Dick Twinney ~ Wildlife and Countryside Artist

Born in 1943, Dick Twinney has  loved the countryside and its inhabitants for as long as he can remember. Growing up in the South Devon town of Teignmouth played a big part in his deep appreciation of the natural world. It is an area of outstanding wild beauty - a tidal river with a huge variety of wading and sea birds, fields and woodlands stretching to the moors are home to popular mammals from tiny harvest mice to otters.  Whilst others were engaged in more popular childhood pursuits, he would be searching the riverbank for voles or watching waders on the river estuary as he crossed the Bridge to go to school in Shaldon.

Having a natural ability to draw Dick was soon combining  his two loves of art and nature. These interests, along with fishing, he had his own small boat, walking and swimming, occupied his time until he left school at 15 to join  the Royal Air Force as an aircraft fitter (his father's wartime trade). For the next 14 years he progressed through the service, rising to the rank of sergeant, still drawing and painting for pleasure and occasionally selling the  odd picture or cartoon for a few pints. He always remained interested in wildlife and was able to study it in many parts of Britain and abroad during his different postings. The highlight was being on active service in Borneo as a helicopter crewman, the vast variety of plants and creatures of the rainforest, he had his own pet rescued  monkey, providing endless pleasure for him.

On his return from overseas Dick met Ann who was brought up in the Welsh countryside and shared his love of animals and the natural world.They married in Newton Abbot, Devon in 1966 and soon acquired their first rescue dog. The next few years were spent in Lincolnshire until they managed to return to the Westcountry in 1969 with a posting to St. Mawgan in Cornwall .

Dick's artwork gradually became more professional when he developed a unique form of metal and slate engraving whilst still in the RAF. These engravings became so popular that he decided to leave the service in 1973 and embark on a career as a full-time artist. Loving North Cornwall, and its magnificient coastline, they bought a house in the historical market town of St. Columb Major.  


In the beginning there were two people, one from Wales, one from Devon,

one baby, two dogs (one's sleeping!)  and a Citroen Ami Estate

During the winter of 1973 Dick and Ann took a stall in Truro's newly-opened Pannier Market, selling slate and metal engravings, and a few oil paintings. These initially featured many subjects, Cornish Engine Houses and Shipwrecks being popular, but he gradually concentrated on his first love, wildlife. During this period Dick became a fanatical surfer, their family increased to two dogs, a mynah bird. several wild orphans and a son Garrick, who was born in 1974. 

In 1977 an art buyer from Devon discovered his work and arranged what was to be his first exhibition. This was held in an old Manor House in Mortonhampstead in Devon, and proved to be a great success, selling out and many of his paintings going into print. Since then Dick has exhibited in Canada, Germany and London. At this time he was painting in acrylics on canvas. Being entirely self-taught he studied the work of the three artists he most admired, Archibald Thorburn, Robert Bateman and Raymond Ching. The composition and imagination of Bateman, Thorburn's brilliant use of light and technical accuracy  and Ching's skills in ultra  detail  are the special atributes of these great artists he always tries to emulate in his paintings

 As the years went on Dick  joined a London art agency and became an artist/illustrator, changing his medium to watercolour and gouache on paper for ease of reproduction by  the publishers of the many books  and magazines he was then working on. Which included serious natural history subjects and childrens books.   To date he has illustrated or provided illustrations for over 25 books for many of the world's most important publishers, including Longmans, Hamlyn, Readers Digest and Macmillan.

During this period his paintings were also being used on sets of collectors plates by such International porcelain manufacturers as Danbury Mint, Compton and Woodhouse and Kaiser Porcelain of Germany.

Through his London agent, Bernard Thornton, Dick's paintings and illustrations were being  seen and used all over the world. His career was also thriving in his native Westcountry where he had regular features in Cornish Life and Devon Life magazines, a weekly nature series in The Sunday Independant   'Twinney's World' and 'Cornish Sketches' in the Cornish Guardian newspapers.

