Hugely popular and globally successful wildlife fine artist, Gary Hodges’ work might be familiar to you without previously being aware that you were looking at a Gary Hodges’ composition. Especially if you’re an environmental and wildlife champion who keeps a close eye on campaigns instigated by Greenpeace, Zoo Check, The Born Free Foundation and the World Wild Fund for Nature. Many leading, household name conservation and environmental organisations have in the past used Hodges’ works of art to both raise awareness for their campaigns as well as much needed funds to help their public0interest causes.
Increasing amounts of Hodges’ detail rich drawings and signature animal sketches have also been auctioned to benefit such groups, amongst which were shows at London’s prestigious Medici and Mall Galleries, in addition to a one-man show in Paris in aid of the environmental organisation, Robin des Bois and the Living Earth Rainforest Art Exhibition staged at the capital’s Natural History Museum. Reflecting on that solo exhibition debut hosted by the Mall Gallery, which raised some £90,000 for The Born Free Foundation, Hodges comments; “I can’t imagine making a living from drawing wildlife and not giving something back”. To date, the celebrated artist has seen proceeds from the sales of his hallmark original and limited edition prints top over half a million pounds and climbing.
There is no doubting that Hodges’ passion and respect for his animal subject matter is almost without peer, with this illustratively harnessed and consequently visually projected courtesy of his elaborate and personal etchings. In fact it’s there for all to see, whether he’s reaching out to a dog on the street, stroking rescued wolves, touching a wild grey whale or cradling an orphaned orang-utan. That’s just Hodges to a tee.
For nigh on two decades now, Hodges has been crafting the exquisitely realistic graphic likeness of animals, both wild and domesticated in a professional guise, yet initial recognition and the perceived commercial value of his unique pieces very nearly stopped Hodges in his tracks. 20-odd years ago, some potential fine art publishers rejected the concept of Hodges’ pencil drawings, dismissing them in the belief that the buying public would only purchase colour examples of this genre. Thankfully Greenpeace had the foresight to disagree with this widely held belief, and ensured that Hodges’ first limited edition prints made it to press back in 1987. ironically, the two editions of the original 850-run reproductions (sold for £8.50 each at the time) completely sold out, and have since seen demand soar so much that they have been known to exchange hands for as much as £3,500 in recent times. From that point forward, Hodges has worked hard to become acknowledged today as among the world’s most successful wildlife artists, and continues to self-publish; having sold in excess of 100,000 personally signed and numbered prints from 124 limited edition originals.
Hodges was born in south London in 1954 and showed both an interest and fledgling talent for art from an early age. Leaving school as soon as he could as a 16-year old, Hodges found employment in the printing industry; however this was relatively short-lived on account of him being ill at ease with the somewhat disciplined and regimented world of printing presses and past-up rooms, as was. So instead he decided to travel, and took three months out to explore certain parts of North and South America. On his return to the UK, Hodges looked to his personal art once more and focused on it with a view to potentially making a living from it in the long term. However, and in terms of a vocation, Hodges ended up spending a sizeable chunk of the 1980s working with children; involved in the provision of playground and educational leisure facilities for them, and was instrumental in the planning, construction and subsequent operating of an adventure playground at Elephant and Castle, a deprived area of London at that time.
Yet in the background, and throughout this period working with children, Hodges developed and evolved his drawing and sketching, and started to gain attention and plaudits for his quality of compositional work. So much so that he was approached to manifest four illustrations to support a feature in ‘Wildlife Magazine’ in 1981, as well as being invited to lay down the design for a World Wildlife Fund promotional leaflet alongside of various accompanying press releases at the time. Hodges also showcased his work at the Henry-Brett Galleries in Chelsea and Gloucester, and on the back of his accumulative recognition and successes he took the decision to turn professional in 1989.
Since arriving at that conclusion, Hodges has enjoyed massive commercial success, as well as giving pleasure to his legions of fans, admirers and seasoned collectors and industry critics alike. Included amongst Hodges’ celebrity followers are; tennis legend, Martina Navratilova, TV presenter, Michaela Strachan, former athletics star, Sally Gunnell and actress, Rula Lenska. Hodges love for wildlife has taken him on many journeys over the years as he perpetually seeks out new illustrative frontiers, and has spent time on fact finding trips to the diversely landscaped likes of Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Portugal, Nepal and Australia. These research trips have in turn afforded us Hodges’ sublime compositions of creatures that certainly have put the ‘wild’ into wildlife; respected, fearsome and fascinating creatures such as African and Asian elephants, tigers, lions, orang-utans, wolves, lemurs, snow leopards, jaguars and so many more besides.