Graham Kearney is a professional wildlife and equine artist and photographer with an international client base of discerning art collectors, who commission both wildlife and equine artworks. Graham recently spent a few days on safari at Tiger Canyon, and has recently created artworks featuring our tigers. We sat down with Graham to learn more about his photographic and artistic process, as well as his experience at Tiger Canyon.
How long have you been working as an artist and photographer? What was your journey to becoming an artist?
I’ve been working as a professional artist and photographer for about 24 years now. I’ve always loved wildlife as well as drawing and painting so it happened without much planning – I just went with the flow. The photography followed on as my art grew and I wanted to be able to photograph what I saw and paint from my photos.
Does your art inform your photography, or vice versa? Do you find similarities between the two mediums?
Very much so. The first thing I always think of is light and contrast whether painting or photographing: light shapes and forms my paintings in a huge way to create intensity and mood, and the same goes for my photography. I love richness of color as well, especially in my photos.
What do you enjoy about wildlife photography?
The uncertainty of it. Nothing is guaranteed. You can go out on a shoot and get absolutely nothing or you just happen to be in the right place at the right time and get the most amazing photos.
How has your experience been of photographing tigers at TC? Was it different from other wildlife photography experiences?
I still feel like it was a dream. It was the most surreal experience ever to be able to see and photograph such majestic cats. There was something mystical about them. I’ve been all over southern Africa and seen and photographed things not many people get to see. But Tiger Canyon beat everything hands down.
Do you have any special tips for photographing wildlife, and tigers in particular?
Understand your subjects. Know what you are photographing. I always say if you haven’t seen it, ridden it, been bitten by it or been chased by it don’t try paint it… so if you want to photograph wildlife, study it in its entirety – the animals, the trees, the birds, their behaviors etc. The more you understand the more you will be able to improve on your photography. You need to understand your camera equipment as well. Don’t get a camera and put it onto program or auto mode and think you’re a photographer. You need to know how to set your camera according to different situations, lighting for morning or afternoon, action, night-time, landscape. Understand it all and how to set your camera accordingly.
I never have my camera on one permanent setting. I’m constantly changing between manual and other settings depending on what I’m trying to achieve in a photo.
How has your experience at TC inspired you artistically?
I’m flooded with so many ideas for paintings that my head is swimming.
A few of your recent paintings have featured TC tigers. What drew you towards this subject in particular?
Again it was the mystery and intrigue that accompanies these magnificent cats. I also love getting involved in organizations that protect wildlife and the fact that tigers are so critically endangered in the wild drives me to do paintings of them not only to show people just how beautiful they are but to also help raise funds through various wildlife organizations from the sale of my paintings to help them.
Do you have any favourite tigers at TC that you prefer to paint, and why?
I don’t have any serious favorites at the moment as it’s still very early days. I’ve painted tiger Bird and am busy with one of his cubs at the moment, so they’re very special. But tigress Ussuri is incredibly beautiful and can’t wait to paint her, as well as tigress Panna’s cub Pablo.
What do you believe other photographers and artists can gain from visiting TC?
Just go there, spend some time with the tigers and in that amazing scenery and I guarantee you will feel like I do… amazed and inspired.