The  Finalé

"A Special Exhibition of Wildlife Art"

The PAWS (Paint A Wildlife Subject) Competition ran for 13 years. Originally conceived in 1991 as a 'one-off' designed to encourage artists to tackle wildlife subjects, it was also intended that competitors would learn more about the beauty of the natural world and increase their awareness of the desperate need for conservation.

It was the brainchild of Roy Chaffin, now well known as a wildlife artist and demonstrator. He talked about the concept of the competition on a series of regional radio programmes, but had absolutely no idea that it would be so widely contested. That first year he expected about 100 entries and was overwhelmed with 600. He realised he had stumbled upon a winning formula and decided to develop the idea further.  

One of the unusual things about PAWS was that original work had to be submitted (not photographs or slides) and it had to be submitted without frames or mounts.

By the end of the decade PAWS was attracting artists from all over the country and some from further afield - Europe, the Americas, Canada, Australia and a few really far flung places such as Malaysia and Thailand. Each year Roy selected 100 finalists. Their work was framed and presented in a major public exhibition, and each received a certificate of merit. The top artist in each media division (watercolour, oil, pastel etc) received a beautiful engraved medal. One of them went on to win the coveted overall award, and was presented with the PAWS Challenge Trophy, to be held for the year.

Sadly, Roy's Mum had died in 1995, since when the Joyce Chaffin Memorial Scroll has commemorated her life and the interest she had always shown in the competition.  Roy donated the trophy and chooses the painting which he believes his mother would most have enjoyed.

Over the years lots of different sponsors provided other prizes and support. Amongst them Winsor & Newton and the Artist and Illustrator's Magazine are notable for having been involved throughout. By the year 2000 the value of the prize table exceeded £3500, and the top prize-winners work was being exhibited on a dedicated PAWS website and produced as a limited edition print. 

That year Roy announced major changes to the future of PAWS too. It had grown as big as was possible in its existing format and he felt that he must either change it, or 'go out on a high'.  If it was to continue, PAWS would need to be developed to meet the changing needs of the new Century.

So PAWS became the first proper internet based art competition. For three years the finalists had their work exhibited in the PAWS on-line gallery. In 2002 and 2003 details of the finalists and their work were also incorporated on a CD entitled "PAWS Wildlife Artists Yearbook". 


When Roy started the competition back in 1991 he was doing something new in lots of ways. The only major wildlife art exhibition was the Society of Wildlife Artists annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries and at the time, that was both elitist and somewhat erratic in its standard due to selection processes (or rather the lack of them for members).

There was no 'Wild Art Society',  no 'National Exhibition of Wildlife Art', no ‘Marwell Zoo Exhibition’.  In short, no opportunities for  wildlife artists in general.

The Museum at Gloucester ‘Nature in Art’ had opened in 1988 thanks to the hard work of Sir Peter Scott and David Trapnell amongst others - but it was concentrating on developing the display of its own collection of works. Changing exhibitions, artists in residence and so on were still to come.

Thankfully the last few years have seen a huge change in the fine art market and certainly in the  print market, (if not in the "establishment").  At last they acknowledge that Wildlife Art is more than glorified illustration. This is evidenced by the inclusion of Wildlife Art as an option within some academic art courses and by the publication of  a British magazine devoted entirely to Wildlife Art - ‘Wildscape’.  One of the results is that there are many more specialist wildlife art exhibitions than just those few mentioned already, and wildlife art is also much more readily accepted in mixed exhibitions.

So the PAWS team feels its role is no longer as necessary as it once was and is confident that  the genre of Wildlife Art is now well established. There will be no more PAWS Competitions.

But PAWS did not leave the arena quietly!

We decided to have one last 'Fling'.  In August and September 2004 PAWS  organised a major Wildlife Art exhibition. All the past divisional winners and runners-up - the cream of the finalists over thirteen years - were invited to submit work for selection.  Knowing the standard of work these artists have presented before, it is not surprising that the exhibition was truly outstanding.

The Challenge Trophy and the Joyce Chaffin Memorial Scroll were presented together with some very generous prizes from Winsor & Newton.

Called ‘The PAWS Finalé’ the exhibition was organised to commemorate the end of the competition and to celebrate the comparatively recent recognition of the genre of Wildlife Art as Fine Art in its own right.


The Harlequin Gallery in Watford (Hertfordshire)    August 7th - August 15th

The Black Sheep Gallery near Chester    August 22nd - September 19th

For more details contact PAWS.    telephone;  01923 225618.



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