Jonathan Truss - Artist Profile
Established as one of the UK's leading wildlife artists, Jonathan is known the world over for his magnificent paintings and drawings. His artwork graces the walls of private residences and corporations from New York to New Zealand, from Botswana to Beverly Hills, demonstrating the broad appeal of both his style and his subject matter.
Jonathan's enthusiasm for the animals he portrays, and the never ending exciting trail for new ideas extends to annual trips, camping under canvas in the incredible game parks of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. On several occasions he has conducted art safaris in Africa, India and South America.
Supporting the conservation of many endangered species, Jonathan has raised thousands of pounds for wildlife causes. Frequently in the media spotlight, he has made over 100 television appearances and has been featured in many national and international magazines. He is a member of the prestigious American organization 'The Society of Animal Artists' and also the US-based 'Artists for Conservation', and his paintings have been sold through major auction houses, including Christies and Sotheby's.
Amazingly Jonathan's successful career did not begin until he was 30. He spent 10 years as an itinerant guitarist doing over 1500 gigs, and also spent two years on the cabaret circuit where he became well known as an impressionist. Since then however he has won an impressive array of accolades for his artwork; recently he was a finalist in both the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year and the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year. He is also one of the co-authors of a major new art book entitled 'How to Draw Wildlife' published in 2010.
'Had I lived thousands of years ago it would have been me painting all the animals I saw on cave walls. Nothing seems more natural or enjoyable to me than painting wildlife. Nature has already painted its masterpiece… it's all the inspiration I need!'
Adventures with Jonathan Truss
Danger in the African bush
On a private reserve in Botswana a guide pointed out an elephant to Jonathan and told him it was tame. Delighted, Jonathan immediately set off on foot to say hello but as he approached he realised his mistake when to his horror the elephant charged him. He was dimly aware as he turned to run for his life that it had had an unconventional gait “So much for your tame elephant” he commented wryly to the guide once he was safely back in the vehicle. “Not tame” she said, “lame”.
In Zambia on a trip down the Zambezi river Jonathan’s notorious Tarzan impression was working overtime as he struck up a friendship with a woman called Jane. One night the intrepid Jane was crossing the camp and had the bad luck to disturb an elephant. Contrary to popular opinion, an elephant doesn’t attack with its tusks, but rather will try to crush an enemy with its head. Luckily for Jane it had a large pair of tusks which formed a barrier and she was able to escape. (Sadly on this occasion not rescued by Tarzan.)
Camping in the Serengeti in dome tents is not for the fainthearted, and can be a nerve racking experience. Like the night when the tent zip was broken and Jonathan was unwilling to go to sleep as there had been lions walking through the camp. The guide assured everyone that it was quite safe, but then changed his tune when some lions did put in an appearance. He had to spend the night holding the front of the tent together while the others slept. On another occasion a lioness came into camp and snuggled up to sleep against one of the tents, her body separated from the individual inside only by the canvas. He woke up feeling very warm and comfortable, but when he realized why, stayed pretty still until she decided to move on. And again, there was the night when all the staff slept in the vehicles instead of tents, and there was much talk of big cats patrolling the area. This rattled one Australian tourist so much that he collected up all the camp furniture and barricaded his tent in the hope of keeping out the lions – much to the amusement of the rest of the camp.
How to make friends and influence people
Canoeing down the Zambezi Jonathan was asked to accompany a very nervous first timer. They set off happily enough until Jonathan sighted some elephants on the bank that he wanted to photograph. He started paddling in their direction much to the alarm of his partner who started paddling frantically in the opposite direction. And screaming. Jonathan started photographing completely oblivious to her terror, and what was worse, he let go of his oar and it floated off downstream. When they reached their destination she flounced out of the canoe, furious, and let rip with a stream of invective, mostly aimed at the amazing wildlife they has seen over the past few days. In the heat of her rage she lost her footing on the bank and went face first into a bog. The moment was pure comedy as when she was helped to her feet, she had morphed into a cartoon character covered from head to foot in thick brown mud, and was greeted with uncontrollable laughter from everyone. And guess who she blamed.
Sitting out one night with a group of Swedish people Jonathan noticed one of the girls was wearing flip flops. He remarked on this and suggested she might want to put on something more suitable, but she was confident of her fashion sense and preferred to stay as she was. That is, until he shone his torch under the table and she saw the scorpions crawling along the ground. After that, funnily enough, she started wearing her boots.
You meet all sorts…
At the Governers Camp in the Masai Mara Jonathan was sitting at the bar and painting, He got talking to an American woman who was fascinated to learn that he would be out painting the following morning at first light. She asked if she could tag along and they had a great day talking about his life and work. When Jonathan tried to find out what she did for a living she was reticent, but later in the day, she told him she was one of only 50 chief inspectors in the FBI. When Jonathan returned to England there was a huge parcel waiting for him – a thank you gift from his new friend with a complete set of FBI gear inside. So he’s now more prepared than ever for trouble.
At the other extreme, a successful businessman and technical guru, credited with the invention of the first laptop, joined Jonathan on a walking safari. His terse and cynical summary of the experience was that you spent hours trying to find animals who are hiding from you, and as soon as you found them, you started trying to hide from them. Hmm.