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Andrew Haslen

About the artist

Wildlife and the natural world have always been my inspiration. From a young age I spent a lot of time outside, mostly messing about building dams and climbing trees but also starting to notice the creatures and the birds. Growing up in the 50s & 60s on the edge of Coggeshall, Essex, we were mostly surrounded by fields. I started to draw and paint the things I encountered when out and about with the guidance from a great teacher at school. I once bumped into a plein air painter very close to my home and watched him for a while. I vividly remember his confident movements, laying thick paint on the canvas and knowing I wanted to be an artist. 

In 1988 I was elected a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and I’m still a member, which is a great pleasure. I am a big fan of the work of the founding members and other 20th Century wildlife artists including Eric Ennion and R B Talbot Kelly.

In 1988 I also set up The Wildlife Art Gallery in Lavenham with my good friend Graham Barker which proved to be a big success. It was a case of right place, right time, and we put on many exhibitions over the years by current and past wildlife artists. We travelled around a lot meeting and collecting work from artist’s homes and I got to meet so many brilliant people. We had good help along the way and plenty of encouragement form people such as Robert Gillmor and Ysbrand Brouwers (director of Dutch charity Artists for Nature Foundation). The gallery partnered with the ANF on projects promoting conservation in threatened habitats around the world. A trip to Alaska was the most inspirational for me and I still use my sketchbook form that time to create new paintings now.

My work has changed over time, going from very detailed to a much freer and expressive way of working. The catalyst for this change was going on a drawing course on Bardsey Island run by artist Kim Atkinson. She took me out of my comfort zone getting me to draw with charcoal on a huge piece of paper rather than neatly with pencil in my sketchbook. Instead of creating ‘feather maps’ of birds I started to think about how the bird (or animal) holds itself, where it lives and the light and objects around it. My work evolved and I also started to create linocuts. Then came a period of decorative and colourful hand-coloured prints. Hares play a key role in my work, and after hand-rearing a leveret (plenty of drawing opportunities!), hares appeared a lot in these linocuts and in paintings. I wrote a book about the time with the hare called The Winter Hare.

After 30 years running the gallery, I retired from that side of things and now concentrate on making art completely. I have ventured into sculpting a few times but recently it has become a passion, working in clay to produce bronzes and iron resins. I have a garden studio near a big pond, and I have created (over 35 years) and nurtured a wild patch of land. We added another pond and scrape, and to the most part let wildlife do it’s thing. We’re very lucky to see one of my favourite birds the kingfisher on a regular basis.

I’m now in a new era of painting and sculpting, having being diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years ago, I want to carry on creating as much as possible. I paint quickly and even more freely; many paintings getting overworked and thrown away. But, the paintings and sculptures that do make it I feel, are my best work yet. And I have no plans to stop anytime soon. 

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