Ben Hoskyns was born in London in 1963 but has spent most of his life, since early childhood, in Suffolk where he now lives with his wife and family. He became a full-time professional artist in 1988 after a brief spell working in insurance. He is entirely self-taught and, whilst he initially painted many different subjects – from Formula 1 racing cars to pets and houses – his deep fascination for wildlife, nurtured from an early age, forged the inevitable path he would take. His work shows a passion for and remarkable observation of wildlife.Ben has, in recent years, developed more as a landscape artist. “When I first started painting, the background was of little importance to me – all I wanted to paint was the bird or animal, preferably on a white background.” But, gradually, he began to understand the significance of the habitat as his interest in conservation grew. Where the birds live is why the birds live – or, for that matter, don’t live. Quite simply, if you don’t have the right habitat, you won’t have the birds and it has become just as important to convey that in his paintings as to get the subject “right”.
The studies of birds and animals are still there but they are part of a progression towards his larger pieces. The smaller landscapes, themselves, are usually part of that same development so that there may be several different versions of a particular view – a change of angle, subject, light or narrative – but each instilling that feeling of “being there” and capturing the very essence of the British countryside. “To me, a painting is as much about what you leave out as what you put in. There needs to be some ambiguity to allow the viewer the freedom to see what they want to see. When a woodcock flits silently across a ride in front of you, you don’t see every leaf, every twig. What is stored in the memory is a feeling, the atmosphere. If I can capture that, I’m happy.”
Ben paints towards exhibitions between March and November and works on commissions during the winter months. He prefers painting under natural light so work is a slower process in the winter but his commissions take him to some very beautiful places that often inspire many more paintings than the one he is there to paint. The shooting season, itself, also produces a mass of inspiration, so that he is itching to start painting for himself (exhibition work) as the days begin to lengthen.
Ben painted the 2006 Wildlife Habitat Trust’s Conservation Stamp, one of only a small group of artists to do so. He produced the illustrations forThe Shoot Lunch and The Fishing Picnic (both by Prue Coats) and The Better Shot (Ken Davies). He was one of the contributing artsts to The Butterfly Book (Laura-Jane Foley) and wrote and illustrated Holland & Holland’s The Nature of Game (Quiller Press, 1994). He has, more recently, collaborated with several of the country’s leading wildlife artists to produce the three books in the “Artists’ Impressions” series – “The Woodcock”, “The Grouse” and “Deer.”
He is one of the founding members of Redspot which was formed in 2001 by a group of like-minded wildlife artists who have regularly exhibited together since 1996.