Artist and conservationist Andrew Bone captures the wildlife and landscapes of his native Africa through his exciting, photo-realistic artwork. Bone was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1957. It was during his studies at Falcon College – a bush school for boys aged 12-18 in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) – that his deep love and respect for African wildlife began.
After graduation, Bone completed a mandatory assignment in the National Service, fighting in the Rhodesian war. It was during his service that he was first introduced to Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley, which would become an integral part of his life. The valley is home to many species of animals, including lions, elephants, hippopotami, impalas, zebras, and buffalo. When a friend established a canoeing company in the valley, Bone became a guide, helping visitors explore and experience all that the valley had to offer. During his time here he studied and photographed his surroundings endlessly.
Upon marrying his sweetheart and fellow nature-lover, Kelly, in 1986, Bone relocated to the Imire Game Ranch – also in Zimbabwe. It was here that Bone began to paint, completely self-taught, using the creatures that surrounded him as inspiration. His work became popular with local art galleries, and he soon became an artist full-time, dedicating his free time to wildlife conservation and fundraising.
Bone, his wife and three daughters live in a forest in the mountains of southern Africa. His studio is the hub of the house, filled with parts for his Land Rover and lawn mower, jaw bones from animals, hyena skulls, and dog collars. His workshop is very organized with everything at his disposal, which may come to his detriment, becoming the supply closet of his home. Although everyone seems to congregate in his studio, it still remains his refuge. Bone explains that his life in Africa is very full and always busy.
As a conservationist first and an artist second, Bone prefers to spend all of his time in the bush. The relationship between the two careers is a happy one. Bone explains that he cannot have one without the other, and he’s very pleased the way it’s worked out. To him, painting is a way to spread his message of conservation and introduce people all over the world to the species of Africa.
He also uses his art as a fundraising tool, establishing the Forever Wild Foundation, where 100% of funds raised go directly to the wildlife. Missions like, dealing with P.A.C. (problem animal control) and the general conservation of the species of Africa are important to Bone. His efforts are intensely focused on conservation, his photo-realistic style is a wonderful means to an end. Bone’s technique begins with his camera. Packing his Land Rover for the day, he goes into the wild, photographing everything – an entire spectrum of flora and fauna. He claims that he’s as excited to study a dung beetle as he is a charging herd of elephants. Each species relies upon the next and this gives him inspiration. Once Bone is back in his studio, he begins with one photograph but finds his inspiration on the easel. He does not copy a photo precisely but maintains the acute anatomy of each species. Each animal is exactly as it would be in the wild.
While Bone occasionally runs into some trouble outdoors, he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s had to dissect giraffes and shoot animals when they were injured or overpopulated. He’s woken up to lions breathing over him, been chased up a tree by a buffalo, and tipped out of a canoe by a hippopotamus. “It’s an interesting life,” he says. Although he’s seen many good friends killed in the bush, he claims he’d rather become “hyena bait” than spend his last days in a wheelchair. “Don’t paint it unless you’ve studied it, been chased by it, or done something to save it,” he says.
There are no shortcuts in his paintings. Each can take between three and four weeks to complete, and he loves working. Never able to sit still, Bone feels like it’s therapeutic to portray a subject he loves so much. But more importantly, when his clients enjoy his art, his mission is successful. So many of his clients had never dreamed of collecting wildlife art and now they have dedicated safari rooms.
As a general rule, Bone will only paint the species of Africa. He’ll be requested to paint wolves or black bears – American wildlife animals – but will decline. He says that there are many great American wildlife artists and he wouldn’t attempt to paint something he hasn’t studied before. “You must paint what you know,” he says, “and if you don’t know it, don’t paint it.” He calls himself a “control freak” and enjoys making all of his decisions from where he’s going to travel to which photos he takes and which subjects he ultimately paints. Then it goes straight to the gallery, ultimately ending up in the client’s hand, who Bone will be able to meet. “Park West’s clients are very large and diverse,” he says, and this variety in tastes and experiences, to Bone, is the perfect way to introduce his ideas in conservation.
His work is collected by art and animal lovers around the world. The book by the artist, “Brush Strokes of Africa,” includes heartwarming and amusing anecdotes from his journey through life, along with numerous reproductions of his oil paintings and sketches.
To learn more about the Andrew Bone Collection at Park West Gallery, please visit the artist’s website.