Gecko Time recently became aware of a wonder herp artist from his donation of work for the Houston Exotic Reptile and Pet Show (HERPS). Find out more about Mike Turner from our interview below:
Drawing has always been a great passion of mine, evenly matched with reptile keeping, but it was only a few years ago (in late 2014) that it became more than just a hobby for me and I started to think about it seriously. Before then I was mostly drawing doodles of robots and silly characters on whiteboards at work in an attempt to amuse my colleagues. I have since found inspiration from my interest in animals and my passion for reptile keeping, having looked after many different reptiles throughout the years from Geckos to Ackies and even caring for a few friends’ collections when they are away. It was only natural that my artwork has evolved into what it is today.
What Inspires you?
My inspiration is taken from different artists and their varying styles. For instance I enjoy the works of super realism artists, but also the truly stylized artists. A couple of my favourite artists include, Jay Manchand (HerpARTology), who works mostly with watercolour and paints animals in a style that is so unique to him that you would recognise one of his pieces just by a quick glance. The other artist is Tasha Griffiths (PAWtraits), who works more into the category of realism and draws incredibly detailed pencil drawings, mostly of dogs. Both of these artists have been huge inspirations to me, even though each of us uses a different media to create our work. They have perfected their own style of drawing and this inspires me to work harder to refine and perfect my own style. Whilst I admire both Manchand and Griffiths, I am continually inspired and drawn to different artists and creative people on a daily basis and I am always experimenting with my own work.
How did you get started?
When I started drawing I never felt that it had a real purpose. My drawings were all just doodles on paper or on a whiteboard, to either convey a really silly message to work colleagues or to see if I could mimic another artist’s style. The real turning point for me, was back when our dog was diagnosed with cancer and I decided to draw a memorial portrait of her. She was a member of the family who would be only with us for a limited amount of time and I wanted to preserve her memory in my own way. After that portrait I was asked by a couple of people to draw their animals for them. This kicked everything off and led me to think more seriously about my art work and I set up my Puddy Muddle Art & Design page on Facebook, offering drawing services to the public. It was about 6 months after setting up my page that I found out our reptile hobby was under threat in the UK. I had seen numerous posts by the Hands Off Our Hobby
group documenting the issue and I decided to help spread awareness and gain support for the group through my art. I designed a limited edition T-shirt featuring a tattoo style graphic, a familiar style to the reptile community, to raise funds for the cause. The T-shirt was well received by the community and even featured on the Reptile Report Facebook page.
What are some projects that you’re working on now?
At the moment I am interested in education and I am hoping to find a way to show people all the different reptiles (and amphibians) in the world that are not commonly seen within the pet industry. To start this project off, I have teamed up with my friends at S.R.A.S (Surrey Reptile and Amphibian Society) to create a monthly sticker pack featuring one stylised portrait of a different Species per month. Each new month will introduce people to a species that I particularly like, but isn’t a common name within the hobby. With the Sticker comes an Information sheet about the featured species, and this has been researched and written by one of the committee members at S.R.A.S.
Along with the monthly sticker subscriptions, I am also still taking commissions drawing Portraits of people’s pets or drawing logos for breeders and reptile groups. I am also drawing stylised stickers for the common species within the hobby too.
What is your proudest achievement with your art?
When I first started, I never really thought my art would get any sort of recognition and so I feel even having one compliment on a drawing is a great achievement. However, one thing I have been particularly proud of, was being asked to create a memorial drawing of Anthony Treble, a great friend within the reptile community, which was then printed on to T-shirts with the profits being given to his family. I even saw people at the Next Big Reptile Show, Doncaster, wearing the T-shirt in respect of a great man.
What ideas do you have for future projects ?
In the future I would love to possibly be able to expand the monthly sticker project into a book or work with a zoo or magazine to reach a much wider audience and help to educate even more people. I think that this would help to put an end to discrimination towards the reptile hobby as well as all of the reptile and amphibian species in the world, as people would have more facts before forming opinions and it could create more appreciation and interest towards these animals. Charity is also something I really like to help with, so being able to continue with various charity drawings is something that I would be very open to.
Any final words?
I would just like to say a huge Thank You for reading this article and all the support I have received over the years. I also want to thank everyone who has offered reference pictures, paid me for a commission or piece of art work / T-shirt. All the support given to small artists like me never goes unnoticed and we really appreciate it.