For a sailor, contemporary wildlife fine artist, Peter Hildick makes a bally good artist. But then Hildick is a bally good artist by anyone’s standards. Something which is made all the more remarkable on discovering that he has never received any formal training in any artistic discipline either. His monochrome compositions of instantly recognizable faces from the natural world are as endearing as they are picture perfect, with Hildick regularly capturing the very graphical essence of such majestic, expressive and characterful familiar faces as those of chimpanzees, tigers, giraffes, elephants, rhinos and lions to name but a few. The infinite detail which Hildick wields in his pencils and charcoal sticks would shame many a wildlife photographer, as he routinely sets about crafting an up close and personal visual account of something invariably cute, dangerous, peerless or imperious that more normally only the likes of David Attenborough affords us ‘an audience with’.
The inhabitants of the natural world have captured Hildick’s imagination for as long as he cares to recall, suffice to say a number of years stemming back to his own youth, and formative years where he found himself far more interested in events taking place in the wildlife world and animal kingdom than those that were unfolding in sporting circles as his childhood contemporaries were far more committed to. But of course back then, in the early 1960s, being an artist wasn’t seen as a ‘proper job’ in the eyes of many, so rather than even attempting to pursue a potential career as one Hildick instead opted to follow a more acceptable vocation in life. This turned out to be the Fleet Air Arm, as the name implies a more airborne branch of the habitually sea-based Royal Navy, which Hildick signed up to service with in the guise of a Radio Mechanic as a capable 19-year old.
And that appeared to be pretty much that, in terms of any art-ambitions for the next 22 years, as Hildick focused on a successful naval career which witnessed him progress through the service, eventually leaving for civilian life after achieving the position of Chief Petty Officer Air Engineering Artificer (Radio). Yet despite carving out a rewarding career for himself in the Navy, Hildick had never lost sight of his art and his love of nature, and continued putting pencil to paper and drawing for pleasure throughout his service life. His skill not lost even in this environment as he managed to see the occasional drawing to fellow crew, with the accepted currency being measured in pints as opposed to pounds, shilling and pence. Civilian life didn’t beckon next for Hildick though, as he gained employed elsewhere in the defence industry where he still works today, yet still he plugged away behind the scenes with his un-diminishing labour of love.
Finally towards the end of the 1990s, Hildick began to gain the recognition that his incredible artistic talents deserved, when he was introduced to The Framing Centre in Plymouth, who helped the (still) budding (yet strictly amateur) wildlife artist out with his framing requirements. Clearly impressed with what they saw, they had some images sent to one of the UK’s most successful fine art publishing companies, who were immediately enamoured by what they saw. So much so that Washington Green requested to represent Hildick from that point forward, which formed the catalyst of a mutually agreeable working relationship which still lasts to this day and which moreover has brought about many of Hildick’s original compositions being reproduced and published to the mainstream audience from thereonin.
From 1997, when Washington Green published Hildick’s first six original images, there’s been no looking back for either artist or agent as their collaborations have proved very fruitful for both parties and above all else ensured that Hildick’s artistic gift has been made available to the general public at large; both through galleries across Britain and even further afield. Speaking of which, Hildick considers himself privileged to have exhibited in the Halcyon Gallery’s ‘Wildlife and Conservation’ Exhibitions in 1997 & 1999, as well as ‘Brush with the Wild’ in 2001, along with many other instances.
Engaging on the subject of inspiration, and Hildick admits that it’s never easy to source and collate the images and visual reference points required as a basis and starting point for his superbly illustrated pictorial insights into life in the wild, suggesting that whilst remaining in full-time employment opportunities to visit Africa and other exotic destinations in his continued search for inspiration has been somewhat limited. With this in mind Hildick relies on alternative reference materials to compensate for a lack of this first hand presence-sharing, which he admits can be sometimes problematic. Therefore the inclusion of video film, existing photographs, field sketches is imperative as part of the creative process, whilst live subject interaction is used when physically possible. Thankfully for Hildick two miles from his home there’s a wildlife park, with whom he has an on-going arrangement with having worked to raise money for them (and raise awareness of) in the past. Essentially this mutually beneficial relationship allows Hildick direct contact with any new additions to the park, as and when; which to date have included unprecedented access to new tiger and puma cubs.
In tandem with his obvious love for wildlife, Hildick also derives great personal pleasure from the observing and subsequent formation and sketching of shape, texture and types of rocks and old trees, and as appropriate props they will crop up in foregrounds and limited background appearances. And when pressed to express which animal is perhaps his favourite in terms of illustrating, Hildick is adamant that this is an impossible question to answer, insisting that he has no particular favourites and that he loves drawing meerkats as much as tigers.
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