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All artwork copyright © 2015 Jonathan Carter

So called because they’re oil and gesso on wood, these animal ‘icons’ came about largely because of my father. By the early ’90s he had become well-known for his exquisite wood carvings depicting historical figures, sportsmen, birds and later, famous works of art (such as Van Gogh’s sunflowers). Many of the pieces featured a backdrop created from reclaimed wood, often an old door or section of panelling; he scoured reclamation yards and bought prospectively, stockpiling interesting finds so that he usually had something to fit the bill whenever the need might arise.

Some of the panels were wonderfully decorative in their own right, and I could see they’d make great ‘canvases’; dad was happy for me to use whatever he didn’t need so I picked up the baton, recreating a large chicken panel for the Crane Kalman Gallery in London before branching out into the wider animal world: sheep, bulls, pigs, ducks, pigeons.

Concentrating on rare breeds, which tend to be more decorative than the everyday, I made an annual pilgrimage to the now sadly defunct Royal Show to photograph and sketch the very best of beasts.

Since the more imposing antique panels weren’t exactly two-a-penny, I also worked with simple, chunky square or rectangular blocks of maple or sycamore. Backed with baize to hang on the wall or place on a side table, these became extremely popular for their contemporary feel and manageable size. 

While almost all existing animal icons are sold, I will be producing more as long as I can find the wood to work on. I am delighted to take commissions, subject to panels or blocks being available. Please contact me for more information.


Click on thumbnails below to see enlargement