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Talented artists spread their wings to create stunning images of the world's wildlife.
This year's round of judging has been the toughest yet. Artists entered a record-breaking 1,120 images, showcasing a jaw-dropping range of subjects, media and styles.
The first-round judges had already tackled a hugely difficult task in whittling down the entrants: only 127 artworks made it through to the finals.
But these were the most technically excellent, imaginative, deftly painted pieces you could imagine, from a wonderful woodpecker’s-eye view up a tree trunk to an extraordinary glassy jellyfish.
OVERALL WINNER: Heather Irvine 'The Last Winter'
ANIMALS IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT
Winner: 'The Last Winter' by Heather Irvine, Devon
“I happened across this old moose on a trail in Green River Lakes, Wyoming. I paused to watch it, surrounded by deep, silent woods, as I contemplated its space and the inevitability of its demise. I hope this image is a respectful reflection of the emotion I felt on that day.”
Medium: Oils on canvas
The judges said, "This subtle and atmospheric picture of a moose in the snow is striking in its simplicity. Beautifully composed, with confidently economic brushwork, this painting is a deserving winner."
Runner-up: 'Skyward' by Ian Griffiths
Commended: 'Meeting At The Saltee Island' by Bee Choo Gallivan; 'Gone Fishing' by Tanya Lock
Winner: 'Cunning Afoot' by Katy Rewston, Aberdeenshire
“With this painting I was trying to portray the insatiable curiosity and opportunistic nature of the red fox. This vixen was exploring a woodland, climbing low branches in search of food. But she remained cautious, pausing at every unfamiliar sound, ever alert for danger.”
Medium: Acrylic and airbrush
The judges said, "This small painting packs in an enormous amount of detail – with the textures of fur and tree bark brilliantly realised – but it was the rhythmic composition, fox poised for action, that we most admired.
Runner-up: 'Truffles' by Sam Dolman
Commended: 'Scottish Wildcat' by Lara Virginia; 'Fallow Buck' by L Paul Matthews
BENEATH THE WATER
Winner: 'Flit, Fly, Float' by Samm MacKinnon, Widley, Hampshire
“In my paintings I try to take the viewer on a journey into the tranquil waters of the ocean. Butterfly fish are so colourful, they are among my favourite tropical fish and feature in almost all of my work. I wanted to capture the sunlight filtering through the water, catching a shoal of butterfly fish in its delicate rays, against the deep blue sea.”
Medium: Acrylic on stretch canvas
The judges said, "The decorative nature of this painting of butterfly fish appealed to the judges. The ghostly shapes of the fish in the background help to give the picture a sense of depth."
Winner: 'African Jacana' by Jeremy Paul, Isle of Man
“This painting was inspired by a trip to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and shows the moment when a jacana I had been watching reappeared from behind some lilies and other vegetation. The painting composed itself in my mind almost immediately.”
Medium: Acrylic on board
The judges said, "This lovely image of a jacana stalking among lilypads immediately caught our attention. Extremely well painted and beautifully composed, this picture succeeds on every level."
Runner-up: 'Bling On Da Wing' by Heather Irvine
Winner: 'White Christmas' by Lars Göran Dalhov, Sweden
“I was skiing down a steep slope when, finding myself out of sight of my family, I stopped so I could rest on a comfortable snowdrift. I was delighted when this hare emerged from the birchwood to sunbathe. I guess it was enjoying the April sunshine as much as I was.”
Medium: Watercolour & gouache
The judges said, "This bold, fresh study perfectly captures the essence of the animal, and the lively brush strokes bring it to life."
Runner-up: 'Serengeti Sketchbook' by Federico Gemma
Commended: 'Just Relaxin’' by Allan Adams; 'Kangaroo' by Eeltie Sayyed; 'Javan Tiger' by Prabu Perdana; 'Misted Majesty' by Shalese Sands; 'Edge Of Darkness' by Cathy Sheeter
ALL OTHER WILDLIFE
Winner: 'Fire salamander' by Jane Cook, Liverpool
“I chose to portray the fire salamander among fiery-hued autumn leaves both to complement its striking coloration and markings, and as an allusion to its mythical counterpart, dwelling amid the flames.”
The judges said, "Richly painted, with careful attention to colour and tonal contrast, you can really feel the texture of the dried leaves and skin."
Runner-up: 'Bee' by Teresa Barnes
Commended: 'Damselflies' by Melanie Mascarenhas; 'Speckled Wood' by Lisa Treadwell
Winner: 'Icy swim' by Tanya Lock Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
“This is a Magellanic penguin from Chile. My love of penguins is one of the reasons why I first picked up a paintbrush. I wanted to learn how to paint the water shining on the bird’s back and the air bubbles caught on its feathers, and to capture the depth of the sea below. I was fortunate to grow up in the house of the wonderful artist Ray Harris-Ching, so enjoyed opportunities to study his original paintings close-up. I was thrilled when he offered to show me how to paint, and haven’t taken a day off since.”
