Painting on a canvas larger than your average living room wall would be a daunting task for most artists but not Tony Trowbridge, aka Not Dead Yet. If the canvas was the living room wall, it still wouldn’t be large enough. That is why he leapt at the chance to paint animals on the Isle of Wight Zoo arches.

“It’s not every day you get to paint 15 wall-sized canvasses,” said Tony.

With the help of photographers, volunteers and staff, Tony compiled a series of animals he wanted to depict on the arches making certain that it was not just the big cats that got their pictures done. He also wanted to ensure that everyone who enters Sandown Bay knows that there is a Zoo behind that Fort.

“The eyes are very important,” said Tony. “People identify with the eyes.”

Eyes have always dominated Tony’s artwork. From the age of 3 he would draw eyes on his bedroom wall (the living room was obviously a no-go area at such a young age!). Whenever his family moved to a new house, they would allow Tony to paint eyes all over one room, only decorating it just before they moved. It is no wonder then, that with all that practice, all of the animals in the arches have very powerful eyes.

Much of the preparatory work is done at his studio in Sandown, away from the wall. He researches images, angles and materials and then works out the colour combinations before any paint leaves the can.

“I start off with a pencil sketch, then work up to full scale artwork using mostly freehand spray paint.”

So what prompted Tony to offer his skills to the Zoo? He says “I have always been fully behind the Zoo’s conservation efforts in India and Madagascar and I was so inspired by a recent talk by a young man called Sagara, who works for WildCAT-C in India, about their tiger conservation work that I wanted to help in any way I could. So when this opportunity arose, I took it!”.

Veronica Chrisp, CEO of the Zoo and The Wildheart Trust commented: “The Trust is delighted to host Tony’s wonderful work. The pictures are beautiful, detailed and very clever. Not only do they brighten up our entrance, they really shout about us as a new and dynamic conservation charity, showcasing our wide range of animals in a way that is thoughtful, colourful and a lot of fun. I hope the passing public love them as much as we do and are encouraged to pay us a visit.”

Visitors to the Zoo will also benefit from seeing other artwork by Tony once they are inside!