Interview: Kate Wyatt

A short introduction

I was very lucky to grow up in Dorset and later went away to a lovely school in Somerset where I was surrounded by the beautiful levels with its fantastic wildlife. During my childhood, I was fortunate enough to be one of the last generation of children who were allowed outside to play and so spent many hours with cousins and friends enjoying the countryside and all it offered, this developed into a passion for drawing what I see, for me the reality of fact.

Kate doing observational drawings.

I went to Bournemouth and Poole College of Art to do my Foundation Year and later to Art School in London where I gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art. Over the past 10 years, I have become known as one of Britain’s most popular wildlife artists with my work held in many collections both in the UK and throughout the world.

What are your earliest memories of your passion for nature?

I have been completely in love with British wildlife in particular from a very early age, ever since my parents introduced me to the hedgerows, woodlands and fields of Dorset where I grew up. We did quite a bit of walking and one walk in particular when I was about six I can mark as my first awakening to the beauty of autumn, the berries and hips and the changing colours of the leaves which in turn began my intense interest in our country’s fabulous wildlife.

My cousin, one of the Pashens of Bincombe, introduced me to a dead baby mole and once again this was a bit of a baptism for me, to learn there were life and death in nature. The mole was so small but also so beautiful. Together with his other friends, all boys, we spent a great deal of time exploring the land around Bincombe and enjoying being outside with no apparent parental guardianship other than to not get under our parent’s feet and be home in time for lunch or tea.

During this developing time, I was put on the back of a small pony by my father and fell deeply and passionately in total adoration for horses which I then began to draw all the time. My parents took me regularly to Dartmoor and Exmoor so that I could sketch the ponies, on one occasion a mare with a foal tried to eat my sketchbook, my Dad chased her away in case she also thought his daughter looked good enough to nibble.

What mammal-related topic has pricked up your ears recently? Can you explain further and whether you think this is relevant to UK mammals and Biodiversity?

One of my passions is for the continuation of the law which banned fox hunting and hare coursing. I don’t think as a conservationist that a civilised country should be allowed to pass laws which allow the terrible agonising destruction of two of our most emblematic and beautiful creatures.

As regards biodiversity in the case of the mountain hare a great deal has been discussed recently, the mountain hare is supposed to carry a parasite which affects the red grouse, but passions on both sides have been fought long and hard for and against the slaughter of many mountain hares recently and the environmental impact of preserving these grouse moors for these shoots is also under discussion. Also, the damage and criminal activity of hare coursing are unbelievable and one issue which many prominent wildlife people have been discussing at great length for some time, the policing of the act is very hard.

If you had to choose a mammal to draw which one would it be?

If I had to draw my favourite animal, this is a very difficult choice, it would still be the brown hare for its beauty, grace, speed and magic, and although I have observed these lovely wild animals on many occasions it is always a fabulous experience when I see them again on our ‘local patch’. So my passion for the brown hare will always be my inspiration for all my wildlife work.

I mainly work with watercolours, but I do also like working with other mediums: coloured pencils, inks, graphite and charcoal to gain a slightly different approach and representation of what I see. For me, there is a challenge of working with a combination of different mediums.

My constant search for capturing the perfect immediate moment in nature in my work, involves long and often muddy walks, sitting very quietly and then patiently waiting.

I use both a ‘scope and binoculars to do my observational drawings. I do take photographs and use my own filming which can help in my final pieces.

I work from life as much as possible outside whatever the weather, though I admit to giving up once my fingers are too frozen to work, or I have got too wet in Britain’s very varied climate. Direct observational work gives me a fantastic insight into the wildlife I am inspired to draw and paint.

We love your book called ‘Bobby the Brown Long-eared Bat‘! Could you tell us a little about the project?

Two years ago I was asked to do the illustrations for ‘Bobby the brown long-eared bat’, written by Angela Mills, which is a gentle story of Bobby’s exploration of his world outside the bat nursery, we were very fortunate to have Chris Packham to write the foreword and have the Bat Conservation Trust endorse the book. Purchasing this book contributes to bat conservation and 10% of the net proceeds will be donated to the Bat Conservation Trust.

At the moment I am working on another children’s book, based on a family of tiny water shrews that popped into my head one day when I was completing a deadline of hare paintings for my former agents. I am still tweaking the illustrations but hope to finish them now as I am racing the Spring and just about ahead of the month of May, their adventures are set in the spring after all. So everything else has taken a back seat whilst I get these illustrations completed. So despite commissions, galleries and all other demands I must finish my book this year.

If you want to see more illustrations, visit Kate’s website

Thank you for your time, Kate!

Disclaimer: The views expressed by interviewees do not necessarily reflect those of The Mammal Next Door