Newquay Zoo's artist in residence John Dyer has produced some amazing paintings as part of the Darwin 200 e xhibitions - and had some very close encounters with animals.
John grew up near Newquay but has spent time overseas painting exotic animals and plants. Coming to the Zoo has been a chance to re -visit his roots and to work with the wildlife he finds so inspiring .
Staff and visitors at Newquay were able to watch John painting on site, ask questions and observe the responses of the animals, some of which were very curious about him. ''I have had the most marvellous experiences at Newquay Zoo. On one occasion my easel was covered in lemurs and on another my toes were nibbled by meerkats!"
Head of Education Mark Norris said “A lemur made a mark on a painting with its finger, which John is leaving there for posterity. We are so grateful to John - it has been a brilliant experience and one we hope we can repeat.”
John is one of many Cornish artists producing work inspired by the Zoo for the ''fabulous, family friendly and free'' exhibitions at Falmouth Art Gallery (www.falmouthartgallery.com). The project, part of Darwin 200 and sponsored by the Heritage L ottery Fund, is to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
Falmouth Art Gallery director Brian Stewart said: "The most important journey of the nineteenth century - perhaps the most important journey ever - was undertaken by Charles Darwin on The Beagle between 1831 and 1836." Cornwall is firmly linked with Darwin's voyage, as HMS Beagle docked at Falmouth. The specimens he brought back contributed to his studies and to The Origin of Species, published 150 years ago in 1859 (visit www.darwin200.org).
Talented zoo staff were also involved; those who submitted work for the exhibitions include Newquay Zoo photographer Michelle Turton and Paignton Zoo- based volunteer photographer Mark Parkinson. Part of the Zoo's archive collection has been made available for the exhibitions.
Zoo director and wildlife illustrator Stewart Muir said: "In Darwin's day, artists were routinely taken along to record the landscapes, plants and animals they discovered, so we are both working within a long tradition and also using new media in these exhibitions."
To see more of John Dyer's paintings visit www.johndyergallery.co.uk