All kids love art and nature, says artist Robert Bateman, explaining it’s a love he’s never lost.
The wildlife artist made a stop in St. Paul on Nov. 1, signing artwork, meeting people and promoting his latest book. He also took some time to talk to the packed crowd gathered at J & L Photography Custom Framing & Art Gallery during the evening visit.
In response to a question about how long he’s been painting, Bateman made the point about all children loving to draw and paint the scenes of nature. However, most kids give up on art at age 12 or 13 and move on to “more grown up things,” he said, adding, “I haven’t grown up yet.”
For Bateman, painting scenes of nature and wildlife is a fulfilling career, and a passion to which he wants to dedicate his life. His paintings evoke a multitude of wildlife scenes, from a lone polar bear enshrouded in white snow to jungle cats or pandas nestled in trees to a pair of birds emerging from a deep mist. The conservationist also spoke to the audience about the need for respect in the world, for children to respect their parents and parents to respect their children. “And everybody should respect nature.”
His latest book, New Works, is true to its title. For a long time, he’d been telling his publisher, “I’ve done more paintings - how about a new book?” After some time, he said he got a response to do a retrospective of his former paintings. That suggestion didn’t wash with Bateman, who said, “We’ll do a retrospective when I get old.”
Instead, Bateman has released New Works, and says, “It’s some of my finest work, I think.” Amidst more than 100 full-colour reproductions of paintings featuring wildlife from around the world, Bateman also shares his thoughts on nature, environmentalism, education and the role of art in preserving wilderness.
During his talk, he also shared some insights into his artistic process. “I don’t make stuff up,” he said, adding he dislikes the “cooked-up look.” He points to a tree depicted on a print of his hanging on the wall, and explains that the tree resembles what can actually be found on nature. He does work from photography, and in the case of the tree, he took his inspiration from several different photos to create the final product.
The final results of his work have more than one fan in St. Paul and area, says the owner of J & L Photography, who notes that the business has a lot of customers that are “strong Bateman collectors.
“Wildlife is without doubt the most popular subject matter in our area,” noted Jim Van Horn, adding this, along with his stature in the art community, are reasons why Bateman is so popular here. He added Bateman’s appeal also lies in the fact there are only limited prints of his works, adding to their collectible and appreciable value.
The artist’s appearances always draw a big crowd, and this visit, his eight to the gallery in the past 16 years, was no exception, said Van Horn.
As for Bateman, he counts himself lucky to do the work he does. He states on his website that he couldn’t conceive of anything more “varied and rich and handsome” than planet Earth.
“And its crowning beauty is the natural world. I want to soak it up, to understand it as well as I can and to absorb it . . . and then I’d like to put it together and express it in my painting.”