DAVID SHEPHERD ART OF SURVIVAL AWARD WINNER 2021

wildlife artivism


For those in the know, the narrative for wildlife has never looked so bleak. It is time that art reflected that.

Pastel pencil drawing of a tiger fading into a barcode to reference the illegal wildlife trade

I was already a decade into my career as a wildlife artist before I asked myself the question, “is wildlife art really working for wildlife?

I was no longer feeling satisfied with the work I was producing. I was happy with my skill, but I felt that my drawings had little meaning. if anything they were only helping to pedal a false narrative about the health of our planet's wildlife. When over ninety percent of all rhinos disappear in just one human lifetime, for no other reason than to give some wealthy people a false sense of virility and status, shouldn’t we perhaps be focusing more on that detail?

Three works of wildlife artivism referencing the illegal trade in rhino hornI feel that when art only ever celebrates the beauty in wildlife it is a bit like only posting about the good times on social media. It fails to acknowledge the suffering, which is a big part of the wildlife narrative and a motivation for people to help. As wildlife enthusiasts we cannot expect everyone to know or care as much about animals as we do, so we need to give them a reason to care. Beauty alone can create a false sense of serenity, preventing people from seeing what is really happening, especially pertinent in this 'post-truth' era we now live in.
Two works of wildlife artivism, one referencing canned hunting of lions and the other plastic pollution in the ocean