I am often asked about my influences. The truth is many people have influenced me over the years. They include friends, colleagues, artists, photographers, conservationists and many more. My wildlife hero is Chris Packham. Chris burst onto our television screens in 1986 as a presenter on the BBC’s Really Wild Show. I was still a teenager and he made quite an impression on me. All youthful exuberance and a shock of spiky blond hair, he broke the mould of the typical mild-mannered, middle-of-the-road presenter of the time.
But Chris was never all show and no substance. On the contrary, he has a deep and respectful passion for wildlife which, like me, informs everything he does. The knowledge and love he has for his subjects shines through his work and, three decades on, that passion burns as brightly as ever.
His television credits include BBC’s BAAFTA Award winning Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch and numerous natural history series. Whilst he may be best known as a TV presenter, Chris is also a writer, photographer, filmmaker, naturalist, conservationist and – as you would expect of a wildlife hero – a committed wildlife and environmental campaigner. Never one to duck the difficult issues, Chris is always ready to speak out in defence of the animals he loves and the environments he cherishes. And like me, Chris has a particular passion for rare and endangered animals.
We first met twenty years ago, when Chris was invited to open a solo show of my animal sculptures in Portsmouth. He was kind enough to write a review of my work, which you can read on my About page. In his review, Chris talks about discovering the beauty in the beast through art. This perfectly captures what I am trying to do as an artist. It’s typical of Chris that he was able to articulate this so clearly and so eloquently.
Soon after this, I was commissioned to make a maned wolf sculpture for his birthday, a piece which I know Chris still cherishes. In his recent thought-provoking documentary Aspergers and Me, you can see this large wolf sculpture in Chris’s living room. Our paths went on to cross regularly during my sixteen year involvement with the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, for which I made a series of specially commissioned trophies for the award winners.
We arranged to meet again last year at Birdfair, an international birdwatching fair and wildlife event. Chris was presenting the Bird Photographer of the Year awards and I was demonstrating with Wildlife Worldwide, who run my art safari workshops. I was delighted when Chris commissioned me to make a warthog sculpture.
So there you have it. Chris Packham, my wildlife hero. Presenter, writer, photographer, filmmaker, naturalist, conservationist and – through it all – tireless champion of wildlife. Find out more by visiting Chris’s website or follow him on Twitter.