Over this period he was also doing a lot of designs for the giftware industry his least favourite period art wise. As he says "They would come to me and ask for six cute puppy paintings to be used on place mats when I really wanted to be doing my serious wildlife work, still it paid the bills and I was still making a living with my art which is what really counted"

Dick and Ann's family continued to expand with their daughter Jodene being born in 1979, and foxes, squirrels, badgers, three dogs, a racoon and many different 'rescued' birds making for a chaotic but still very enjoyable lifestyle. Keeping this large number of animals has given Dick the unique opportunity to study them at very close quarters.  Hand-raising these orphaned or injured creatures has provided him with great insight into their lives and character which allows him to endow his work with great depth  and feeling.

Some of the more interesting commissions Dick has had include designing a wildlife poster for British Telecom's Goonhilly Satellite Station, illustrating the French childrens magazine 'Pomme D'Api' and the Spanish encyclopaedia 'De Los Animales', and providing an owl painting as a cover for Hallstom School Magazine of Massachusettes, USA.  His original paintings have found homes worldwide, from the Mayor's parlour in Vancouver, Canada to a top Tokyo restaurant. In 1983 the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, Charles and Diana were presented with a wildlife painting to mark their visit to St. Columb Major.

Alongside  his more serious work in the wildlife field, Dick loves cartooning and had great success with his 'Know your Dog' series of wall plaques. In fact he still gets regular emails from people trying to locate these and they were done over 25 years ago!  He still continues to do cartoons on occasion but these are usually based on his favourite car, the Citroen 2CV and are usually for 2CVGB magazine.

In 1990 Dick realised a long-standing ambition by having his own book published by Webb and Bower of Exeter, Devon who had just had huge success with 'Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady'.   Titled  'The Painted Seasons' it featured paintings of Cornwall's wildlife and countryside throughout the year and is still available as a third edition.  Throughout the 90s he continued to flourish with successful exhibitions at The National Trust's Lanhydrock House and the Chase Art Gallery in Wadebridge. He also enjoys what he calls are his 'laid  back' charity exhibitions which are  very informal and usually held in local hostelries, combining business with pleasure!

 In late 1997, after working in watercolour and gouache for so many years he changed mediums and started using Chromacolour which was fairly new at the time.  This paint is water-based and is extremely versatile which makes it still suitable for highly detailed book illustrations on art paper but can also be used on canvas and  many other surfaces, allowing Dick more freedom to paint larger works. This is something he wanted to do for some time, moving on from the tight restrictions of book illustrating


Recent years have continued to be busy for Dick with the publication of the  very successful childrens book 'The Brave Little Owl' which he illustrated entirely.   His original paintings were also becoming very collectable with commissions coming in from around the globe. He continued to have many new limited edition prints published, including 'The Spirit of the Rock' to mark the total eclipse of the sun here in Cornwall. This was his fastest selling limited edition, all 200 selling out in a matter of weeks.  During 1999 his artwork was also featured in the worldwide  'International Artists' magazine, something he was extremely proud of.  Locally, his paintings were seen weekly in 'The Cornish Guardian' and monthly in the 'North Cornwall Advertiser'  He continued to submit designs for the collectors plate market, many which were accepted, including the very successful 'Barn Owl's Year'  During this period he also illustrated two children's nature books for Readers Digest of America called 'Far Out' looking at wildlife through binoculars and 'Close Up' looking at wildlife through a magnifying glass, a commission he throughly enjoyed doing.

As the years trundled by Dick deliberately became more 'local', leaving the many high profile Wildlife Art Websites he had been privilidged to be part of to concentrate solely on his own part of the world, as he says "it was really great for a while to rub shoulders art-wise with many of the worlds great wildlife artists I so admired and looked up to such as David Shepherd and Robert Bateman, but I did not really  feel at home and in all honesty did not fancy the hassle of exhibiting overseas which was more or less expected of you". He also started confining all his exhibitions and shows to very local venues.  His annual Christmas charity fund-raising Art Exhibition at the Merrymoor Inn, Mawgan Porth near Newquay, Cornwall was always very successful and enjoyable for both Dick and locals alike, the last night always ending  with a  musical  evening with 'visual art' meeting 'performing art'.   He also is out and about several times during the year with his traveling  Wildlife Art  Exhibition, which incidently is available for fund-raising charity functions. His two main Shows of the year are The Royal Cornwall Show which he has attended in various ways for the last 30 years or so and The Made in Cornwall Christmas Show of which he is a big supporter.

