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Mick Cawston

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Tragically passing away in 2006 at the age of just 47 years, the celebrated contemporary animal artist, Mick Cawston left behind him a proud legacy of illustrative art which more often than not focussed its incredibly detailed attentions on that of our canine friends. A wildlife and animal artist of some magnitude and standing both in the community and peer circles in which his specific genre work found itself a crucial and universally acknowledged part of, Cawston’s signature works routinely comprised of and heavily featured a wealth of layers and unique narratives. From foxes, deer and native bird life through to horses, hares and badgers, Cawston was perhaps best known and loved amongst those familiar with his compositional works for his stunning depictions of the dog. From Pointers and Spaniels to all manner of Terrier and Lurcher, Cawston’s dogs echoed and visually reflected and underlined the ‘man’s best friend’ tag that’s typically bandied around in relation to the relationship that we have with our canine chums. And seldom would a painting conjure up the belonging, love, understanding and respect that passes between us and dogs as much as a Cawston piece. He would capture the exact expression, moment in time, bond and instinctive look of a dog in the most graphically captivating way you could imagine and then cement in for all time on one of his towering canvases with aplomb and reserve like few others.
For those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Cawston personally they speak of a man who should you have observed him walking towards you – in his old battered jacket, shoulder-length hair and ripped jeans – you might have been forgiven for mistaking as a less fortunate member of society, perhaps having found themselves on the fringes, rather than a fine artist who was considered by many as one of the world’s best dog painters. Those in the know favourably compare Cawston’s body of work to that of John Emms or Maude Earl, and he was adept and as free spirited and versatile with water colours and pastels as much as his oils. Irrespective of the breed of dog, Cawston ensured that he portrayed the very character and likeness of it to the letter, and such was the enduring popularity of his original compositions when revealed that they were subsequently reproduced time and time again as limited edition prints by the fine art publishers he worked closely with during his career. On no fewer than five separate occasions Cawston was nominated as one of the top selling artists with the Fine Art Trade Guild, winning it in 1998.
Born and bred in Dagenham in Essex in 1959, Cawston was educated at the town’s Robert Clock comprehensive school, where he first showed signs of his artistic prowess. So much so that by the tender age of just 7-years his fledgling work was the subject of its own school exhibition, yet by school-leaving age Cawston turned his back on art to pursue an apprenticeship in cabinet making; after which he joined the army where he signed up for three years’ service. Still not working his way back towards the promised art career, on leaving the services Cawston became a motorcycle messenger in London. Yet there may have been method to his perceived madness, as on saving enough money from this job Cawston took himself off on a tour of Europe where he took in his surrounds from a more artistic perspective. This time out proved to be the start – or rather reconnection – with a more creative outlook for Cawston, as on returning to England he spent the subsequent six months sketching people’s children on the pavements of Covent Garden, in pastel at £3 a time. Having been spotted by a silversmith based in the capital, it wasn’t long before Cawston was snapped up and offered the opportunity to design silverware, predominantly for the lucrative Arab market. However, interesting as this was, it could never have been classed as Cawston’s great love as such and before long he moved away from London and spent the next three years living in a small cottage on a farm in Burnham-on-Crouch. It was here and then that he began selling his work on the streets once more, although this time his price had gone up to the princely sum of £18 a drawing. Despite his price increase Cawston soon discovered that he couldn’t forge a living and as a result he started to paint seriously in oils in the early part of 1987.
As fate intervened, his work was again spotted by someone who could make a difference and help Cawston put his illustrative work in the public domain and bring with it the recognition and rewards that it so richly deserved a shot at, and just six months later he was offered a deal with fine art publisher, Sally Mitchell. By the end of 1987 Cawston witnessed his debut limited edition prints being launched, after which it’s fair to say he never looked back, professionally, until his sad and premature demise in 2006. Cawston’s reputation rose quickly and he soon become acknowledged as one of the UK’s top selling published artists as touched on earlier; with the nucleus of his work appealing to lovers of the countryside.

Cawston celebrated the publication of his 200th print in 1996, entitled, ‘Wildlife 200’, which is a wonderful composite picture of British wildlife. The painting was used in a children’s competition, run by the national magazine ‘Shooting Times’, for young children to name all the animals in the picture. The original painting, an oil on canvas, 24 inches by 36 inches was donated to the Animal Health Trust where it was successfully auctioned for £3,000 at a later date. In that same year Cawston was featured in Gundogs magazine and referred to as one of the leading dog artists of the day, whilst he was mentioned and had articles run about him for many more publications thereafter. Cawston’s debut exhibition for the Society of Equestrian Artists in London, only his second horse picture he’d ever painted/submitted, he walked away with the award for the best newcomer, while 12 months on Cawston was awarded full membership.
Today Cawston’s original paintings are widely collected and his hallmark compositions hang in collections in countries as diverse as Sweden, Australia, Kenya, Japan, America and much of Europe; of course including, England.