Sophie Green is an award-winning wildlife & conservation artist from the UK, who specialises in capturing the photorealistic details of animals and their surroundings using acrylic paints. Throughout her career as a fine artist, Sophie has used her work to raise money and awareness for issues surrounding animal welfare and the environment and is a signature member of the Artists for Conservation Foundation. In 2021, Sophie was awarded the ‘medal of excellence’ by the Artists for Conservation for her outstanding work. She was also the winner of the Leisure Painter People's Choice Award 2020 and 2021 and was deemed ‘highly commended’ in prizes such as the DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, the Sketch for Survival Award and the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize.
How did you become the artist you are today?
I’ve always painted and drawn, but I didn’t actually pursue a career as an artist until my mid-twenties. After college, I worked in the film and television industries for a few years, before going to university and then becoming a primary school teacher. Being a teacher is such an all-consuming job and I suddenly found myself with absolutely no time (or energy) to paint. I loved working with kids, but having no free time to do what I was passionate about definitely made me re-evaluate my life. I started to reduce my hours at work and build up a portfolio of work, whilst taking commissions and tutoring privately in the evenings. It was hard work, but worth it when I eventually became a full-time artist.
Establishing my own individual ‘style’ took some time and I am still evolving as an artist. I started out drawing and slowly moved over to paints. I prefer to work with acrylics, as I work in layers and the fast drying-time lends itself to my technique. I still work in oils occasionally, but prefer water soluble oils, which are slightly better for the environment and don’t give me a headache!
How do you support wildlife conservation and why do you choose to do so? I try to weave a thread of conservation into all of my artwork in some way because it’s something that’s important to me. For me, it’s what gives me more drive and purpose; I’m pretty sure I would have burnt out a long time ago otherwise. I try to help by donating at least 10% of my profits to relevant conservation charities, but will also donate originals or prints to charity auctions, help advise on charity events/judge in competitions or present awards; particularly for youth conservation initiatives. It’s important to me to inspire younger generations to get involved in conservation and help to protect our environment. I’m also a member of the Artists for Conservation.
What has been your biggest learning curve as an artist?
I think that my biggest learning curve (both in my art and in life), has been the importance of having purpose and intention. If you’re clear on your purpose and act with intention, then it’s easy to get back on track when life throws you a curveball. It’s easy to get bogged down, especially in this day and age, with sales, social media, marketing and everything else that comes with being self-employed in a fairly saturated market. By having a purpose; what you want to bring to other people’s lives and how you want to make a difference, it can definitely help to bring you out of that quagmire.
Another thing that I’ve learnt is that being an artist is definitely not as easy as people think it is (both mentally and physically). When I first started, I felt guilty about taking days off. I thought that because I loved what I did and it was creative and fun, that I didn’t need any down time. In fact, I would feel guilty if I took a day off. Being self-employed, I was also convinced that if I took my foot off the pedal, my whole business would coming crashing down around me. What I’ve learnt, is that this kind of mentality is just a disaster waiting to happen (whether that be creative burnout, exhaustion, a wrist injury, or (as in my case) all three).
What is your favourite/ most enjoyable part of being a wildlife artist?
Aside from doing what I love for a living, managing my own schedule and being my own boss, being a wildlife artist has led me in some fun and exciting directions. I’ve met some incredible people, doing amazing things in the world of conservation and it’s so inspiring. I’ve also been able to travel to some beautiful places in the world, to learn more about the wildlife I’m painting and photograph the animals in their natural environment. Last year, for example, I went on an Arctic expedition and learnt first-hand about the effects of climate change.
The March, 2021, acrylic on linen canvas.
The March has probably been one of my most popular pieces so far. It depicts the necessary but perilous event of migration during a snow storm. Changes in temperature, food shortages, or the need to mate, among other factors, make migration an important event. However, it is usually long, tiring and full of difficulties (particularly for juvenile or older penguins who may not survive the journey). Penguins are such amazing creatures and the behaviour that they display for survival is incredible. It is for this reason that I entered ‘The March’ into the animal behaviour category of the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, where it was deemed ‘highly commended’ and came 2nd in the BBC Wildlife People’s Choice award. It was also showcased in the Artists for Conservation exhibition and used as the front cover of the Artists for Conservation book. This piece had quite the year!
Which species are you most involved or interested in supporting through conservation projects?
It’s hard to choose just one species or project that I feel most passionate about. That’s the thing about our ecosystem I suppose, every species is equally important. I think the underlying issue that remains at the heart of many other disruptions is climate change. Particularly since visiting the Arctic and seeing first-hand the impact of global warming, it’s become something that I am particularly focused on this year.
If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
Definitely some kind of monkey. I’ve had a strange thing about primates since I was a child. I don’t paint them very often, but find them absolutely fascinating!
What is the best piece of advice you could give an aspiring wildlife artist? My advice would be to paint what you’re interested in and what genuinely excites you. It’s tempting to paint the most popular species that you know will sell, or paint what everybody else is painting. Ultimately, if you’re doing what interests you though, you’ll be able to keep up that momentum. In terms of supporting wildlife conservation, the good news is that there are so many species that need our help and so many amazing initiatives out there. Again, support causes that are meaningful to you and that make you feel good supporting. Giving any percentage of your income away to charity is extremely generous, but it needs to come from a place of excitement and love, otherwise it won’t be sustainable.