After a month of voting and over 3,000 people taking part and voting for their favourite piece, the winner of the BBC Wildlife Magazine People’s Choice Award for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021 Competition has been revealed!


The stunning fabric and embroidered collage of a bonobo by artist Sophie Standing received the most votes from members of the public.

“I am so ecstatic to have been awarded the BBC Wildlife Magazine People’s Choice Award, what an honour!” says Sophie. “Taking part in this year’s David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s Wildlife Artist of the Year was incredibly special. To see so many talented artists from around the globe coming together to raise money and awareness for the plight of our planet and its wildlife, was just amazing.”

As the winning artist of this award, Sophie wins a BBC Wildlife Magazine prize bundle consisting of a year’s subscription to BBC Wildlife Magazine (worth £58.50), a Wildlife World Solitary Bee Hive (worth £37.99), a Vango Stone 15 Navy Rucksack (worth £16.00) and a book of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 29 (worth £25.00).

“It’s been a real joy for BBC Wildlife to partner with the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation on the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition this year – hopefully the first of many years working together to showcase the world’s finest wildlife artists while also supporting vital conservation work,” says Paul McGuinness, editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine.

“I’m delighted that Sophie’s bonobo won the BBC Wildlife Magazine People’s Choice Award. The incredible texture and detail Sophie achieved with such an interesting choice of materials reflects to me the connection between us and our primate cousin.”

A close-up of ‘Bonobo’ by Sophie Standing.
A close-up of ‘Bonobo’, by Sophie Standing.

“To see not only such a stunning subject but medium used to create this piece is wonderful. How one creates such magic through the use oftextile embroidered art astounds me,” says Georgina Lamb, CEO of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

“This is a piece of art worthy of any wall. The vibrant underlay of colour, pattern and depth used on the ‘Bonobo’ elevates this piece to a different plane. I want to explore every aspect of this pieces in great detail and consume every part of it. Its stunning and vibrant all whilst being soft, venerable, delicate and enthralling at the same time.”

More than 260 pieces were available to view in the interactive virtual exhibition, allowing visitors to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of wildlife art, from their own home, through the DSWF immersive 3D gallery space.

The winning and highly commended pieces were announced in a virtual awards ceremony on 25 May, and can be viewed in our online gallery. A selection of pieces were also featured in the June issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.

How Sophie created ‘Bonobo’

With a background in woodwork, metal, ceramics, weaving, dressmaking, and even stained glass windows, Sophie consolidates her breadth of talent in these explosively colourful textile collages of animals and insects. She now lives in Kenya where she seeks inspiration from the wildlife all around her - namely some of the world’s most endangered species like elephants, lions, and rhinos.

To create each piece she first sketches the animal onto the background canvas and then draws from a vast collection of decorative fabrics acquired from her travels around the world, to create a dense collage of colourful patchwork. The fabric collage is then detailed with a dense build-up of thread work, applied with a sewing machine, often referred to as thread painting.

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A close-up of ‘Bonobo’, by Sophie Standing.
A close-up of ‘Bonobo’, by Sophie Standing.

‘Bonobo’s’ background is unbleached cotton canvas which Sophie has eco/botanical dyed, created by steaming the rolled canvas with African leaves inside for approximately 3 hours with a mordant, leaving the print of the leaves on the fabric by way of the tannins of the leaf.

The bonobo itself is made by appliquéing cotton fabrics (Liberty tana lawn) and then thread painting the details of the animal with cotton thread using a free motion technique on my sewing machine. No bleach, no pen, no paint. All fabric and thread.


Main image: BBC Wildlife Magazine People's Choice Award winner: Bonobo, by Sophie Standing


Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Naturalist and writer