With the Animal Art Fair opening this Thursday, we spoke to one of the artists, Dominique Salm, to find out what inspires her.
How did you get into art, specifically animal art?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist since childhood. Two inspirational figures were my grandmother who was an artist and my next door neighbour who was specifically a wildlife painter. I remember walking into my neighbour’s studio while he was working on an oil painting and being enraptured by it. This together with my love of animals heavily influenced my current path.
Even at art college, where I was encouraged to experiment with other subjects, I was never interested in painting anything else. I love animals, and having the chance to see and spend time with them is an amazing opportunity.
Do you have a favourite animal that you like to paint?
Not particularly, I’ll go through phases where I’ll paint, for example, several ostrich paintings but then I’ll switch to another animal. Changing it up keeps things interesting and ensures you bring the same level of enthusiasm to each piece.
The act of creating the painting and presenting an accurate representation of that animal is more important than which animal I’m painting.
What can you tell us about your technique?
I have to go and see the animals first to capture their essence. But I’ll take many photos and paint from these. With wild animals it’s hard to paint plein air but sometimes the opportunity does present itself, for example I recently painted some lion cubs and as they had recently been orphaned they were being raised on a compound so I had constant access to them.
With my elephant paintings, I felt I couldn’t capture the red pigmentation of the dust that they’re caked in. So I used the earth from Kenya and mixed it into my work.
There’s a lot of animal art on the market, what differentiates you from the rest?
I’d like to think I’m quite different in that when I first started painting animals, I was the only one painting them without any background, as I felt it took the focus away from the subject. This has now become my signature style. I’ve also tried to explore the comical side of animals and I try to give them human characteristics so people can relate to them. I grew up surrounded by dogs and one spaniel in particular always used to make me laugh with her expressions, so I try to bring out a humorous side in some of the animals I paint.
The Animal Art Fair runs from 17-20 May and will be on the Riverside Walkway on the South Bank (between the National Theatre and the Oxo Tower).
You can find out more about Dominique Salm and her work on her website.