Three Passions To Make A Living! Meet Traveling Wildlife Painter Kevin Hayler!
Majestic tigers, bamboo-munching pandas or jaguars ready to attack their prey. If you didn’t see him paint in front of you, you would probably find it hard to believe that the black and white illustrations Kevin sells in Brighton’s East Street throughout summer are actual paintings and not photographs!
Using nothing but a normal pencil and a piece of paper, Kevin reproduces the wildlife shots he has taken on his travels during winter. The exactitude of his paintings is simply stunning, as is the story behind them.
In his twenties, Kevin worked in a factory, but the only thing he wanted to do was to paint. Having been telling his colleagues for years that he wanted to become a painter and go to America, he finally decided to quit his job and leave.
“I was young, I didn’t care. So, I gave up my job and started to paint”, Kevin says about his decision to take a portfolio of his early works to America to sell them to galleries over there. With the money he made with the sales, he then went backpacking in Central America.
By selling the last two paintings he had brought to America with him, he was able to pay his flight back to England, but the dream of traveling and painting along the way to pay for transport and accommodation was born and the travel bug wouldn’t leave him.
It was thirty years ago when he decided to bring together the three passions in his life which are art, wildlife, and travel to make a living. Selling wildlife paintings to tourists in East Africa, painting people’s houses in New Zealand, swapping drawings of hostels for free accommodation in Australia… today, the painter has been to way too many countries to number them!
When he became bored with this kind of life after a while, the passionate traveler decided to return to the UK to get a real job, only doing his painting part-time. Then, twenty years ago, he came to Brighton to go back to his full-time-painter life.
Ever since, he has been spending every day in summer out in Brighton’s streets, doing his wild life drawings in front of people, hoping that they will buy one of his illustrations. ” I have to do every single hour of every single day in summer. Some days, I don’t even make any money, but I just have to be out here because otherwise, I would never meet a single customer”, Kevin explains.
But all these endless hours of drawing and selling he does during summertime clearly pay off in winter when he packs his bags again to go to foreign countries to spot wildlife. Although he couldn’t choose a favorite amongst all the countries he has been to, there are quite a few of them that he especially likes.
“Africa is very good for wildlife and I have been to India many many times. Although, as a country, it has got issues, the wildlife there is still incredible.”
The pictures he takes with what he calls a “normal camera everyone has got when they go on holiday” then serve him for the next summer season to create his illustrations. A sheet of paper and a fine technical pencil. That’s all he needs for his black and white drawings.
Why black and white? The reason is very straight forward! Getting prints of non-colored illustrations is cheaper than from colored ones. “And another advantage of doing illustrations in black and white is that I can draw at the same time like selling. Color is much harder to paint in front of people”, Kevin says.
But there is yet another thing that makes colorless painting and drawing favorable for the artist. “I am colorblind”, he states dryly. His lacking ability to distinguish colors didn’t make it any easier for him to teach himself how to paint.
Until today, he has never set foot in an art school of any sort, what makes the precision of his wildlife works even more surprising. “I can just do it”, is all Kevin can say concerning his painting skills.
Two weeks, that’s how long it takes him to finish one of his illustrations. Some last strikes with the pencil, one last searching look, and Kevin puts away the now finished illustration of three playful baby elephants. Whether he will get prints of this one to sell them, he doesn’t know yet.