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Susan Jane LeesSusan Jane Lees   AFC Susan Jane Lees
African Wildlife
Born 1961, Bristol, UK

Susan's first love of nature may have been inspired at an early age by a magpie that use to frequently sit on her pram in the garden; she grew up wanting to work with animals. But her artistic side was encouraged more and after leaving school and starting work she was encouraged to attend college and studied Graphic Design (pre-computer era). But it was whilst she was at college that it became clear that for her, the reason to draw or paint was to capture her favourite subjects - animals. Self-taught she has gone on to win awards and exhibit widely.

After her first trip to southern Africa in 1995 her focus of subject matter changed from UK native species to African and slowly the ethic of only painting what she has seen for herself became integral in her work. Also that same year her career changed when she was employed at Bristol Zoo Gardens as their sole Wildlife Illustrator, where she still works at present. Suddenly she was no longer painting 'cute and cuddlies' now she was painting any type of animal.... spiders, beetles, snakes, lizards, fish, birds and mammals. Her learning curve was steep and challenging, but rewarding. Her time at the zoo has also helped her understand the importance of the small and unglamorous species, as well as the big and iconic. Now on her travels she takes as much delight finding something small like an ant with golden hairs on its abdomen as she does seeing a leopard or elephant.

Susan's trip to Africa in 1995 was a dream come true as it was the only place she wanted to visit since childhood. She stayed with relatives in Swaziland and after visiting the game parks there, went on to the Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. A trip in 1999, with 12 other fellow artists in the company of Simon Combes, to Kenya was next. Followed by a few one day stops around the coast on a cruise liner voyage and then a month long stay with elephant researchers in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, 2011.

Assisting a fellow artist, who was tutoring art on a cruise ship, and then being the tutor herself enabled Susan to see many places in the world in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009 opening her mind to other countries, cultures, histories, landscapes and wildlife; but her heart for the moment stays firmly fixed on Africa.

A chance meeting in 2007 brought Susan into contact with an elephant conservation research charity, Elephants For Africa, working in Botswana. Susan has become an avid supporter of their work and helps when she can to raise funds and awareness for them. Her 2015 exhibition reflected her experiences and observations during a month long stay in the Okavango Delta, where the research camp was based at that time.

"Conservation goes hand in hand with being a wildlife artist, and raising awareness and funds through artwork for conservation bodies, big or small, is a part of the force that drives me."

Susan has three blogs – one each for her work at the zoo, for her work as a wildlife artist and one she did for the run up and after the exhibition. On the first two there are links to my Facebook albums that have examples of my work.

Notable exhibitions;
The Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition, The Westminster Gallery, London – 1995, 96.
The National Exhibition of Wildlife Art – 1998, 99, 01, 02, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 11, 12, 14
Big Cats In Art Exhibition, Nature In Art, Glos. In aid of Africat – 2001.
British Contemporary Crafts Exhibition - Nature In Art, Glos. – 2003, 04.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Art Exhibition, Nature In Art, Glos. – 2005.
Postcard Portraits, Nature In Art, Glos. – 2005, 2013
The Society for Wildlife Artists 2007

Landmark Gallery, Wisconsin, USA 1999
Wild Cat Art Inaugral Exhibition, California, USA – 2001.
Ooo Voor Natuur Gallery, Holland 2008

Christies Wildlife Art Auction – 1998.
Sotheby’s Internet Wildlife Art Auction – 2000.
‘Art for Survival’ Christie’s David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation – 2004.
‘Art for Survival’ Christie’s David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation 2007
Painted sculpture gorilla for WOW!Gorillas 2011
Painted gorilla sculpture for Bristol Zoo's conservation projects - 2012

Wildlife Artist of the Year Competitions;
David Shepherd 2011 Selected Finalist for Mall Gallery Exhibition
BBC Wildlife 2012 Selected Finalist

Solo/2-man shows;
Fiery Beacon Gallery 1984, 85
St George’s, Bristol 2004
Cheng-Kim Loke Wildlife Art Gallery, WWT Slimbridge 2006
Nature In Art, Glos 2015

Support for Conservation:
2015 - Exhibition for Elephants For Africa (EFA), a conservation research charity. The Trustees of EFA requested for the exhibition to become the charity's main fund-raiser and this was held at the Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery in Gloucestershire, UK (September 3rd -20th). Raised just under $5000 for EFA.

