Marine biologist turned award-winning wildlife painter Dr Jeremy Paul’s latest exhibition at the Manx Museum in Douglas marks 25 years as a professional artist and gives visitors an insight into how his work has evolved.
‘I had to search around in the attic for some of these paintings,’ he said, which was two years in the planning.
After spending time as a marine biologist in the Isle of Man and Scotland, he started painting in earnest during a spell of unemployment while living in Kent. This led to his first exhibition in the inauspicious venue of Ashford public library in 1981. In 1988 he moved back to the island to work again as a marine biologist but when that didn’t work out he became a full time artist.
Since then he has found international acclaim and regularly exhibits in the Isle of Man where he is now resident. His latest exhibition in the Manx Museum in Douglas continues until January.
Beginning with early works from the 1980s it progresses to a selection of works which have won awards and finishes with his most recent works based on his latest trip to Africa.
‘You can see the transition from that particularly bad painting (he indicates a picture of a kestrel) to this,’ he said, indicating a painting of a barn owl.
‘These paintings were in the Birds in Art Exhibition. It is prestigious and hard to get paintings in to it. My first time was in 94 then there was a 13-year gap before I got in again and after that I managed three years in a row.’
He’s also won three different categories in the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year competition though not the overall prize.
The works are acrylic on canvas and are characterised by the level of scientific precision and attention to detail which belie his former profession.
‘When I started out as a marine biologist many of our findings were recorded in the form of scientific drawings,’ he said.
‘People sometimes liken them to photographs but of course it’s better than a photograph because you can cheat!’
He indicates a painting of a group of African hunting dogs produced after his most recent Africa visit.
‘For example they were actually different dogs but I used a little artistic licence to group them together,’ he said.
‘The beauty of it is, if one of them is looking the wrong way on a photograph that can be corrected on the painting!’
Apart from painting in the Isle of Man, he has done expeditions to India, Africa, Antarctica.
‘I strongly believe in not painting anything until I’ve seen it myself. The exception to that is the snow leopard because the chances of seeing one are minimal. But if I’m going to paint something it has to be right and accurate,’ he said.
His most recent trip was to Kenya in March: ‘I’m lucky to have been to Africa a few times and I particularly wanted to see the wild dogs, which I did in Botswana,’ he said.
Ambitions yet to fulfil include painting the great apes and visiting the Galapagos Islands.
‘I’m slowly working my way through the list of Must Sees but I still have a way to go yet,’ he said.
There’s also a newly released Isle of Man stamps series based on his big cats drawings: ‘It’s a real thrill to see your work on stamps, particularly when a letter drops through your letter box with one on!’ he said.
‘I feel very privileged to be able to go to Africa, paint pictures and call it work.’
His book, celebrating his life as a professional wildlife artist, published with support from Manx National Heritage and KPMG and a range of prints are on sale at the Manx Museum.