An Artistic Champion for Wildlife
Merging and forging two passions together to form sculptures that have captured the attention of the world of art as well as the world of conservation, Bruce Little has a mission: To inform everyone that they can have an impact when it comes to saving the planet and the majestic wildlife that call it home.
South African artist, Little, has a passion for wildlife that began at an early age, which prompted him to take the safari road and become a game ranger when he reached adulthood. However, as much as he loved being in the wilderness and in such close proximity to wildlife, Little felt that there was something more he could do. It was then, taking inspiration from his surroundings and beloved African animals, that he began his sculpting journey.
With no formal training, he began to create sculptures of animals. Already an avid photographer, he had some experience in attempting to capture the spirits of the animals he came into contact with.
“Just by being with the animals, studying them through the medium of photography, and then as one starts to sculpt, one does not just look at the animal – one looks at how they move, how their muscles react.”
Depicting the correct anatomy of the animals he sculpts is important to Little. “I study the anatomy quite a lot. I have been very fortunate in having handraised some animals – two cheetah, which were released back into the bush, and a caracal.” Raising these animals, and even hunting with them, he sees this as a “huge
privilege”, as he says, that animals are his “absolute passion”.
One of the most important messages that Little wishes to relate to people through his creations is that we all have a part to play when it comes to looking after the environment. “One of the things that I try to convey – and which I do a lot of talking about – is that we can all make a difference. Everybody thinks that conservation is someone else’s problem – it is not someone else’s problem. Every single one of us can make a difference. At the end of the day … you cannot take anything with you. What legacy do you want to leave behind? And I think that the legacy I would like to leave behind is of somebody who made a difference, a positive difference, through the medium of art.”
The conservation legacy of Little is already on an astonishing path. In 2016, he created a gargantuan African lion titled Dawn Patrol. This lion came into being after Little joined forces with Viscount of Weymouth of the United Kingdom. “We talked about the concept of doing a big sculpture for Longleat – a property in Wiltshire in the United Kingdom, which is known as a safari park, but there is also a magnificent building on it – and the following year they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the safari park. They thought that something of a monumental scale would be a good thing.”
And monumental the sculpture certainly is. Measuring in at over eight metres long and over four metres high, Dawn Patrol is the largest sculpture Little has created. “I wanted it to be bigger than the Trafalgar Square lions, because I wanted it to be a statement, not only for wildlife, but also a statement for me as an artist.”
After the resounding success of the project, Little was invited to auction off Dawn Patrol at the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation auction in St Tropez, France. More than R14 million was raised for the foundation, thanks to Little’s Dawn Patrol, which supports conservation efforts around the world. Little requested that some of the funds go to a charity of his choice, which was Botswana Predator Conservation Trust. So, the impressive bronze tribute to the most famous predator in Africa assisted in saving the inspiration behind it, as well as so much more natural beauty.
The process of creating his bronze creations is no easy feat. Little begins by photographing and studying an animal before getting into the actual sculpting. An armature is created, which gets fleshed out with foam or wood. A waxbased clay is then added and moulded before it goes to the foundry where it gets cast into bronze. Little spent eight months on Dawn Patrol, having to drop everything to create this renowned, imposing work of art.
When it comes to his favourite pieces, Little describes the question as “the most difficult to answer”. “I do believe that every piece that I do, I give it my all – they are all special to me because I have done each one for a reason.” The pieces that have stuck with the artist includes a smaller version of a previous sculpture of a large-scale leopard called Down To Earth. “I have got a series of sunbirds, and they are very fine – they are not all about power and teeth and fur, it is also about the finesse. Illusions of Grandeur depicting a meerkat standing on a lion skull, which is known as the king of the beasts, also sticks out for me because it just sums up their [meerkats’] characters.”
Little left his career as a game ranger years ago to dedicate his time to his art. “I work seven days a week – but I do not see it as work. I have got two studios – one at my workplace and the other at home – so