A number of years ago, when I was at art college, I spent the summer on a work placement as a Rhino Keeper in Chester Zoo. This experience was to prove invaluable. I worked with the large ungulates: rhinos, bison, reindeer etc in the morning and then sketched for the rest of the day. Each afternoon I would stay in the company of one species, observing, drawing, painting and photographing them.
One afternoon I chose the Baird’s tapir. They struck me as a prehistoric link to present day horses and I found them fascinating; the strength in their prehensile lip, the dainty way they moved and their expressive ears and fabulously interesting toes. One tapir suddenly moved purposefully into the middle of the enclosure and sat like a dog with his head hanging low. He looked like he had just been sent to the the naughty step as he looked sheepishly around! It only lasted a few seconds but the experience has stayed with me.
She looks amazing and just how I remember! It’s all in that wonderful expression and yes, the eyes have it. Many thanks – and for all the pics which really personalise the sculpture for the client and show how the piece comes to life.
I have subsequently observed Malayan tapirs in San Diego Zoo and particularly like their aesthetic shapes and amazing colouration. So when a client commissioned me to make a tapir sculpture I couldn’t resist the opportunity to recreate that special moment. Nothing is hidden on the short-coated tapir so the underlying structure has got to be well observed. It took many hours refining the body and then working on the skull and facial muscles. I did enjoy the toes!
My client was looking for something different and she found it in the newly named ‘Tilly.’ The tapir sculpture now sits in the middle of the room still looking a little naughty! If you have a favourite animal you would like to commission contact the studio.