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Friday, December 17, 2004 18:08
Marwell's Animal Art
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Pip McGarry
Pip McGarry make friends with the Marwell giraffes.
 

Pip McGarry is the first ever Artist in Residence at Marwell Zoological Park in Hampshire.
BBC Southampton's Abbie Collins went to find out more about him and the work he does.

Click through our Marwell gallery

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Marwell Zoological Park
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Marwell Zoological Park opened to the public in 1972 and is 100 acres of land dedicated to the conservation of endangered species.

In 1977 Marwell resident, Victor the giraffe famously and tragically did the splits. The publicity that surrounded him put the park on the map and it has since become an internationally known centre for animal conservation as well as a major tourist attraction.

The Park opens daily at 10 am and closes at 6 pm in summer and 4 pm in winter.

It is open every day except Christmas day.

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Pip McGarry joined Marwell as Artist in Residence six years ago after selling his artwork in the zoo's gift shop. On taking on the job, Pip founded the Marwell Arts Society, the second largest group of its kind in Europe. He also organises a summer exhibition at the park every year and runs workshops.

Having had no formal art training, Pip developed his own style though pure hard slog and dedication. Interestingly though, painting wildlife runs in the family.

Wild At Heart by Pip McGarry
Wild At Heart by Pip McGarry

"My grandad painted wildlife in the 1930s. I have a photograph of my mum and dad cutting the cake at their wedding. In the background are a couple of paintings by my grandad. One's of a lion and one's of a collie dog," he explained. "My cousin Matthew Hillier is also quite a well-known wildlife artist."

Pip's love for painting really began at a lecture by wildlife artist David Shepherd in 1979. Within a week he'd rushed off and bought an easel and borrowed some paints.

Pip now creates his masterpieces in his studio at home, working from sketches and photos that he's taken of animals at the zoo and in the wild. He believes that wildlife art is increasing in popularity.

"I think what we're doing now is the most modern art and strangely, it's the oldest. People painted wildlife on their cave walls. "

Innocence II by Pip McGarry
Innocence II by Pip McGarry

"Painting African and Indian species has now become a movement and that's because of jet travel. We can get anywhere around the world really quickly. There's more people painting wildlife now then there has ever been."

Naturally, Pip is very passionate about animals. He loves to observe his big game subjects in their natural habitat and organises annual safaris to Botswana. Trips like these have made him very aware of the plight of some of the animals he paints.

"I went to a reserve in Tanzania called Tarangeri which was one of the strongholds for black rhino - there were no black rhino there at all, they'd been completely wiped out. Those sort of things really hit home."

It's fitting then that part of Pip's job at Marwell is to raise funds for the zoo. With many species on the verge of extinction, the park plays an important part is helping to save these creatures.

Pip McGarry
Pip McGarry

"Marwell do a fantastic job, for example they've returned the scimitar - horned oryx to parts of Tunisia where they'd become extinct. I see that we can support that work with the funds from the Arts Society. We've got 270 members and their membership fees provide a substantial amount each year."

The society has sold over £200,000 worth of artwork at its summer exhibitions and has donated over £40,000 of that money to various projects at Marwell. Pip has also raised funds for projects like Save The Tiger and the Dambari Field Research Station for Black Rhinos in Zimbabwe.

Pip could soon find himself a bit of a celebrity as his artistic talents were put to the test in the series A Brush with the Wild. The ITV programmes show him teaching celebrities such as Christine Hamilton, Linda Robson and Jenny Eclair how to paint wildlife at Marwell.

So does Pip have a favourite animal to paint?

"Big cats are the things that have changed my career - they're the most popular subject so I enjoy the success that they bring. But the smooth-skinned animals like elephants, rhinos and hippos are probably more enjoyable to paint."

 
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