Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Seerey Lester, John
Specialties: Paintings, Prints
View Artwork
Born in Manchester, England in 1946, John Seerey-Lester took the first
step toward his adult career in 1955 when he won first prize in an art
competition sponsored by The Daily Express, one of England's
largest newspapers. He was encouraged in his pursuit of art by his father,
who actually arranged for him to receive commission painting the pets,
houses, and portraits of family and friends. At the unusually young age of
fifteen, Seerey-Lester was accepted at Salford Technical College in
Lancashire where he studied graphic design and painting. Through he
preferred painting, like many artists, he was unable to support himself
with fine art immediately after graduation and so turned to design work
with advertising and publishing companies. His success in that area led to
his launch, at the age of only twenty-one, of his own men's fashion
magazine which eventually reached a circulation of 80,000. He continued
working in publishing and public relations even as he devoted evenings and
weekends to his own paintings and creating a market for them. In 1974,
even though he was established on the board of directors of one of
Britain's largest advertising agencies, he gave up his "day job" to pursue
fine art full time.

At first, Seerey-Lester focused on portraits and nostalgic scenes of
English street life, but a trip to Africa in 1980 interested him in
wildlife painting which has become the focus of his career. He was very
influenced by the work of fellow British wildlife artist David Shepherd
and began to travel all over the world, painting only scenes that he had
witnessed and recorded first-hand. After a sold-out solo exhibition at
Harrod's, Seerey-Lester decided to move to North America in 1982, having
discovered that the majority of his buyers lived there. Though he settled
in Florida, his travels continued and his paintings of the North American
grizzlies of Alaska were among his most popular early series, later
produced as limited edition prints by Mill Pond Press. In association with
that company, he began creating original lithographic prints, a natural
given his experience in design and print production, in 1988. He does the
initial drawings in a new technique on frosted Mylar sheets which he then
takes to master printers George C. Miller Sons in New York City. The
Millers pull proofs of the prints until they achieve the quality
Seerey-Lester has in mind, at which point he approves the edition and
signs and numbers each print.

He has also continued to make fine oil paintings, specializing in a
variety of wildlife including large mammals, birds of prey, and
environmentally sensitive tableaux that reflect his on-going concern with
wildlife and habitat conservation. On behalf of the World Wildlife Fund,
he held a sold-out solo exhibition in Great Britain and later received a
commendation from Prince Philip for his wildlife conservation efforts. In
addition, some of the profits from his limited edition prints have gone to
nonprofit conservation groups.

Unlike many wildlife artists who paint animals in repose, Seerey-Lester
prefers to capture the animal's character in movement. In order to depict
this accurately, he usually makes field sketches and videotapes or makes
digital recordings of the animals and their environment, using these later
in the studio to insure accuracy without punctiliousness. He explains, "I
may look at a video to understand the position of a cougar's legs as it
jumps, or the posture of a falcon's head as it dives toward its prey, but
I'm not interested in the camera's ability to identify every tuft of fur
or each individual feather." This care comes through even when he paints
more commonplace creatures, as, for instance, in the painting Seasonal
Greeting - Cardinal
in the collection of the R.W. Norton Art Gallery.
He explains:

I'm always fascinated by the way songbirds are attracted to their own
reflections. Although the cardinal is particularly well-known for
attacking its reflection in spring when it is fiercely defensive of its
territory, this is a winter setting, and the cardinal is not attacking its
reflection, his momentary curiosity has just drawn him to investigating it
. . . When I paint a bird like a cardinal, a bird which is painted so
often by so many artists, I look for a different or unusual location or
setting - for something unique. This setting, with the house suffering the
effects of time, afforded me the opportunity to paint a variety of
textures: the peeling paint, the wooden shutters, the smooth foliage, and
the rough, weathered brickwork.

His methods are obviously successful; he has participated in a number of
juried exhibitions, including the popular annual Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art
Museum's annual shows, Birds in Art and Wildlife: An Artist's View,
and in 1988 he was honored as Ducks Unlimited Canada's artist for their
50^th anniversary stamp and print.

In 2000, Seerey-Lester married fellow wildlife artist Suzie Zimos. They
both continues to paint wildlife and work for conservation issues. John
has also become a teacher, in one case instructing animators at Walt
Disney Studios, specifically for work in the animated feature
Mulan. In addition, two books have been published on his wildlife
paintings. In March of 2008, he and wife Suzie were featured on the cover
of Wildlife Art Magazine.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections