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David Shepherd - Artist & Conservationist

Updated on October 17, 2014

Paintings of Wildlife, Steam Railways & Landscapes

Richard David Shepherd CBE FRSA (born 25 April 1931) is a British artist and one of the world's most outspoken conservationists. He is most famous for his paintings of wildlife, although he also often paints steam railways, aircraft and landscapes.

His work has been extremely popular since the 1960s in limited edition print reproduction and poster form, as well as other media such as Wedgewood limited edition plates. He has written five books about his art.

He also created the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. The DSWF supports a range of innovative, vital and far-reaching projects throughout Africa and Asia, achieving real results for wildlife survival.

Image Credit - Becky Thomas

David Shepherds Achievements

  • The Order of the Golden Ask by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.
  • The Order of The British Empire for his services to conservation.
  • Made a Member of Honour of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
  • Awarded an Hon. Doctorate of Fine Arts by Pratt Institute in New York.
  • Has been featured in a BBC documentary of his life, has made a series of six wildlife films for ITV.
  • Written six books, covering all aspects of his life, including wildlife and steam railways.
  • Chairman and Founder of the East Somerset Railway, a registered charity raising money for our steam railway heritage and wildlife.
  • Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to charity and wildlife conservation.

Life and Work

Won painting competition when he was 8 years old

David Shepherd was born in Hendon, London, England. As a child he lived in Totteridge, North London and he won a children's painting competition in a magazine called Nursery World when he was eight years old. He then attended Stowe School in Buckinghamshire.

His early career was, to quote his own words, "a series of disasters". After failing to be a game warden in Africa, he turned to his second choice, painting - and was promptly turned down as "not worth training" by the first art school that he tried to enter. They said he had "no talent".

David owes all his subsequent success to the man who trained him, Robin Goodwin, also to the Royal Air Force who flew him all over the world in order to paint aircraft pictures for them and also commissioned his very first elephant painting.

Neal Brown said in frieze magazine,

"David Shepherd is one of the most financially rewarded painters in the UK, but his critical status is less than negligible. Although considered the supreme master of Bad Art, Shepherd has brought pleasure to millions, as seen on the many table mats, posters and commemorative plates that bear his work."

David Gower said,

"There is a sense of the atmosphere of the African bush that emanates from all his work."

Artist in Conservation (Hardcover)

Artist in Conservation
Artist in Conservation

This book is a straightforward plea by talented artist Shepherd to care about wild animals.

A stunning collection of the best of David's wildlife art, this book is a testimony both to his unique talents as an artist and to the beauty and majesty of the animals he portrays. There are fascinating descriptions of trips he made to shoot game - not with a gun, but with a camera. The paintings which follow are as full of life and light as the landscapes he paints. Complemented by color sketches, and handwritten notes by the artist himself, they are a celebration of his subjects and his work.


Becoming a Conservationist

He has become an outspoken world campaigner

He became interested in conservation during an early expedition into the African bush, where he discovered a poisoned water hole with a large number of dead zebra. He has since become an outspoken world-known campaigner, and devotes much of his time to this.

  • He is also a steam railway enthusiast, but said in a letter to the UK Railway Magazine,

    "you can always build another steam loco but you can't build another tiger."

  • One of his best known paintings is called Tiger in The Sun, painted in 1977.
  • He is well known for his paintings of elephants.
  • He is the founder of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

Elephant - 69 x 74 cm - Renowned for his detailed paintings of elephants

you can always build another steam loco but you can't build another tiger

The Ivory Is Theirs - 99 x 58 cm

I look at this picture every day as it hangs immediately above my desk, what more do I need to inspire me - I love it!

The Ivory Is Theirs Art Print

Painting with David Shepherd

Painting With David Shepherd
Painting With David Shepherd

He has such a passion for the subjects he paints that he founded the "David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation" through which he has channelled enormous funds towards helping and protecting endangered species of the world.

This is a book where one of Britain's most popular and successful artists shares his secrets in order to help other artists with their work.

David Shepherd
David Shepherd

Wildlife Artist of the Year Competition

"I feel immensely proud of the success this year's Wildlife Artist of the Year Competition. It is so rewarding that we have not only offered a platform to so many artists from around the world to showcase their work but through their generosity it has raised significant funds to save critically endangered wildlife and helped spread awareness of the desperate plight of wildlife.

Together, we are fulfilling the ART of CONSERVATION and are making a real difference - thank you."

David Shepherd CBE

Wildlife Artist of the Year Competition

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2011 - David Filer

'For Ever And Ever Amen'

A young artist from Zimbabwe was named the 2011 Wildlife Artist of the Year at an awards ceremony in London on Monday 6th June 2011.

David Filer, who has entered the competition every year since it began, was delighted to win. It was a fantastic validation of his work, he said, especially when judged among such inspirational competition.

"I walked into the gallery tonight, looked around at the other work and thought 'I don't stand a chance," said David Filer.

David's beautiful graphite image of an elephant and her calf was a huge hit with the judging panel. Commenting on the winning work fellow judge and water colourist, Hazel Soan summed up the judges views by saying: "The strength and tenderness of the elephants is perfectly epitomized in the press of the graphite. An image of extraordinary edge, a drawing without line, totally superb."

