Brian Woodhouse - Issue Thirteen Interview

Thank you so much for talking with us! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Brian Woodhouse and I am a self-taught realism wildlife artist specializing in a variety of mediums. When I was growing up, I was always drawing. I almost always had a pencil and paper in my hand. I remember I would draw pictures for my teachers at school to make up for my bad marks. As I got older, I decided to pursue other interests and have only recently, within the last two years, decided to devote my life to creating art. It started up slowly with a couple of sketches here and there and then in the winter of 2019, I decided to draw a 36-inch tall graphite drawing of an elephant and ever since then I have been all in. Currently, I live in Aurora, Ontario and I work out of the spare bedroom in my condo, which I have turned into my own little studio.

What are the main themes in your artwork?

My theme is emotion, plain and simple. I want people to feel when they look at my art and I want it to mean something to me as well. I am sure that any artist would make a similar claim, but my artwork is greatly influenced by what I’m going through at the time whether it’s during the preparation stage, researching a reference photo or when I am actually working on the piece itself. My hope is that when people look at my artwork, they identify with the emotion on the animals’ face. A feeling of connection draws the viewer in and allows space for their own imagination to develop a narrative for the piece based on their experiences. This is why I like to leave a blank background on the majority of my pieces. I like the idea of the viewer filling in the blanks when they look at it.

What excites you most when creating artwork based on wildlife?

Each piece of artwork that I have done has its own story. I always try to challenge myself. Whether its experimenting with different mediums to attempting to draw or paint animals that push me outside my comfort zone. For example, I was recently commissioned to paint a horse and it was a pretty big departure from the types of animals that I typically select for my non-commission pieces. It was challenging but I learned a lot along the way and was able to expand my skillset and appreciation for a different style of animal art. The creative process is filled with waves. One moment you feel as though every line or brush mark you make is flawlessly flowing from your hand but the next moment you might find yourself frustrated and on the brink of ripping the piece apart and starting over. Luckily, I have never given into that moment of frustration and manage to find a way back to the piece. I guess what excites me most about creating artwork based on wildlife is the story that I hope comes through as well as the personal challenge of completing the piece.

Have you always had an interest in nature?

For the most part, yes. When I was a younger, I used to draw eagles all the time. I even painted one on my childhood bedroom wall. Then I grew interested in drawing fantasy creatures like dragons and elves. When I found my way back to drawing about two years ago, I was heavily influenced by artists that I came across on social media and at local galleries. I was amazed by artists like Robert Bateman who could use their artwork as a means to help spread awareness about the importance and urgency of wildlife conservation. It was almost a lightbulb moment for me and all of a sudden, I had developed a deep interest in finding a way to use my artistic ability to try and do some good for the environment.

What are your thoughts on rewilding?

I am definitely not an expert on conservation and rewilding, but it is an interest of mine and something I have been researching lately, especially since I have realized my interest in the environment. I think that rewilding can be really beneficial for the environment and, ultimately, for the animals as well. For animals in particular, rewilding is an opportunity to re-balance the state of nature and to reduce mass extinction. As humans, we take the earth and nature for granted and assume that everything will carry on as it has, but warnings from experts show that if we don’t take active steps to work on the health our planet, we are going to lose out. One of the easiest ways to help rewilding efforts is to plant trees or flowers that would naturally grow in your area in your backyard. This encourages bugs and birds to set up their habitats, which is beneficial for your environment. Sometimes small steps are all it takes to have a big impact, especially if everyone participates in the effort.

How important are the arts in communicating the need for rewilding?

I think that art has always been and always will be a great way to convey important messages in a more relatable and enjoyable way. Some people like to read and do research but many people, myself included, are more visual. For me, when I see an image that evokes an emotion from me, I become interested in the story behind it and that will prompt me to then research or read up on an issue. That is part of how I gained my initial interest in drawing and painting wildlife. I saw artists on Instagram who were drawing animals as a way to promote charity efforts and the messages they were championing resonated with me. I am hoping that one day my art might do the same for others. Rewilding may not be something that many people think about on a regular basis, but art can be a means to get the message out in a simple, approachable way.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon that you can tell us about?

Yes! I have a large acrylic painting of two lions that I’m planning on starting soon. It will be my largest piece yet and I’m very excited to get to work on it. I also have a watercolour painting of a leopard that is currently in the planning stages, which I am excited about. I would like to also do a piece to raise money for orangutan’s who have been severely devastated by the deforestation caused by the palm oil industry. I am always thinking about future projects, which I am sure most people can relate to. It helps to keep things interesting and the creativity flowing.

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