But it took more than two decades in England, a self-confessed dull career in manufacturing, before these youthful experiences found expression in a style of art that has captured the very essence of Africa. What strikes you first about Simon’s paintings is the extraordinary colour: an earthy yellow that manages to be both intense and transparently delicate. This is the colour of Africa and Simon achieved it in an accidental and unorthodox way.
Having just invested in a book on how to paint in watercolours, I spent the next few days tinkering around trying to find the right colour for a series of cartoon characters I had recently created called ‘The Chickendales’ explained Simon. I wanted a yellow colour that I found difficult to achieve just using felt tips. I bought some watercolours, soaked the paper and applied the first wash. Still naive on the technicalities of painting in waterclour I soon discovered that as the paper dried, so it began to curl and ripple. I weighed the corners down with all manner of objects including my mug of Tea.
Once the paper had dried and I had removed the objects, I found that the bottom of the mug of Tea had left a beautiful golden stain on the paper that appeared to be far more attractive than the paint I had been trying to use. It was the birth of a new technique. A friend who had also been born in Tanzania inspired Simon’s first attempts. Recognising the ochre tones of his homeland, he commissioned Simon to paint him a picture of a herd of wildebeest stampeding across a sun scorched plain. A daunting task considering Simon hadn’t painted a picture in his life. After many attempts and more experiments involving stewed Tea, ochre pigments and a fan assisted oven; Simon eventually produced six different paintings of a variety of animals for his friend to choose from. He bought all six for $1000. Word soon spread, and commissions began to come in thick and fast. People who had traveled to or had lived in Africa deluged Simon with photographs of animals and scenes they had encountered. Elephants silhouetted against an ochre sky, meercats, Rhino’s, lion’s, statuesque tribesmen in traditional dress, soon the list became endless – the images were evocative and subjects very powerful.
As well as spending much of his childhood living on the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain Mt Kilimanjaro, he also spent much of his time exploring many of Tanzania’s magnificent game reserves. Although he was to eventually settle in England at the age of 21, his memories were still fresh and vivid. The first hand knowledge, combined with the inspiration provided by his clients’ photographs, informed his work and widened his repertoire.
Demand soon began to outstrip supply and now his original paintings are commanding between $2000 and $3000 a piece. Simon began to publish signed limited edition prints of his work under the banner of “A Brush with Africa”, which soon reached a far wider audience. Limiting his prints to 500 per image ensured exclusivity and a steady flow of new work. With considerable interest now coming from around the world, Simon’s future as a successful wildlife artist and publisher is assured. His award winning website www.abrushwithafrica.com not only gives him a global gallery but enables his many new admirers to buy his work online.
*Simon’s images can be viewed and purchased on the website www.abrushwithafrica.co