James Hough wins major wildlife photography award

One of the world’s best wildlife artists is in our midst. Mostly he’s in our midst, anyhow.

James Hough lives in Bolwarra Heights in the Maitland area. But often he travels through Australia, mostly alone, looking for native birds and other wildlife to photograph in their natural habitat. Back in his home studio, he uses these photographs to paint stunning works of art.   

This painting of green rosellas, titled Sanctuary, has won him the top award at the Artists For Conservation festival in Vancouver in Canada.

Morpeth Gallery owner Trevor Richards said the competition was “for the very best worldwide wildlife artists”.

An exhibition for the competition featured 200 artworks by 154 artists from 16 countries.

James has been a professional wildlife painter for 15 years.

“I’m an engineering surveyor by trade. I was surveying for about 25 to 30 years,” James said.

“I just took up wildlife art as a hobby, basically. It was something I could always do as a child. I could always draw a little bit, but it was only ever with pencil. I never actually did any painting with colour.

“I started it as a hobby. I thought I’d like to give wildlife a go. I started painting a few. It wasn’t long before I started selling a few in exhibitions. Then I got into galleries.” 

Morpeth Gallery was the first gallery to show his work.

“I started to sell there almost straight away and I haven’t looked back. I’ve never gone back to my surveying career,” he said.

James spends a lot of time travelling along the east coast, between the Hunter and the Queensland border, looking for wildlife.

In his four-wheel drive, he travels to fairly remote areas off the beaten track. 

Often, it’s just him and nature.

“I like a lot of things about my job. I like the art, I like photography a lot. I like the four-wheel drive. And I don’t mind getting away on my own every now and then.

“I’m married and have a family, but I’m chasing wildlife. You often need to sit quietly and wait and do a lot of walking,” he said.

“I do a lot of camping. I end up in all sorts of places. Occasionally I’ll take another artist, a mate, with me. Mostly I’m on my own.” 

His artworks sell for $1250 to $14,000. He’s had no formal art studies or training.

His talent, he said, came from his mum, Sybil Hough.

“She was a well-known Newcastle landscape artist. I was always keen to draw. She’d always put me in the right direction, as far as composition and perspective goes and all those basic art elements,” he said.

His parents have a property at Wingham on the Manning River.

“As a child, I spent a lot of time there, down at the river, watching kingfishers. All our native birds are up there. I’ve always loved the colour of Australian native birds.

“I paint other wildlife like quolls, Tasmanian devils, koalas. I mix it up a little bit.”

His work will be on show at Morpeth Gallery on October 7 and 8, along with four other international artists, at a free exhibition titled The Romantics. 

Ice-cream Activism

While we’re on the subject of the environment, we noticed that Hunter activist Bev Smiles has been acknowledged in a new report titled “Heroes building Australia’s low-carbon economy”.

Released by the group 350.org, the report said Bev was a hero because she “risked jail time for standing up against global coal company Peabody”.

The report’s heroes, which also included former AGL chief Andy Vesey, were lauded for “leading the charge away from fossil fuels and toward new, clean energy technologies”.

Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s, the so-called “activist ice-cream maker”, has been pushing the slogan “Renewable Is Doable”.

The company created a new limited-edition flavour called Gimme S’More Renewables. It sent some of this ice cream as a reward to heroes featured in the 350.org report.

Sadly, Bev didn't get any. Apparently, she said couriers don't deliver to her property at Wollar, which is out near Bylong in the Upper Hunter. 

That may be true. Or perhaps she just doesn’t like ice cream. 

Ben & Jerry’s, of course, won’t hear any of this type of talk. Everyone loves ice cream, don’t they?

The company was banking on this when it sent personalised pints of ice cream to “key federal and state politicians in a personal plea to support renewable energy and put an immediate end to new fossil fuel projects”.

But will this sweet talk work? Well, they do say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. 

Flying the Flag

Topics reported on Wednesday that Hamilton Hawks flags had been spotted around Maitland ahead of the Hunter’s rugby union grand final on Saturday. 

 A Maitland Blacks flag at The Kent Hotel.

A Maitland Blacks flag at The Kent Hotel.

The Hawks play the Maitland Blacks in the decider.

The Maitland boys decided to join the fun. They posted a photo on Facebook of their flag hanging at The Kent Hotel in Hamilton. All we can say is, that game is going to be a cracker.

  • topics@theherald.com.au