Cove Conversations – Sam Dodd

In this series of blogs we ask Cove Gallery artists to choose artists and artworks that have inspired them to give us a closer insight into the influences that drive their creativity.

sam dodd artist

Sam Dodd is an established Dorset-based wildlife artist. Born in Somerset in the 1970's, in 1991 Sam started a 3D Design Degree at Central St Martins College in London but had a change of direction and decided to return to Dorset, where she worked as a Specialist Finisher at a local Gallery. It was whilst here that Sam was given the opportunity to exhibit with her new-found passion for painting wildlife. Now with two grown up children, Sam paints from her studio at home, near to the town of Sherborne in Dorset, overlooking farmland and woods. Her subjects include wildlife, birds, farm animals, landscapes and seascapes.

Not surprisingly, Sam’s love of wildlife and the countryside feature strongly in her artistic journey, and as she describes below, her work is not shaped only by other artists and artwork, but also music, books, television and wildlife campaigners, including the renowned broadcaster Chris Packham.

 " For as long as I can remember I have had a love of nature and wildlife. I distinctly recall, aged around 8 or 9, going with my pocket money to buy a book from the aptly named 'Badger Bookshop' in Yeovil (long gone of course). After climbing the creaking stairs to the musty smelling Natural History section, the book I eventually chose was the Collins book of 'Mammals of Britain and Europe'.

I treasured this book, and still have it - every page with it's beautiful illustrations of animals that I longed to see in real life. I would copy the drawings and study the animals tracks I was planning to identify on my next adventure. I suppose this sparked the beginning of a lifelong passion.

Chris Packham

Along with burying my head in Natural History books, I watched all the Wildlife programmes on TV - yes, when there were only 3 channels – I know! A favourite being 'The Really Wild Show' (come on it was the 80's, we didn't have social media!). One person on that show who stood out was the presenter, naturalist, campaigner and wildlife photographer Chris Packham. I know his outspoken views are occasionally controversial, however he has been a presence in mine and many of our lives over the years and is probably the person who has had – if indirectly – the strongest influence, not necessarily on the style, but certainly the subject matter of my painting.

From being an awkward young teenager more interested in wildlife and drawing than anything else, to being a 47-year-old still more interested in wildlife and drawing than anything else, Chris Packham along with his Really Wild Show co-presenters Michaela Strachan and Terry Nutkins made it okay to go birdwatching or stick your nose into Badger poo! (not that I did of course) whilst still retaining your 'street cred'.

Chris's passion and incredible knowledge of wildlife was as infectious to me then as it continues to be today. Not only an engaging presenter, a voice for animal welfare, conservation, population and climate change, Chris is also a brilliant photographer with a (notoriously) exceptionally critical eye for a photograph or an artwork. A couple of years ago I took part in a show of Art – along with a handful of other artists – at a talk he was giving in support of the Somerset Wildlife Trust. As much as I would have enjoyed a chat with him, I was dreading the prospect of his critical eye gazing over my paintings, and I was quite relieved when he didn't!

As a wildlife artist there is no substitute for watching my subject closely, absorbing every detail. We shouldn't underestimate the huge positive impact being outside and watching nature has on our mental health. Chris has been an advocate of this when sharing his own experience of his struggles managing life with Asperger’s syndrome. I feel it is more important now than ever to champion the natural world, not only for its benefits to us as individuals but also for its own protection.

Poetry and Music

Like most artists I take inspiration from the usual range of sources such as visiting exhibitions, reading, walking. I love listening to music especially when I'm in my studio I never quite know when an idea is going to strike, it could be from a composition of a painting or photograph I've seen or even the way a song makes me feel.

I admit that I am a bit of a romantic and perhaps hark back to a time that maybe didn't really exist as is so often portrayed in art, literature and music. For instance, the books and poems of Dorset’s Thomas Hardy and the beautiful piece of music 'The Lark Ascending' by the composer Rupert Vaughan Williams – evocative of hazy Summer days with country lanes billowing with wildflowers...

A Dedication by George Frederick Watts

When I think of a picture that has inspired me, I feel compelled to reference the painting 'A Dedication' – also known as the 'Shuddering Angel' – by the British artist George Frederick Watts. ‘A Dedication’ is an image I first remember seeing during my art college days in the early 90's, either from a book or maybe in the flesh on one of our trips to the London galleries, I can't remember.

  

It has recently come to mind again as the painting is mentioned in the book 'Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather' by Tessa Boase, the connection being that George Frederic Watts' painting is his very public criticism of the late 19th century women’s fashion for hats and clothing adorned with feathers and sometimes whole birds.

Many Victorian women were unaware of or chose to ignore the cruel and barbaric trade in these birds, allowing them to continue to satisfy their own vanity. The book is fascinating, giving an insight not only into the Suffragette Movement, but also the shocking feather trade that most of us are completely unaware of and ultimately leading to the birth of the RSPB, of which thousands of people, including myself, continue to support today.

Wildlife Painting

Two artists that have recently inspired me is the American painter Morton Solberg and Emily Lamb, the granddaughter of the artist and wildlife conservationist David Shepherd.

  

 I particularly like Morten's watercolours of birds where he paints the background very loosely, leaving large areas of white, giving most of the detail to the main focus-the bird.

Emily`s paintings are full of energy and life with a loose sketchy style - I love how she uses bold splashes of colour, reflective of the African culture she immerses herself in with her wildlife conservation work."

 

Links to Further Information
See Sam Dodd's collection of original paintings at Cove Gallery here

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