Big thank you from

Renowned artist recalls fond memories of Northern Ireland

David and Avril Shepherd met showbiz stars Lorraine Chase and Anita Harris at Hillsborough Castle Artist David Shepherd with the Ulster Star's Stacey Heaney.

David and Avril Shepherd met showbiz stars Lorraine Chase and Anita Harris at Hillsborough Castle

Artist David Shepherd with the Ulster Star's Stacey Heaney.

FROM Royal portraits to gracing the walls of Del Boy's flat in Only Fools and Horses, artist David Shepherd has transcended barriers to become an artist known by everyone, whether you are an art connoisseur or someone who just likes a nice picture.

It is almost certain that most people will know the work of the renowned wildlife artist and conservationist, whether it is simply to recognise his 'Wise Old Elephant' portrait that was proudly displayed in the Trotter's home in the famous sitcom.

However, David Shepherd, CBE, is so much more than one famous print. From working with Royalty to raising over £5 million through the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, he has a long and varied career.

The artist, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, was keen to share memories of his career and of his previous visit to Northern Ireland when he stayed in the area last weekend.

David spent time in Lisburn with local couple Derek and Victoria Gallop, when he was invited to be the guest of honour in Hillsborough Castle at a lunch to mark the Duke of Edinburgh's 90th birthday.

Whilst he was here David, who is also known for his paintings of railways and aircraft, took time to launch his new book, The David Shepherd Archive Collection, in the James Wray Gallery, Belfast last Saturday.

The exquisite large format book is stitched and hand-bound in English vellum and leather and has been published to celebrate David's 80th Birthday in April. The collection, which is strictly limited to 1,000 copies each numbered and signed by David, will see money from each sale donated to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

David's visit brought back memories of his previous stay in Northern Ireland. Speaking at his book launch he said: "I was here forty years ago painting the army. People said to me, 'Why have you come here?' I just said, 'Why not? It's no different than Stoke-on-Trent or somewhere' and they would say, 'Yes, except we're busy killing each other'. I think the humour here is wonderful. I always think that when you fly somewhere you are going abroad, but I think the British here are more patriotic than we are across the pond."

David said his visit to Hillsborough Castle to celebrate Prince Philip's 90th birthday was "marvellous", adding: "I think I've had more to drink in the past two days than I have in years!"

Reminiscing about his career David said: "I bought a pair of painting trousers at a market, I could have gone to Harrods and paid a fortune, but I bought them at a market 30 years ago, and as I paint I wipe my brush on my right leg. I remember painting a portrait of the Queen Mother at Clarence House and she looked at me and said, 'That's an interesting colour combination you've got.' I still use those trousers and they are so stiff from paint they all but stand up on their own."

He continued: "I remember when I was caught out by Michael Aspel for This is Your Life. It was filmed in front of a live audience and went through my entire life, and at the end as people were leaving this old lady walked out saying, 'You know, I love this show but I still have no idea who he is

' I have no idea what she was doing throughout the show, she must have been knitting."

David, who said he had been taught not to have a favourite painting, said he was also told that no painting was worthless and to never give up on it. However, he said there was one painting which defeated him - almost.

He said: "I was painting a Lion with two Lionesses either side and I just couldn't get it. It wasn't really the male Lion, but the two Lionesses that I just couldn't get right, so I put it away in the attic. I had a visitor over from America who asked if I had any paintings they could buy and I didn't, but I suddenly remembered this painting of the Lion, so I went and got it, cut the Lion out of the middle of the canvas, rolled it up and he was incredibly happy. So if anyone wants a painting of two Lionesses with a big hole in the middle they are very welcome!"

David is very passionate about his conservation work, having even begun an 80th birthday appeal this year as he reached his own milestone.

Speaking about the work of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation he said: "It really is critical, in two years we may have no Tigers. People say, 'You like Tigers more than children', but that is not the case. Think about the future, this affects us all. What will our children have
in their future?"

David's organisation have recently purchased land where the Black Rhino is now free to roam for the first time in thirty years.

One animal, however, remains close to his heart. "Every time I see an Elephant it is like seeing one for the first time," he said. It seems that David is still very much appreciative of that 'Wise Old Elephant'.

Ulster Star