Gary says “Seeing the iconic film Born Free was a huge
childhood memory and had a lasting impact on my life. I first met Virginia
McKenna and the late Bill Travers in the summer of 1989 at the Society of
Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition in London. I was a little overwhelmed to
meet them and shocked when they wanted to buy my Elephants Africains drawing. I
can so clearly remember now, just how lovely and calming they were to me on that
soon after that meeting, George Adamson was tragically murdered in his
homeland, Kenya. Again, through the Born Free film, George also inspired some
of my feelings about animals. Deep down I really believe they should never be imprisoned
in zoos for our entertainment.
I received a phone call from a very sad Virginia asking if I would be able to undertake
a commission of her dear friend, George. I knew I was good at capturing animals’
individual characters, but I had very little experience in drawing people. Virginia
had faith in me, so I sheepishly agreed.
sent me some video footage of George and Boy and Christian, his two favourite
lions and also some additional photos. We arranged to meet up soon after when
I’d had time to sketch out a few ideas.
especially liked one rough sketch. I explained the effect I wished to achieve
with it: George’s face delicately drawn in soft, silvery grey pencil looking
down lovingly on his lions, who would be drawn in much darker solid shades. I
found a lovely brief section in one of the videos sent, of Boy and Christian
walking alongside each other, heads nuzzled together, that I thought perfect
for my picture.
Left:DETAIL GEORGE ADAMSON’S FACE Right: DETAIL BOY AND CHRISTIAN
was beginning to feel more confident in my ability to do justice to this
really can’t remember how long the drawing took me, but when it was finally
finished, Virginia came to my home in London to see it. It was Virginia’s turn
to be overwhelmed. She absolutely loved it. I felt so proud of myself, and
wonderful autobiography ‘The Life in my Years’ has just been published (March 2009) and includes this drawing when
she writes about Christian first meeting Boy. Christian has also been made
famous in a recent TV film and a short but heart-wrenching You Tube video called
‘Christian the lion – reunion’ which
has received over 50 million hits.”