Wildlife artist - David A. Finney, Alsager

Magnificent Seven

Magnificent Seven - Credit: Archant

Capturing nature’s creatures comes naturally to Alsager artist David A. Finney

Something in the Woodshed

Something in the Woodshed - Credit: Archant

Lightning splits the night sky as rain pours down from the heavens. A striking bird of prey, its amber and white feathers illuminated in the flash of light, sits defiantly on a wintery-looking tree branch waiting for the storm to pass.

David A. Finney

David A. Finney - Credit: Archant

Otherwise known as ‘Kite in a Storm’, this scene describes one of many acrylic studies by Alsager-based professional wildlife artist and illustrator, David A. Finney.

It also just happens to be one of his favourite pieces.

‘Capturing the combination of elegance and menace in a bird of prey is one of my favourite challenges,’ said David.

‘In fact, I was lucky enough to see a red kite a few weeks ago. Floating on the breeze, like a giant kestrel, with its big forked tail constantly fighting against the breeze - it was a wonderful thing to watch.’

Viewed up close and in person, the kite’s feathers look almost tangible. Small details add charm - the solitary raindrop dripping from its beak, the inquisitive expression in its golden eyes. Such subtleties exemplify David’s clear passion for his work.

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Given this, it comes as little surprise that his interest in wildlife started at a young age. Originally from Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, David moved to Cheshire when he was 13 when his father’s work saw them relocate to the Alsager area. This was when his passion for bird watching began developing.

‘I’ve been bird watching since I was 13’ he says. ‘It’s my biggest love, and I’ve been painting birds since I was about 15. At first it was just for fun, as a hobby, but quite quickly I started selling my paintings. When I was at college the other kids had holiday jobs and Saturday jobs, whereas I was painting!’

‘I became professional in 1986 - on my 25th birthday. I’d been unemployed for a couple of years, so I thought to myself, “why not change a hobby into a job?”’

Such a change proved fruitful. Since turning professional, David’s work has been reproduced on greetings cards all over the world, as well as on Spode and Danbury Mint bone-china.

‘I was quite lucky as I’d been producing the greetings cards for the RSPB almost from the very start of turning professional,’ says David. ‘I had also been working for the Lyme Gallery in Newcastle, and they commissioned a lot of work from me.

‘I began to build up a few contacts in the pottery industry, and it was through them that I secured the contract with Spode and Danbury Mint to have my work reproduced on collector plates.’

Furthermore, David has toured the country, presenting his work here and there in displays and exhibitions. He recently joined the organising committee for the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art.

Such success is not surprising as David’s work is captivating and uncannily realistic. The simplicity with which he discusses his techniques, however, belies this.

‘Given that I’ve been bird watching for over 40 years, I’ve got a fairly good idea before I even start a painting. It’s just a question of trying to achieve what I’ve got in my head, on the paper,’ he explains.

‘I often do a quick sketch when I’m out and about. Nothing too detailed, as I can fill in the details from my own knowledge. I always work in acrylics, but I think of my paintings essentially as watercolours.

‘Each is built up in layers, from the thin washes of the background to the fine details of the main subject. I start with the background colours and then come forward, so there’s almost a look of three-dimensional layers. With the feathers, for instance, you can keep on washing in colour to give a look of depth.

‘I paint with the audience’s reaction in mind. When people see my work, I want them to look at the scene, and then look again, and again - really appreciating the detail.’

David also draws inspiration from the countryside in and around Cheshire.

‘There’s lots to be inspired by around here - we have the mills, the estuaries, the few hills and the area around the Wirral. Even just walking around Alsager you’ll find there’s an awful lot to see in terms of bird life and other wildlife. It’s surprisingly inspirational here.

‘The truth is, you really don’t have to go far to be inspired.’

With a passion for wildlife like David’s, that sentiment doesn’t seem surprising.