"I will never forget my first face to face experience on foot with elephants, nearly fifty years ago.
It made me realise how small and insignificant Man is compared with those wonderful gentle giants.
I wonder if, on that occasion, my passionate love for Elephants was born in me, although I certainly wouldn't have realised it at the time.
Now, in creating my latest painting, I am reminded of that awsome moment." David Shepherd
Explaining that he became an artist in childhood because he couldn't do anything else. "My life was a total disaster until I was 20 years old. My one and only ambition was to be a gamewarden, so when I'd finished my education, I went rushing out to Kenya with the incredibly arrogant idea that I was God's gift to the National Parks. It was a disaster. I knocked on the door of the Head Gamewarden in Nairobi and said, 'I'm here, can I be a game warden?' I was told I wasn't wanted. My life was in ruins; that was the end of my career in three seconds flat." "Up to that point, my only interest in art had been as an escape from the rugger field. The game was compulsory at school and I was terrified of it. I couldn't see any fun in being buried under heaps of bodies in the mud and having my face kicked in. I fled into the art department where it was more comfortable and painted the most unspeakably awful painting of birds."
Deflated and homesick, he took a job as a receptionist in a hotel on the Kenya coast; the salary was one pound a week.
"So there I was at Malindi on the Kenya Coast in this hotel. I painted some more bird paintings on plasterboard, and I sold seven of them for £10 each to the
culture-starved inhabitants of the town and paid my passage home to England on a Union Castle steamer."
Arriving home, penniless, he had two choices,Mr Shepherd decided he could either become an artist or a bus driver.
Since he suspected that most artists starved in garrets, life as a bus driver seemed the safer bet.
"But my dad was marvellous and said that if I really wanted to be an artist, I'd better get some training. The only school we knew anything about was The Slade School of Fine Art in London, so I sent them my first bird painting." The Slade, too, turned him down. He had no talent, they said, and he wasn't worth teaching. The bus driver position was looking more likely all the time, except for a 'chance meeting that changed my life'. At a London cocktail party, the young artist was introduced to Robin Goodwin. Robin was a professional painter who specialised in portraits and marine subjects. (considered to have been one of the finest marine painters of this century). He didn't and wouldn't take students, Robin told him, but he agreed to have a look at the work.
"The next day, I trotted up to the studio in Chelsea and a miracle happened. I showed him that very first bird picture, which I still have and, for reasons that I have never been able to understand, he decided to take me on. I owe all my success to that man. He is responsible for my being where I am today."In 1976, his autobiography, 'The Man Who Loves Giants', was published and rapidly became a best seller. He revised and updated it in 1989. 'A Brush with Steam' was published in 1984 and in October 1985, The Man and His Paintings' was published, which, for the first time, brought together in a single volume a fully representative selection of his work. In 1992, 'An Artist in Conservation' was published, which is a stunning collection of the best of his wildlife art with over 90 colour plates.
In October, 1995 , 'My Painting Life' and 'Only One World' were published and in 2004 his latest book, 'Painting with David Shepherd, His Unique Studio Secrets Revealed' was published.
Other documentaries for television have also been made, including 'Last Train to Mulobezi'; this film tells the epic story of the rescue from the Zambezi Sawmills Railway in Zambia of an ancient locomotive and railway coach and their 12,000 mile journey back to Britain. These were presented as a gift by His Excellency, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the then President of Zambia, after raising funds with other artists, (through an auction of seven paintings in the USA). This enabled him to buy a helicopter, which he presented to the Government of Zambia for anti-poaching work.
In 1988 he made the series 'In Search of Wildlife' with Thames TV; a series of six half-hour films, featuring endangered mammals throughout the world. These have subsequently been shown in the United States of America on the Public Broadcasting Channel. Also in 1990 he made the first programme in the annual series of 'Naturewatch' with Julian Pettifer; and has been the 'target' for 'This is Your Life'.
If you would like to visit the studio in Nottinghamshire, (Saturdays and Sundays are fine too) Please call 01623 799 309 We have a collection of over 500 David Shepherd signed limited edition prints and original paintings for sale.