Nature as art
Updated: Nov 16
By Staci-lee Sherwood
Nature means different things to different people. To some nature is something to be conquered, even exploited for personal gain. To others nature is something to be revered and left alone. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, they appreciate nature’s beauty but still want to control some of it. In the modern world most forget that nature isn’t something we go visit, cage or conquer. Nature is us, and we humans are as much a part of the web of life we call nature as any other species.
For one artist, nature has inspired him to see it as art itself. His paintings show the beauty of Africa and nature living as intended, wild and free. Hilton Mwakima “fell in love with drawing when I was a small juvenile at lower primary school and my parents realized my passion and bought me drawing materials and water colors as I grew up in primary school.” Art can help people appreciate the world around them and has the power to inspire people into action to save a place, a species or a monument. “What inspires me the most I can say is love for nature both fauna and flora. I support all conservation work towards the same (flora and fauna) on land and the sea.” The paintings of Mwakima show that.
*The cover painting is called ‘The golden savannah sky’.
As an artist Mwakima is “self taught and paints mostly from the passion I have for nature.” He hopes that “this can be projected in my paintings and lead many to join the train of nature lovers.” Indeed it’s hard not to fall in love with the animals and Africa itself. His talent draws in the viewer to special places worth saving.
"Good morning Africa"
Mwakima did not immediately start out as a painter. After graduating high school in 2000 he joined Rukinga Conservancy which “brought me closer to wildlife.” He attended college where he studied chemical engineering for two years. After completion he went on to train as a paravet, as a community animal health aid and “helped my community access veterinary services easily”. Later on he joined Kenya Correctional Services where he currently works as a dog trainer and handler in their K9 unit. The best art often blends the artists’ own life experiences and views of the world. His paintings certainly reflect his love of nature and desire to see it protected for future generations.
With so much turmoil in the world finding something positive to focus on gets harder by the day. Art has always been a place for new ideas, creative expression and escapism. What better way to escape the daily doldrums and horrors we’re confronted with than by taking in the beauty of nature? Traveling to exotic places can be educational and exhilarating. Not everyone has the time or means so the next best thing is to travel with your mind. This is where art can help transport us to a calm relaxing place. Art, like nature, can have a restorative effect on our minds.
Conflict between wildlife and humans has become worse over the years. Humans have encroached more and more on the land and resources of wild animals, which leaves little space for them to go. This often creates a situation of hostility toward the very animals we have displaced. The internet has helped shine a light on what has always gone on but conflicts between humans and wildlife seems to have escalated and become more violent.
It’s not all bad news though as Mwakima explains “many people have been sensitized about dealing and handling HWC (Human wildlife conflicts) and that has made a number of people tolerate and accept them despite their behavior in crossing over and trespassing on their farms. I am in various groups supporting conservation work and there are obvious challenges but the positive response by the wider majority of people can't be ignored. Trophy hunting has reduced, and many organizations have been formed to champion animal rights and advocacy.”
‘Watch your back’
When asked about his relationship to the subjects he paints Mwakima said
“painting them brings me closer to them as I learn the nitty gritty about their appearance and natural habitat. And yes I hope this inspires others to love nature too.”
‘The busy African sunset’
Visual art can evoke a different response than the written word. The images we see give us a fuller fleshed out view in ways words, even songs, can’t express. It forces us to come up with our own description of what we see, our own reasoning for what takes place in a painting. There is a unique power of persuasion that plays out in paintings, or photographs. Some images are so haunting they not only transport us to a different place in time but stay with us forever.
Portraying the beauty of nature is as important as showing the daily horrors that go on. They are two sides of the same coin equally powerful that, when combined, give strength to each other. One cannot appreciate the beauty without also seeing the horror, and one cannot have hope without seeing the beauty.
‘The stun look’
“One of my main reasons for painting from deep down my heart is to cheer people up in appreciation of nature.”
Many of these species, and their habitat, seen in these paintings are under constant threat from hunters and developers. Let’s hope that artwork is not the only place where future generations can see them. We have been called to save the wild lands we still have. We should answer the call.
The artist Hilton Mwakima at work with one of his latest creations
“One of the most interesting part about the zebra is that their stripes are not the same. Each has unique pattern.”
‘The stripped cuddle’
Some of his work has made it to the cover of several books. Like many artists, his work doesn’t just find a home on a wall. After his drawings were used in the book ‘Terriers in the Jungle’ another book commissioned him for a painting to use on the cover.
This book ‘A Place to Grow’ also showcases Mwakima’s work on the cover
If you are interested in purchasing a painting or requesting a commission please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
His art can also be purchased here
If you’re on Facebook his page is www.facebook.com/hilton.m.mwakima