Wednesday, 06 July 2022

Art tutor’s bringing her animal magic to gallery

Art tutor’s bringing her animal magic to gallery

AN artist from Binfield Heath is staging an exhibition of animal life drawings at a Henley gallery this weekend.

Holly Surplice’s show The Elephant in the Room is previewing at the Hypergallery in Upper Market Place tonight (Friday) from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

It is also open to the public from 10.30am to 4.30pm tomorrow and Sunday.

On show will be drawings that Holly produced as part of a series of online art classes that she hosted during lockdown.

She studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art before going on to write and illustrate children’s picture books, including About a Bear, Guinea Pig Party and Peek-a-Boo Bunny.

Holly says: “The animal side of my work has always been there. At the end of my studies I went on to be artist-in-residence at Edinburgh Zoo, which was really lovely.

“I’ve travelled to quite a number of the places where the animals come from, including South Africa and the Galápagos Islands.

“I just have such a strong desire all the time to draw living things. I like the character and the colour and the vibrancy that comes through. Everything that I drew, I drew with a smile on my face.” As a long-standing fan of life drawing, Holly is accustomed to working quickly to depict subjects which don’t tend to sit still for very long.

Creatures who feature in the show include an orangutan, a wild boar, chickens, a horse, macaws and a baby elephant.

As an artist working at home and teaching online during the coronavirus lockdowns, Holly didn’t have the benefit of having the real-life animals in the room with her. So the mother-of-three came up with a novel solution.

She says: “I would see photographers and film-makers, either online or on credits on TV, and I thought ‘I’m just going to reach out and say hello and see whether they would be up for sharing their work’.

“Even though I can’t afford to pay what they would be making on the BBC, I pay what I can and they’re obviously always credited.

“By doing that I struck up some amazing partnerships with extraordinary world-class wildlife photographers and filmmakers.

“The quality of the imagery I’ve been able to share is completely stunning — it’s really unlike anything you can sort of scrabble about and find on YouTube.”

Wildlife film-makers and photographers that Holly has worked with include Shannon Wild, Mogens Trolle, Kaush Subramaniam, Tim Laman and avian specialist Lloyd Buck.

Her online classes have helped raise funds for charities including Animals Asia, Orangutan Veterinary Aid and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

More recently, Holly and her students have enjoyed live drawing sessions with horses in Russia and even a professional mermaid in America. The exhibition at the Hypergallery this weekend will feature 30 framed drawings, 20 mounted and a further 30 unframed artworks.

For more information and to view the online version of the show, visit

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