Medium: Oil on board
The judges said, "A confident but sensitive treatment of a swimming penguin makes this a very attractive image. The love of painting shines through – simply a lovely piece of work."
Commended: 'Ice Bear' by L Paul Matthews
BLACK AND WHITE NATURE
Winner: 'Curlew' by Madeline Mackay, Watten
“I grew up amid the stark emptiness of northern Scotland’s Flow Country, which influenced my sense of land that is untamed, unpeopled and bleak. I explore the nature of these places obliquely, using the expressive potential of living creatures to personify the secretive and inhuman qualities of the land.”
Medium: Linographic print
The judges said, "A wonderful piece of work – it stood out because it was unlike anything else in the competition. Beautifully executed."
Runner-up: 'Brown Hare' by Marie Brown
Commended: Tembo Tango by Karen Phillips; Lookout by Phil Mumby
VISIONS OF NATURE
Winner: 'How to fly' by Michelle Morgan, Leicester
“This trio of birds was created as a handbook to impress upon graduates various aspects of pursuing freelance work: each has a characteristic relevant to the subject. The peacock represents branding, the little birds imply networking, and the carrier pigeon a hard-working ethic.”
Medium: Recycled, bleached paper & ink
The judges said, "An enchanting triptych and a wholly imaginative approach create a very fresh and delightful piece of work."
Runner-up: 'Fragile Oceans' by Claudia Hahn
Commended: 'African Giraffe' by Elizabeth Diggins; Starling by Rose Sanderson
THE WONDER OF PLANTS
Winner: 'Winter fruits' by Jane Cook, Liverpool
“I found this fruiting branch of ivy on New Year’s Day, growing in a hedgerow bordering a wood. The painting celebrates this ubiquitous British plant, which, by nature of its incongruous life-cycle (flowering in autumn, producing berries in winter), offers food and nectar when they are otherwise in short supply.”
The judges said, "We were stunned by the artist’s incredible attention to detail. The hours of work and concentration required to achieve this effect, yet retain perspective and realism, made it a deserving category winner."
Winner: 'Squaring Up For A Fight' by Dr Julie Cross West Yorkshire
“This piece was created to highlight the dire plight of the tiger. The fight is both a literal struggle between individuals and a metaphorical battle for survival of the species. I felt that the tigers ‘squaring up to each other’ should be depicted on graph paper, with its own repeated squares of differing sizes, and I used Indian ink to create a square around the two combatants to suggest symbolic protection.”
Medium: Watercolour, gouache & Indian ink on prepared graph paper
The judges said, "The boldness of this piece sets it apart: a dramatic scene, freely drawn and using watercolour on graph paper (mounted to show the frayed edges) – it is the work of someone willing to defy convention to get her message across.
Runner-up: 'The Orphans – Refreshment' by Julie Cross
Winner: 'Makaku' by Vic Bearcroft, Nottingham
“The photograph I used as reference for this painting was taken at the San Diego Zoo. The gorilla was sitting in the sunshine, looking rather disconsolate, occasionally sounding a disapproving grunt. What I really wanted to do was to ‘release’ the gorilla back into the wild, hoping to convey the cool early morning of a dark rainforest.”
Medium: Pastel on velour paper
The judges said, "Simply composed and superbly depicted, this painting in pastel captures the scowling gravitas of a dominant male gorilla. His expression seems to reflect the precarious position of his species in the wild."
Runner-up: 'At Rest' by Tony Quinn
Winner: 'Heron' by Helen May, Greater Manchester
“There he was again, that heron, watching my koi, as I sat nearby in the late autumn sunshine – I couldn’t help but admire his sheer audacity. As his plumes lifted in the cool breeze, he was the epitome of wild beauty and freedom, shunning the domestic bird table.”
Medium: Watercolour, pencil & gouache
The judges said, "We liked the unusual viewpoint of this portrait, drawn confidently to accurately capture the heron’s posture and attitude. It’s a lively treatment that uses washes of delicate colour to enrich the bird’s plumage."
Commended: 'Winter Wrens' by Julie Vernon; Grey Heron by Jonathan Woodward
WHERE TO SEE THE WINNERS
The Last Winter will be displayed at the Society of Wildlife Artists’ exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, on 1–11 November 2012.
All category winners will be showcased at the Marwell International Wildlife Art Society exhibition taking place at Rookesbury Park Manor, Wickham, on 14–16 September 2012.
Look for details of next year’s competition in the November 2012 issue of BBC Wildlife and on this website.
To see all of the winners, runners-up and commended entries of this year's BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year competition visit here.
To see the results of our BBC Wildlife Travel Writer of the Year 2012 competition and read some fantastic stories visit here.
BBC Wildlife Nature Writer of the Year 2012 competition results will be revealed on www.discoverwildlife.com soon and in our September 2012 issue (on sale date: 31 July)!