After a month of voting from 3,000 people, the winner of the BBC Wildlife Magazine People’s Choice Award for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Artist of the Year 2022 Competition has been revealed!

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The public were able to view and vote for 187 pieces by 151 artists and in the end it was Laura Smith's stunning sculpture 'Kin’ , made from recycled products, which got the most votes. Laura had entered her piece in the Human Impact category, which is for 16 – 22-year-olds.

“I am absolutely over the moon to have been awarded the BBC Wildlife Magazine People's Choice Award,” says Laura. “I am still pinching myself!”

“This was the first time I had entered the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundations Wildlife Artist of the year. Being a recent Fine Art graduate, I was ecstatic to find out my lil Kin had reached the final, let alone for it to go on to win this prestigious international award! The support/reaction to my sculpture from the public has been astounding.

As a young artist starting my career, this has been an incredible experience. Seeing so many exceptionally talented artists from around the globe coming together to raise money and awareness to turn the tide on extinction is truly inspiring and vitally important. I am glad to have been a small part of it.”

“It’s been a real pleasure once again to partner up with the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation for the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, and to support not only the incredible variety of wildlife art, but also the crucial conservation work this competition funds,” says Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine.

“Congratulations to Laura Smith for winning the overall prize. Her gorgeous sculpture beautifully captures the essence of the animal, with recycled materials echoing the circle of life. Well done Laura!”

About 'Kin'

Laura says: “During my research, I was shocked to learn that due to deforestation, hunting, and the illegal wildlife trade, chimpanzees are nearing extinction in many countries. I am deeply concerned by our disconnection from animal ‘others’.

For this reason, I knew I wanted to produce something thought-provoking, and I feel the sculpture is certainly evocative. Moreover, ‘Kin’s’ materiality and anthropomorphic gestures and expressions evidently resonated with the public.

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Regarding the creative process, I spent a long time ripping up cardboard into tiny pieces, soaking it in water and creating a unique pulp not too dissimilar to papier mache.

Cardboard is so often a material cast off, thrown away or recycled; however, as a sculptural medium, not only is it readily accessible but extremely versatile- I love the idea of using an everyday product and turning it into something captivating. I feel the way I have applied the pulp certainly gives the sculpture a unique character and aesthetic.

Ultimately, my cardboard chimp is a metaphor for the human tendency towards cruelty and lack of understanding. The fragile cardboard and small scale embody the precariousness of animal species; it points a finger to the viewer to consider their behaviour and attitude towards endangered species.”

Follow Laura on Instagram

David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year competition was launched by celebrated wildlife artist and conservationist David Shepherd CBE, in 2008.

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Using the power of art to celebrate wildlife, support awareness and raise vital funds for species protection is at the heart of the wildlife charity the competition has raised over £1.2 million to support vital conservation work across Africa and Asia.

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