The acclaimed wildlife artist creates beautiful paintings using a pheasant feather, a tool provided by the natural world that she has lived and breathed since childhood

I have been out in the field or on a riverbank for as long as I can remember. My father and mother encouraged me from a young age to fish various rivers, romp up hills for quarry and forage along beaches. I would always have some paper and colours in my pocket, and sketch away wherever and whenever a moment arose. When looking at prep schools, I chose one in North Norfolk because it offered fly-tying as an activity. My father and I would take off to rivers across the UK, always with a picnic. (The best thing was my mother’s cherry cake, which was inevitably devoured before we even got to the bottom of the road.)

The time I spent with my father on the riverbank was incredibly special, as he was away a lot with the Army. These memories are precious, and now I have more to add with watching him and my own boys on the river. My husband, Charlie, and I encourage our two sons to be outside doing what they love as much as our own parents did with us. We’ve always happened to live within striking or casting distance to a river, which can lead to quite a lot of competition within the family.

Becoming a wildlife artist

We are surrounded by the most wonderful wildlife, which is so inspiring for my work. I have always painted but while I was at home in Norfolk with my parents when my son Harry was a baby, I picked up a pheasant tail feather from a stash that my father had and started to scribble with some ink. The result was full-on energy and great fun, so I continued down this road thinking nothing really of it and now am a full-time artist creating wildlife paintings all with the use of a feather.

Wildlife artist Clare Brownlow spent hours on the riverbank growing up

I have exhibited around the world from Los Angeles and New York to Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Edinburgh. I’ve also had commissions from and have collaborated with the likes of Purdey, Schöffel, Pol Roger and Patrick Mavros. I take the role of being a wildlife artist and wildlife lover in the same breath. We teach our children respect for the outdoors and the wildlife, and get them to be as aware and respectful as possible. I have donated many works to help charities such as the GWCT, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, and Tusk Trust. The work that they do is fundamental in making sure that future generations also have the opportunity to appreciate wildlife.

“I always felt that as a girl with a gun you had to be so much better than the boys”

Being invited to friends’ shoots is a joy but I would often be secretly nervous. I always felt that as a girl with a gun you had to somehow be so much better than the boys. On one occasion I was invited to a boys’ day (the first one without my trusted loader, teacher and critic – my father) where the first drive was across a muddy sugar beet field. Anyone familiar with the size of the fields in Norfolk will understand the pressure I was under. I was the middle gun with a wood in front of us. I had my boys flanking both sides and we were about 200 metres from the edge of the field. One solitary, very high cock pheasant flew right towards and above me. All eyes were on this one pheasant. If I missed it, I knew that I would never hear the end of it. Luckily, with one shot, I got it.

I was introduced to stalking with my father at an early age too and I think that it is the only time I have ever managed to be quiet. Those who know me will understand this is a rarity. I was once stalking in Norfolk and took a roebuck with one antler. I was extremely proud of this and my ‘unicorn’ now hangs on my studio wall. Harry, our eldest son, has been out with my father, and I now rarely get a look-in with Dad. I adore spending time in the Highlands stalking with friends and family, and appreciating the beauty that Scotland has to offer.

An artist’s tool provided by Mother Nature

Whenever I am in the countryside I’m frequently mesmerised by the scale and wonder of the ever-changing scenes around me. I have always wanted to capture it and spent a long time painting landscapes. Now, I am focusing on the detail of the wildlife it gives home to with a tool that Mother Nature herself gave to me – a feather.

TOP TIP: Find something that makes your soul sing and is totally yours. Don’t be shy, find what you want to do and just enjoy every moment of being in the field doing what you love.

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Read more inspirational stories from our Sporting Dianas, including Georgina Preston and Lucinda Ticehurst. For essentials guides to must-have sporting kit, take a look at our round-up of the best shooting socks, best shooting coats, best gumboots and best ear defenders.