my drawing has been the learning experience and the satisfaction of improving with every piece I tackle. The other rewarding element is the reaction of a pleased client when they have just seen a finished piece they have commissioned or just a print, knowing full well in my heart that I have done my very best for them and they respect and appreciate it. Very rewarding.

My biggest disappointment, for obvious reasons is that I cannot become involved in the whole process before the sale of an artwork, that being the sourcing of the next subject, the actual photographing of said subject and the finalising of the image before it is then transferred onto the art paper. However, I do remind myself of the fact that there are some amazing photographers who would do a much better job than I could and it is then my task to give justice to their incredible talents in the art studio.

Aloe Aloe

Hopefully in the near future I can contribute with my art in helping with the preservation and protection of those animals that have been so recklessly and callously exploited by the greed and cruelty of mankind. I think art has the amazing ability to help with this incentive and I think if every wildlife artist or otherwise, gave just a small fraction of their proceeds derived from their artwork towards this cause, it would make a world of difference in the fight against animal exploitation.

I am based in Waterfall in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa and if anyone is interested in my artwork, whether it be a commission or print, I would love to hear from you and can be contacted through my Facebook page, Dean Lewis Art, https://www.facebook.com/DeanLewisArt, or my email address, dllewis42@gmail.com

Umdondoshiya