In 2004 Dick became 'Artist in Residence' at the National Trust's Lanhydrock House near Bodmin here in Cornwall. In previous years his two Wildlife Art Exhibitions held there had been extremely successful so he was absolutely delighted to have such a beautiful place in which to display his art.  This was a most enjoyable period for him as he felt he had found a permanent home for his wildlife art, something he had always wanted and as he said at the time " It was a fantastic feeling driving to 'work' down the main drive of the stately home and then walking  through the beautiful gardens to reach my art exhibition and painting area which was in the Music Room, one of the most beautiful and impressive rooms in the house". He really thought he was well settled until due to a change of policy and property manager by The National Trust, after 16 months he decided to move on, very reluctantly to try and find another suitable venue for his permanent Wildlife Art Exhibition.  Unable to find anywhere willing or suitable, after much deliberation Dick and Ann decided to turn the front of their family home in St. Columb Major, which already held his Studio, into an Art Gallery.  It was the obvious solution as many visitors and local people interested in Dick's artwork would often drop into his Studio anyway to see his latest paintings.  This has worked out really well and as Dick says  "This way I can have all my latest work on display, people can see work in progress, ask about my paintings and the Westcountry's wildlife in a totally informal, homely setting and browse at their leisure.

In 2008 Dick secured a weekly feature in the Western Morning News daily newspaper, something he is extremely proud of doing.  As he says  "This is one of the best things that has happened to my career over recent years. The Western Morning News has been my daily newspaper all my life, as it was also my late father's, so to actually have a regular feature in it is like coming home.  All my artwork nowadays is local and confined to the South West so it is such a pleasure to share my passion for this part of the world and its wildlife with local people through my paintings".

 In 2009 the second book of his nature notes and paintings,  From Hedgerow to High Tor - The Wildlife Diary of a Country Artist, was eventually published by Alison Hodge of Penzance.  It was supposed to be a follow-up to The Painted Seasons which it was in a way, over twenty years later!  However, so as not to leave it so long this time he has gone staight into working on a third book,  From Source to Sea - The Westcountry's Wildlife and Waterways. This will involve many trips out and about the South West, following our rivers from 'Source to Sea'  sketching and photographing along the way, as Dick says  "The ultimate job!"   

"My wife Ann without whom none of this would have been possible"

An update from 2010

Since 2010 to the present day Dick has continued to paint most days and has accumulated a vast digital library of original artwork and has now become even more local confining his shows and events to Cornwall in fact he rarely crosses the River Tamar these days.

He has three or four main events each year including the Royal Cornwall Show which he and Ann attend with Dick's artwork supporting various charities. For the last ten years it has been the farming charity the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

Other regular events are the Newquay Fish Festival supporting Newquay RNLI which he enjoys  as he gets to do his other passion in life which is singing Cornish songs with the Newquay Rowing Club Singers. Each Christmas he opens his St. Columb Major Studio supporting Little Harbour, St. Austell Children's Hospice South West and another regular event is the Cornwall Winter Fair at the Wadebridge Showgound once again suppoting the R.A.B.I.

Dick also does many smaller fund-raising events throughout the year his favourites being for Lifeboat Days and animal charities. Because Dick is not tied to or exhibits in art galleries or shops and therefore pays no commission to anyone he is able to support many local fund-raising events continuously with his artwork something that gives him great 'job satisfaction' in the fact the his paintings are helping so many deserving charities.  

Dick and Ann still live in the same house in St. Columb Major, over 50 years now, their children have long left home, their son Garrick living just outside of and working in London as a computer technician. Whilst Jodene lives just round the corner in St. Columb Major with their Grandchildren.

Rescue dogs continue to be part of the Twinney family as the years go by, Dodger the Bedlington/Whippet cross who sadly did not reach old bones due to various heath problems is sadly missed. Della the lurcher is still going strong at 14 years old and has been joined by a turbo charged Jack Russel terrier who keeps the family amused and fit dog walking.