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Toni Hargreaves's Biography

Toni Hargreaves - Ant and Dec

spent five years at Blackpool and Fylde College of Art, studying first technical illustration then specialising in scientific illustration with a view to becoming a medical illustrator. I worked for a medical publisher in Surrey as an illustrator before returning to the north to pursue a career as a freelance wildlife illustrator eventually signing to a London illustration agency.
Computer based illustration and digitised artwork were beginning to affect the role of the wildlife illustrator and the type of work available. It was then to prove a turning point in my career when, in 1997, I met quite a few international wildlife artists whilst exhibiting at the British Falconry Fair. This led to me painting wildlife pictures, often working from my own photographs of reference as well as sketch material gained from the field, including trips to Kenya and Botswana on safari.
Every artist needs a new challenge to incite the enthusiasm, so after a number of years painting traditional wildlife paintings I decided to experiment on box canvas with a more contemporary approach to my animals.
Signing with Washington Green has enabled me to concentrate completely on my painting by giving me an opportunity to show my work to a wider audience.
I've always been a huge fan of Gary Larson's cartoons depicted in “The Far Side” where he transposes his animals to the reality of human situations and explores how they might react with humorous results. I suppose my mind follows similar thoughts about what my animals might be experiencing. I always think, for example, that very pale cows always look a bit put out when you walk through their field. They would be the sort of neighbours who stand looking through the window, hooves on hips complaining about the youth of today! You wouldn't want to ask for your ball back from their garden – they'd be the sort ringing the police…well, if they had opposable thumbs of course!
Sometimes I have an idea for a painting based on a play on words; I'll have an idea of the sort of imagery that I want to use, so I'll look through my photos until I see something suitable. I might like an expression on an animals face and immediately have a title for it, however usually I wait until I've started painting to ensure the title is a unique fit to the painting in progress.
My animals are not cuddly toys so I don't seek to portray the cute factor in my work. I like the individualistic nature of them and whether that comes across as docile or plain bad tempered for example then that's what I paint.
Whilst I do attend agricultural shows and the like for inspirations, very often the animals are just too pretty and don't have the lived in tatty edges I like! My subjects are all around me and I'm never short of inspiration – in fact I have a list of titles and subjects on my studio wall just waiting for me to find the time!

Toni Hargreaves's Artwork

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