A life in art

Magnolia in spring 4 - cerise magnolia against a blue sky

Magnolia in spring 4 - Credit: Shabs Beigh

Artist Shabs Beigh is inspired by what he sees around him, and is taking the sights of Altrincham to the walls of LA 

Shabs Beigh grew up in northern India, attended an army boarding school and had his future pretty much mapped out – if only it wasn’t for his passionate obsession with art. At 17, despite heading for a place at university to study physics, he knocked on the door of a local newspaper publisher, asked why they didn’t have a cartoonist and illustrator, requested the role – and got it. 

Shabs beigh looking at a print in his home studio

Working in his home studio - Credit: Shabir Beigh

‘I didn’t like to ask my parents for money,’ he says, ‘so I offered to work for the publisher for one month for free, to prove myself. I had always known how to draw, from a very early age, and the art teacher at school had taken me under his wing, having me do everything possible art-related in the school. At first I drew cartoons for the children’s comic, then caricatures and more satirical, political cartoons. I was only 17, but was obsessed by wanting to see my work, my name, in print. 

‘The consciousness that I can draw was always there. Funnily enough, the fact that I am a painter by temperament – that took me 40 years to realise. Ability to draw is one thing, but the consciousness that of the fact that by nature you are an artist, is a different thing. To be able to convey an emotion, to focus on something obsessively until you are an authority on that subject, to paint and paint until you have it right... I went to Claude Monet’s house in France, to look at the garden. I wanted to see first-hand what he saw. I realised that he never painted his garden in autumn. When I arrived in Giverny, in September 2019, I had been contemplating for a year an attempt at impressionistic work based on his pond. I was actually scared of attempting it, because it’s quite a big task to draw work that is ‘Monet-ist', so well-known, and expect people to say “oh, that’s alright”. I did a series on the pond, however, and they all sold.’ 

Waterlilies in blue

Waterlilies in blue - Credit: Shabs beigh

A move to the UK to study for a Masters led to a decision to settle in Altrincham, not only for a career, but because of the travel links across the UK and further afield.  

‘I love to travel, and when I travel I am inspired, and I paint what I am inspired by.’ 

Shabs’ work scatters across the globe. He has followers on his social media platforms from almost every continent, maintaining contact with them through regular emails, though he says nothing beats meeting people face-to-face and actually talking about his work. 

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‘In 2019 I took part in 20 art fairs here in the UK. I love it when people come to my stand and we talk, and I can explain my work and the inspiration.’ 

Golden waterlily leaves on a dark blue pond surface

Monet's Pond - Credit: Shabs Beigh

In 2019 he was accepted by Saatchi Art, which ‘collects’ artists from all over the world and curates exhibitions across the globe. It’s a complicated process, with submissions, interviews, assessments... but Shabs has now not only been invited to join, but was chosen as one of the top 10% of artists to feature in the Saatchi Spring Catalogue in the USA. 

‘The curators at Saatchi seem to think my work will appeal more to the US audience than the UK, so they put my art in shows in LA and Chicago, and it sells, so they must know what they’re doing,’ he laughs. ‘I went to LA and to Chicago in 2019. 2020 it was all virtual, of course, but I had hoped to go back to LA this month, but travel restrictions don’t allow – I plan to go in September, however.’ 

Lockdown and travel restrictions mean that Shabs’ latest body of work, and indeed the one before that, have been inspired by subjects closer to home. 

Two ravens, affectionately close

Loved Up, ink on paper - Credit: Shabs Beigh

‘During lockdown, and still now, I would walk every day to Dunham Massey. The first lockdown it was so quiet, my only companions were the ravens. They’re so clever and I could watch them for hours. I decided to do a series of ink drawings, which have really been popular, both the originals and the limited edition prints. 

‘This year, I became obsessed with the magnolia trees I would see on my walks. I love these flowers, and they bloom for such a short time, I wanted to capture every stage.’ 

His paintings and prints of the magnolias that inspired him have already started winging their way around the world, and hang on walls from Mumbai to SoCal. 

Magnolia in spring 4 - cerise magnolia against a blue sky

Magnolia in spring 4 - Credit: Shabs Beigh

And next? 

‘I am obsessed with the British coastline. I intend to paint it all, like no one else. It will be at least a 15-year project.’ 

And no doubt, like his other work, will also end up on walls across the globe.