David Shepherd on Amazon

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

One of his first major fund-raising successes was with the painting 'Tiger Fire' which raised 127,000 for Project Tiger in 1973. In 1984 The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation was set up to focus David's conservation efforts and to increase public awareness and funds for wildlife conservation both in this country and abroad. To date, through David's efforts and the generosity of the Foundation's supporters, over 2.5 million has been raised.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Foundations Recent Achievements

Helping endangered species around the world

  • Training and equipping every forest officer in India's famous Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.
  • Uncovering ivory cartels in Zambia, seizing thousands of pounds worth of ivory and arresting poachers.
  • Reducing poaching in Russia, allowing Siberian Tigers to increase from 100 to over 400 in the wild.
  • Purchasing land next to one of South Africa's National Parks, home to the last 800 surviving mountain zebra, extending the park by over 200%...
  • "When the Buying Stops, The Killing Can Too"

    Active Conservation Awareness Programme has reached over 40 million homes across Asia and with the support of film idol Jackie Chan has persuaded many to stop consuming wildlife.

  • Funding undercover operations of Africa's first cross-border Task Force fighting wildlife smuggling.

David Shepherd Donates Painting - to Bomber Command memorial appeal

David Shepherd with his painting of Elephants in front of Mount Kilimanjaro - Photo: Julian Simmonds

The completed work, titled 'Elephants at Amboseli', was donated by a man who has brought pleasure to millions with his paintings of wildlife, aircraft and locomotives.

In 2009 a rare exhibition of 50 of David Shepherd's paintings was put on at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, headquarters of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, to raise funds for the appeal. The appeal total stands at 1.1million.

Mr Shepherd said: "I'm delighted to be able to help the appeal because I owe so much to the RAF. They commissioned my very first painting of wildlife in 1960 and if it wasn't for them, I might never have turned my hand to painting animals."

At the time I was known for painting aircraft and did a lot of work for the RAF, and they flew me to Nairobi, where the staff had clubbed together for a painting to hang in the mess. They said they didn't want a picture of an aircraft, because they looked at aircraft all day long, and so I painted a rhinoceros chasing a Twin Pioneer aeroplane. "A picture of it appeared in the local papers and people started clamouring for others, so that's when my wildlife painting began."

Mr Shepherd offered to help the Forgotten Heroes appeal during a visit to RAF Coningsby, and after being asked if he might consider putting on an exhibition, generously offered to paint a new picture which could be raffled.

He said: "I feel very strongly about the campaign to build a memorial. I'm ashamed that in this country we don't recognise heroes like these brave airmen, and it's high time we did something about it."

As well as the original painting, which depicts elephants in front of a snow-capped Kilimanjaro, Mr Shepherd also donated 100 limited edition signed prints of another painting, 'F for Freddie Did Not Return', showing a squadron of bombers under attack.

The exhibition of his work, included paintings from his private collection, and cover subjects ranging from wildlife to aircraft with the paintings set amongst the BBMF's Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricanes.

Squadron Leader Tony Iveson, chairman of the Bomber Command Association, said: "This was a marvellous opportunity to obtain a painting by one of the greatest wildlife and aviation artists of our time and a truly generous gesture by David on behalf of the memorial appeal."

The Beauty of David Shepherd's Art

'Jungle Gentlemen'

I Love David Shepherds Art, How About You? - His paintings capture the subjects so accurately and beautifully

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    • profile image

      stephen millward 

      3 years ago

      Many years ago in the city of stoke on trent i saw a painting of a run down steam engine,the painting depicted the end of an era as the loco was rusty,it stood all alone with a simple inscription on the side plates at the front it said STEAM FOREVER I,m not sure if it was David who painted this but would be grateful for any help concerning this painting thank you

    • delia-delia profile image


      3 years ago

      Wonderful art and a wonderful artist with a big heart...My art sales goes to help animals by donating, as well as other types of organizations that I believe in.

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      It's wonderful that he turned his profits into conservation and education.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      5 years ago

      Yes, I love his paintings too - especially those of elephants. I cannot understand how he is not also critically acclaimed! But then I don't understand art but I do understand conservation and David Shepherd has been a great conservationist. A great reminder of his work.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I wasn't familiar with David Shepherd before this lens. So glad to know about him and his environmental art and work.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for introducing this great artist. nice tribute

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tribute to a great man.


    • sousababy profile image


      6 years ago

      Deserves a google +1.

    • sousababy profile image


      6 years ago

      These are great . . the animals look so at home in their surroundings. He captured their need for their deserved place in this world.

    • Michelle1959 profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for recommending David's art ~ it is indeed stunning, yet uncomplicated. Thanks for another very enjoyable lens, packed with information!

    • MelonyVaughan profile image


      6 years ago

      What a beautiful lens! Very inspirational and visually stunning.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      David is an excellent artist with a big, big heart for the wildlife in Africa. May his work continue on, because he is making a difference that matters.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      What a difference he's trying to make in the world.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      7 years ago

      I hadn't been familiar with David Shepherd before seeing your lens, but now - oh, those elephants! Gorgeous art - and a terrific educational lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm not familiar with David Shepherd. He's so talented. I love all the nice pics here.

      Thanks for sharing. Liked!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great article!


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