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Q&A With Matthew

What medium do you use for the original drawings?
All my original drawings are created using pencils. Graphite pencils (the HB's etc.) are used for the non-colour drawings, and colour pencils for the colour drawings. I have a wide variety of pencils which have accumulated over the years, some good quality ones, some 'cheapies'. Aquarelle pencils with their bright colour and Polychromos with their smooth application are two personal favourites
What paper is used for originals and prints?
Originals are drawn on a slightly textured acid free 200g Fabriano Academia paper. Prints are printed on a Colortec+ paper. This bright white, uncoated, super smooth paper provides a lovely finish for both black & white and colour prints and suits them perfectly
Do you have a favorite artwork?
It is quite hard to say which drawing is my favorite, but I have done a few I think are pretty special. I like them all seeing as I only ever complete an original drawing if I am 100% happy with it. My Wild Dog drawings are some of my best, especially the one with the mother and baby. I love the interaction there and was really happy with the way it turned out. The leopard in the fork of the tree is definitely one of my better ones, too. 
Before drawing this one, I had been searching for a really good leopard photograph to draw from. I eventually came across an image on a photographer which I follow’s Instagram account. I immediately emailed her to ask if I could use it as a reference and after getting the go ahead, I got started on the drawing! This particular drawing took quite a while, around 22 hours in total, especially the tree bark. But from a skill point of view, I would say it is definitely one of my best original art pieces.
I love drawing birds, too. Especially the brightly coloured ones such as Lilac Breasted Rollers, Sunbirds and Kingfishers. I am a very keen birdwatcher as well, so I’ve always had a special fascination with birds. I love the process of bringing them to life through my drawings
Do you follow any specific creative process when it comes to your original drawings? How would you describe your style?
I wouldn’t say there is any specific process I follow. Although, over the years I have probably developed certain skills and ways of doing things with my specific art which makes it unique. These aspects work best for my particular style. My style is realism but not photo-realistic. In other words, I draw my subjects with great detail and in a very realistic manner, but ensure that one can still always see it is a pencil drawing and not a photograph and that the final piece has all the character of an African wildlife artwork

Apart from the actual subject, one of the most important aspects of my art is the  negative space. I never add a background, my subjects are always surrounded by the white of the paper. This ensures all the focus is on only the subject. Also, it’s very seldom that I will place the subject in the middle of the paper. I will always leave more space towards the direction in which the animal or bird is looking and this is an effective way of using negative space and also creating an aesthetically pleasing artwork. Two of the most important aspects of my drawings, I would say, are the eyes and my method of ‘drawing in layers'. Firstly, eyes are the most important part of any animal or bird drawing. If you get the eyes right, the rest will follow. They are what brings the drawing to life, giving you a connection with the animal. This is why I always start with the eyes and once I am happy that the eyes are right, I know the drawing will be a good one. That tiny white dot of light in the eye is the most vital part of any one of my artworks! Secondly, the number one tip I would give any young pencil artist would be to focus on drawing in layers. Don’t immediately put pencil to paper in the colour you wish to apply, but instead start much lighter, slowly, building up layers and working in the darker bits until you have the desired color (end layer). This both creates depth and enhances realism and is a vital part of my drawing process
Do you use any specific pencils?
I have a whole jumble of different pencils that I use. Some are ‘good quality’ ones and some are just cheap ones you buy for your kids in primary school. Sometimes I actually prefer these ones as they are harder, therefor sharper and one can draw in greater detail with them. My Raffine and my Faber Castell Aquarelle pencils are the ones I probably use most often
How long does an original art piece take to draw?
This depends largely on what I am drawing and how big I draw it. Generally, my originals are about A4 size. To draw an animal this size takes roughly between 16 and 22 hours but can be less or more depending on the above factors. I struggle to sit and concentrate for very long periods at a time, so this is usually over a period of about 3 to 4 weeks. Birds take slightly quicker to draw than animals. Animals with fur, leopards, wild dogs etc, are the most time consuming as one literally has to draw the layers of every single strand of fur
Do you photograph your subjects before you draw them?
I do draw from photographs but most of my reference photos I get from photographers or field guides who work in the bush, the ones who have the massive camera lenses and can get the best photos! I am extremely picky about which photos I use to draw from, and probably look at over a thousand photos for each one that I finally choose.

I think it’s as vital to choose the right reference image as it is to actually draw the drawing skillfully. Some of my drawings have more than one animal in them and quite often these are not one photograph, but rather a few I put together to then use as a reference. One has to be careful here, especially when ensuring that the light is the same in the different photos so that once combined the drawing looks natural and as if it is one scene in nature
Have you ever been interested in drawing anything other than wildlife?
I come from a family of artists, so luckily for me art was definitely in the genes. I have always been drawing. Funnily enough when I was younger, I would most often draw cartoon characters and pictures, with hundreds of tiny people in them, kind of like Where’s Wally. It was only a bit later on that I started more consistently drawing birds and animals. However, I soon realized this was what I really loved drawing. So I focused on this genre, getting better and better with each pencil drawing. It is simply a practice thing. If I compare the drawings I am creating now to only two or three years ago, there is a huge difference! This is because each time I draw, I am getting practice and learning new skills and methods to make my drawings better and better.
As I mentioned above, when I was younger I would draw a variety of different things, not only wildlife. But now wildlife is all I am really interested in drawing. It’s what I enjoy most and what I am best at. I am increasingly honing my wildlife drawing skills with each new original wildlife art piece that I complete
What is the demand like for original wildlife art vs. wildlife prints?
This totally depends on the customer. Obviously, because my wildlife prints are much more affordable, I sell a lot more of them. However, there are a lot of people who are only interested in original art. Because of the time it takes to finish a highly detailed pencil drawing, I can only produce new originals every one or two months. So this means that there aren’t a lot of my originals going round.
Currently, my original drawings sell for anywhere between R8 000 and R15 000 depending on the size and time taken to complete whereas when I first started selling them they would go for between R1000 and R3000. The demand for my original art is ever increasing and currently they are sold on a first come, first serve basis
Are all prints individually signed?
Yes, each and every print is individually signed by me
Are the prints available in different sizes?
Yes, all prints come in different sizes. Generally, prints of each original will be available in 2 to 3 different sizes. One will be around the same size as the original and one (sometimes 2) smaller versions of the original
Do originals come with a certificate of authenticity?
Yes, each original drawing has its own unique certificate to ensure its authenticity
Do you do commissions?
Yes I am open to commissions, as long as they are wildlife based and in line with my art style. To enquire about commissions one can send me an email at