Conserving wildlife with a paintbrush

05 November 2018 | Art and Entertainment

Adolf Kaure

An art exhibition titled Call of the Wild displaying works by Paul Dixon was recently launched at the Fine Art Gallery in Swakopmund.

Speaking to Erongo prior to the launch, Dixon explained why it is important for him to use his talent to raise awareness to preserve wildlife.

“There is a lot of stuff going on these days with poaching and human wildlife conflict. Namibia needs a lot of awareness and support for charities dealing with these issues. I became involved through Martina (owner of the Fine Art Gallery), mostly with the Desert Lion Trust, the Desert Lion Human Relations Aid, the Desert Elephant Foundation and AfriCat and Cheetah Conservation Foundation which are all Namibian organisations.”

Dixon says he has been visiting Namibia regularly from Cape Town and it is good to put something back because he makes a living painting animals.

"It’s good to do what I can to look after animals, otherwise what would I paint? If there are no animals, I would have to paint landscapes and my landscape painting is not that good.”

He explained how he got involved in a movement which helps to raise funds in the fight against poaching.

“Me and eight other artists formed a group called artists ambassadors against poaching. We do awareness exhibitions, talks and fundraising. Every little bit of money helps. It’s never enough. What amazes me with the human race is that governments spend billions on things to kill people but they won’t even spend millions on conserving wildlife. But we all share this planet and we are all linked, even a little ant performs an important role. If you took away the leaf cutting ants in the rain forest there would be an inundation of animals that feed off those ants dying. Even the small little animals matter but we’re busy popping them out,” he said.

He explained how he became involved in art.

"I met a woman in England who is from Zimbabawe in the 1970s. She was in the UK on a working holiday. We got married in the UK. She was homesick for Africa and wanted to come visit. Ee left and came to live in Pietermaritzburg, which is about 80 km from Durban, in 1981. The moment we stepped off the plane in 1981 I fell in love with Africa. When we moved to Africa, I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a car so I decided to draw. People that we were staying with said that they were quite good and said I should do them in colour. So I bought a box of pastels and that is where I started. It took me about five years before I did anything which was half decent."

Dixon started off doing pastels about 13 years ago and decided to teach himself oil painting because it is a lot easier to manage.

"There is no glass and frame to worry about, you can roll them up and overseas people can take them home with them. Also, for people around the world oil painting is taken more seriously than pastels.”

He urged artists to keep drawing as it helps them with the basic skills of being an artist. “I also do quite a lot of drawing so for this exhibition I decided to do half and half, half oil paintings and half drawings.”

He also enjoys drawing.

"I think a lot of artists paint all the time and we don’t always do enough drawing. Drawing teaches you hand eye coordination and it teaches you to see more what you’re doing. I draw mostly from photographs and the photographs are mine.”