‘ Now I’m truly learning - giant panda ’
Charcoal engraving on board
36 X 58cm
Price: $ 1800
Lately I have been harping on about how important I believe it is for a wildlife artist to really get to know their art subjects instead of just relying on somebody else's photos. To me the notion that we can truly 'know' any person from a single photograph as much as we would from spending actual time in the company of that same person is just plain nuts. And I believe other beings are people too (they just wear different clothes) ...just as complex and just as individual.... but you must get to know them before you understand that fact.
On my first trip to Western China I had decided to visit the major breeding centre at Wolong where I would have the chance to spend several days sketching and photographing the pandas in all life stages and at close quarters.
The big surprise came after I had been there a couple of days. The manager of the centre mentioned that he was aware of the work I do with various conservation groups and he wanted Wolong to help me with that work. At this point he suggested we take one of the pandas from the breeding centre and go out into the forested mountains where I would have the chance to climb trees with the panda and really learn at close quarters.
I nearly passed out from shock and when I queried his offer he said,
“When you meet panda.... you want to learn about panda.
When you really learn about panda you love panda.
When you love panda, you preserve panda! ”
I could not fault his logic...and besides.... who doesn't want to climb trees with a giant panda? So, thirty minutes later we popped Wei Wei, a 15-month-old male into his travelling crate and off we went into the mountains.
Three hours later, a slightly bemused but deliriously happy Steve and a slightly miffed Wei Wei (who hadn't yet finished his exploring), returned to the breeding centre. It was 'official'! I now had a new favourite creature.... the giant panda!!
This charcoal engraving is of course Wei Wei himself who forms an important part of the successful breeding program which is now releasing captive bred giant pandas into the wild....and I am told with some success.