By Lorne Eckersley
Creston Valley Advance
Creston Valley artist Guy Hobbs has been named the BC Wildlife Federation 2014 artist of the year for All He Surveys, his close-up depiction of a bald eagle.
Hobbs’ work was selected by a jury from three finalists in a field narrowed down from more than 30 submissions by a vote of delegates to the BCWF annual general meeting and convention.
Surprisingly, Hobbs has only been creating wildlife art for three years. Born and raised in England, he and his wife, Kerry, emigrated several years ago, making Castlegar their first Canadian home.
“It’s been a fascinating ride,” he admitted. “I’ve been running the design business, too, and that helps to keep things realistic.“
The self-taught artist has developed his own technique for creating finely detailed pictures of wildlife after starting out drawing pets.
“Anything with fur or feathers,” he laughed.
From his original focus on charcoal pencil drawings, Hobbs’ work has evolved into a complex technique that combines the use of coloured pencils, brushes and paints, and an airbrush.
“It’s been a really interesting learning process,” he said. “I was working exclusively in colouring pencil and I hit a road block. I’ve always said I’ve become a wildlife artist to cover up the fact that I’m a really mediocre wildlife photographer!“
He made a decision early on to only work from his own reference photos.
“It’s just a personal preference and I think it keeps me honest. As an artist I get to improve on my mediocre photos.”
One of the appeals of photography, Hobbs said, is that allows him to play with depth of field — “bringing some things to attention by throwing other things out of focus. That’s virtually impossible with pencil. Pencil can create really fine detail, but not the out-of-focus aspect of a photo.”
His early work (which can be viewed at www.guyhobbs.com), demonstrates his deft ability with charcoal pencils. But his pictures took a giant leap forward when he began to experiment with another tool.
“I saw people’s work with airbrush and I thought, ‘That looks like fun,’ ” he said. “So I got an airbrush just to deal with background. It achieved some other things I liked. Now, combining the pencils back with it there’s a lot more I can achieve. It really was one of those light bulb moments.
“It was a huge leap forward in what I was trying to achieve and what I was able to achieve.”
Astonishingly, All He Surveys is the first complete piece he created with his newly developed technique.
“That was a validation of what I was doing.”
Raised in the southeast of England, Hobbs is the youngest — “by quite a long way” — of seven children in his family. He had traveled around the world before he met and married Kerry, who is now the manager of the Creston campus of College of the Rockies.
“On our honeymoon we did a three-week trip around the U.S. We called it the Rock Tour because we looked at more rock formations than is probably good for a human being — the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, all those things,” Hobbs said. “On that trip it hit home that there was still country with wide open, unpopulated land.
“I also noticed how much more polite to each other the Americans were than the Brits, and how much more aware of one another’s existence they seemed to be.
“We were both in careers that were going very well but weren’t necessarily fulfilling. We were very much in the rat race so we weren’t spending very much quality time together.”
Deciding that they could either continue to have more life adventures or keep doing what they were doing until they retired, they applied for Canadian visas after making a three-week tour around B.C. Three years, and three more road trips, later they were on their way to a new life in Canada.
“Coming to Canada was the best decision I have made — after getting married, that is,” Hobbs laughed. “Creston, funnily enough, had not featured very highly with us because it was more like England. We were looking for a change.”
In Castlegar, Kerry got into the hospitality industry, managing hotels. Hobbs kept his design agency going by working online. The agency, which he continues to operate, works with everything from small business startups to international blue chip companies.
A job opportunity brought the couple to Creston, and a suggestion by Kerry helped spur Hobbs into a new direction.
“You love wildlife,” she said. “You are fascinated by wildlife — why don’t you draw it?”
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I count myself very, very lucky.”
The BCWF Artist of the Year program was established in 1992 with the goal of selecting an artist whose work exhibits the beauty of B.C. fish, wildlife and habitats. The sale of limited edition art prints supports BCWF conservation projects throughout the province while also recognizing the talent of B.C. artists.
This year’s artist of the year art cards and signed and numbered limited edition prints are now available for purchase on line at www.bcwf.bc.ca.