Bruce Lawes Gets Help from Jane Goodall in Painting to Support Institute

October 9, 2017 share
Artists for Conservation

AFC artist Bruce Lawes, recently completed a major arwork depicting a chimpanzee, created specifically to support the Jane Goodall Institute. In this article, Bruce describes the creative process and how his lifelong conservation hero, Dr. Goodall herself contributed to the artwork's completion.

Many of my successful paintings tell a story and are a journey of learning and discovery. Whether I am researching something historical or have the challenge of creating a painting with great personal meaning. ‘Spirit of the Forest’ was both, a journey of the past adventures of an incredible lady and a journey with great personal meaning. Dr. Jane Goodall is my hero since my early childhood and I was determined, not only to create a significant painting, but also create something that she would be proud to say represented a part of her life with fond memories.

With the help of Jane’s wonderful staff in the U.S. they opened their arms in friendship to assist me with the Jane Goodall Institute archives of video and still photography. This is where it began; the question was how to create a painting that told a story, while prominently depicting the iconic chimpanzee in an artistic composition.

Scrolling through the beautiful imagery I began to get a feeling of what I wanted to do. In one video Jane was by a waterfall in Gombe Tanzania where she studied the chimpanzee’s behaviors around the falling water. She observed that it was a place of play, wonder and contemplation, almost a spiritual response, if compared in human terms. I knew from that video that the waterfall had to become a big part of my story. While researching and talking to Jane’s staff I found out the female named, “Fifi”, was one of her favourites. Which chimpanzee to feature became obvious, “Fifi”, with her baby, “Flirt”, one of the 9 babies she had over her lifetime had to be my stars to feature. Now, with the stage set and the stars determined I began to create a composition that would be both scientifically accurate and artistically appealing.

By the first week in April the painting was nearly completed but final details not quite refined. An opportunity to meet Jane in New York City presented itself and the painting was done enough to show her to hopefully get her blessing. This would be the first time anybody, other than my wife, Luisa, would see what I imagined Jane would appreciate in a painting. It was a little nerve racking but I was quickly relieved when she first saw the painting and said, “That’s Fifi!”.

While we discussed the painting I said during my process I came up with a title, “Spirit of the Land”, and Jane quickly responded, “Spirit of the Forest”, the title was finalized by one of the great women in history and the painting will go on to raise funds so that the good work of Jane and her Institute will continue in perpetuity. 



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