2012 - Painted small gorilla sculpture (approx 2' high) 'Maximus', for auction to raise funds for conservation projects for Bristol Zoo Gardens. It reached the highest bid of evening and sold for £5,200.

2011 - Painted one of 60 large gorilla sculptures (approx 5' high) 'Distinctly Different' (Dee Dee') for WOW!Gorillas art trail and auction to raise funds for conservation projects for Bristol Zoo Gardens and for the Bristol Children's Hospital. Dee Dee sold for £7,500 and total amount raised for the auction over £425,000.

2011 - Elephants For Africa sold my donated original batik for $1000

2011 - One month field trip for reference to Okavango Delta with the Elephants For Africa Trust. An elephant conservation research charity studying young bull elephants from when they leave the natal herd and integrate into adult breeding bull society.

2011 - Selected Finalist for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition, Mall Galleries, London, UK

2010 - Donated 10 limited Edition prints to the Elephants For Africa Trust

2007 - David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation 'Art for Survival' wildlife art auction, Christies, London, UK

2005 - The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Art Exhibition, Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, Glos, UK

2004 - David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation 'Art for Survival' wildlife art auction, Christies, London, UK

2001 - Big Cats in Art Exhibition in support of Africat, Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, Glos, UK

1996 - Drawing commissioned by Action Comores – Livingstone fruit bat conservation.

1995 - Four man show raising funds for 'Cheetalert' Bristol, UK

Special Achievements:
  • 2012 - Finalist in BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year Competition

  • 1995 - The Society of Women Artists
    Elected for membership on first showing with them and, unusually, with half the normally required pieces.
  • 1994 - The British Society of Painters
    Elected to Associate Member of Society.
  • Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery
    Regular Artist in Residence since 2000
  • 2005 - HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex
    Original gouache painting of silverback gorilla 'Jock' commissioned by Bristol Zoo Gardens as a presentation gift to his Royal Highness to commemorate his visit to the zoo in 2005.
  • Artists & Illustrators Magazine (2011)
    Author - Masterclass:'Realistic Touches' - showing step by step progress of a painting
    Published by: The Chelsea Magazine Company Ltd
  • Artists & Illustrators Magazine (2010)
    Author - MasterClass article:'A sense of depth' - showing step by step progress of a painting
    Published by: The Chelsea Magazine Company Ltd
  • Wildscape (2009)
    Author - 'You must have the best job in the world' - article about my work as the wildlife illustrator at Bristol Zoo Gardens
    Published by: Darwin Publishing
  • Wildscape (2003)
    Author - 'A zoo with a view' - article about my painting of a 44 sq metre 'jungle' mural on a building at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
    Published by: Darwin Publishing
Organization Membership:
  • 2012 - Artists for Conservation



Direct Correspondence to:Susan Jane Lees
Susan Jane Lees

  Worldwide Nature Artists Group
Email: susanjanelees.art@gmail.com
Home Page: http://www.susanjanelees.blogspot.com
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This site is part of the Artists for Conservation (AFC) Web site. (Wildlife Art - Nature Art - Conservation) Artists for Conservation is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to nature art, wildlife art and conservation. On this site you will find world-class nature art and wildlife art by today's leading nature artists & wildlife artists. The AFC site is the Web's premier location for nature art, wildlife artists All content appearing in pages featuring Susan Jane Lees is the sole responsibility of Susan Jane Lees. The opinions expressed on these artists' pages are those of Susan Jane Lees and do not necessarily reflect those of the Artists for Conservation Foundationi (AFC).