Earlier this month we welcomed talented natural world and sea life painter Giles Ward to Collier & Dobson, and launched his wonderfully textural portrayals of aquatic life as limited edition prints. So now is a great time to dive into the life of the accomplished artist, and uncover his artistic inspiration and creative journey.
Although he is currently based in the picturesque Wye Valley, Giles is originally from the (equally scenic) Northern English county of Yorkshire. He studied fine art at Sheffield before moving to Exeter to study Illustration and Graphic Design at Exeter College of Art, and soon thereafter became a full time artist in the vibrant harbour city of Bristol, in the Southwest of England.
Well known in Bristol and beyond, Giles exhibits at galleries and events throughout the UK and overseas, including the Forest Seafood Festival, Battersea Art Fair, and the Affordable Art Fair, to name just a few.
Childhood memories of holidaying in coastal areas of the south west have fuelled his chosen subject, as it was on those journeys filled with wonder and discovery where he first fell in love with beach walking and rock-pooling. Having the opportunity to spend time lingering at the water’s edge revealed to him a whole world of activity below, so often overlooked. He recalls beginning to notice a ‘shifting shimmer of colour’ beneath the pool’s surface, then seeing the definitive texture of shells and scales, and the intricate and perfect patterns of nature. He says “This is where my love affair with life in the sea began: in the bottom of a yellow plastic bucket of rock-pool finds.”
At the heart of Giles’ artistic style is examination and experimentation. He identifies, reveals, and magnifies the hidden worlds of aquatic life and their myriad colours and captivating forms, presenting them in up-close detail so that the brilliance he sees can be shared by all. His passion for the often unseen beauty of his subjects finds him describing the humble anchovy with wonderment and adoration: “At first it may just appear silver, but as its tiny body turns to the light an incredible pallete of purples, blues, reds and pinks appear. Blown up large you really see the wonder in these little creatures”.
Working primarily in oils, Gary elevates his compositions by introducing texture with a combination of acrylics, inks, spray paint, and collage…as well as anything else he can lay his hands on! In an interview in 2021, he described his process as “Messy when painting – that’s when the surprises happen on the canvas […] I like working on several pieces at once – especially as I build up layers over time and they need time to dry and evolve.”
In January this year Giles launched his “highly anticipated first publication” See Life. The beautiful book features 30 of his delightful depictions as vibrant full colour illustrations, coupled with interesting facts about his favourite fish and shellfish. It is described as “a stunning feast for the eyes” and “food for thought about the lives of many of the intriguing creatures living in the waters that surround us”.
His eye-catching work is highly sought-after and adorns the walls of many a public and private collection. Giles’ popularity has even seen him grace the pages of a number of publications, from independent online newspapers like Bristol 24/7 - who praised his beautifully designed book of aquatic illustrations - to well-known Country Living Magazine, who’s feature for The Fisherman’s Cellars in Cornwall in July this year described one of his works as “a striking canvas […] giving the scheme a contemporary edge while also nodding to its history as a fishing cellar”.
Giles has been involved in a number of philanthropic endeavours over the years, such as his partnering on a project with marine conservation and education charity The National Lobster Hatchery; raising funds for Heart Research UK in the Anonymous heART Project; the Art for Cure Feast exhibition; and, during the first covid lockdown, he generously donated proceeds from the sale of an original painting to the NHS.
If that has whet your appetite, head over to our online gallery to browse and buy from his latest collection of exceptionally striking and colourful limited edition prints.