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There was never any question that former Sheep Station Manager Chris McClelland’s true gift was to draw.

After 40 years living and working on the land in South-West NSW Chris finally found the passion to match his talent: a spontaneous trip to Africa with his wife Margie was the impetus for a new career as an artist.

“We were planning a trip to South America,” said Chris ‘But after stumbling across an African Safari Magazine I said to Margie – that is where we are to go.”

“Initially I felt very dubious” Margie admitted, “ I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I knew somehow that Africa would change our lives.”

The couple spent their first trip around East Africa in 1994 observing the Mountain Gorillas in Zaire.

Whilst filming this experience, Chris was attacked by a large silver Back gorilla, and though he was physically unscathed, emotionally he was profoundly touched:

“It was the essence of this stately beast, genteel and somewhat humble, that sparked my urge to draw African wildlife.’

Chris’ affiliation with animals and his unique ability to observe their behaviour in detail brought his pencil drawings to life.

“People are amazed that Chris’ pictures have been completely hand-drawn, and not computer generated.” said Margie.

Chris collaborates with his wife, ( a photographer in her own right ) and with local African guides to ensure he has both a visual and deeper understanding of the creatures he draws.

“Margie might for example, take a photo of the back of an ear on Elephant so I could observe exactly how the veins are interlaced”

By combining such photos, his own notes and information from the guides about Africa’s wildlife Chris is able to produce accurate, informed drawings of deeply felt experiences

What sets Chris’ drawings apart from other wildlife artists is his ability to tell a story.

“ A story is terribly important to me, “ Chris said “ Far more important than just drawing a pretty picture. Each animal needs to be seen in its particular time and place ”

The growing collection of Chris’ work is being celebrated in the recently opened Chris McClelland Gallery in Hay, NSW.

Here Tourists and locals alike are able to interpret the stories and read the narratives accompanying each drawing.

Since their first inspirational trip to Zaire in 1994 Chris and Margie have made ten trips into Africa, producing drawings of Safari lodges and beasts that roam the lands of Zambia, Zimbabwe andBotswana.

Chris has won several international awards for his drawings and has been a finalist in many art competitions. Last year he sold a piece to the Count and Countess of Faber-Castelle – testament to his ability with the pencil!

Living and working on the land for most of his life may have contributed to Chris’ down to earth modesty. Everything about him and his drawings is very real.

“ Its important to be passionate, life is bloody short – do what you want to do, and do it well.”

Sharni Montgomery

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Published: Oct 11, 2009 10:24pm by sharnanigans.

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1 comment


  • what an inspirational story, thanks for sharing the links etc, they are great

    Published Oct 14, 2009 9:52pm by stlg48

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