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Artist of the Day | Guy Combes

Guy Combes | Old-World-Jewel (Sunbird)

Guy Combes

Old-World-Jewel (Sunbird) Oil on canvas 9 × 18 in


Combes comes by his understanding of African environmental concerns naturally. He was born in Kenya in 1971, and spent his first eight years exploring that natural world on safari with his father, Simon, who was an internationally respected wildlife artist. In 1979, however, his parents decided that the family should return to England where Guy and his sister, Cindy, would receive a good education. Guy’s experience at boarding school was understandably difficult; his life in Kenya was far removed from the conventional English boyhood, and although his classmates were amazed at his stories of safaris, they also ostracized him for being an outsider.

During his school years, Combes most often drew images of people, and at age eleven, he was awarded a prize from the National Portraiture Foundation affiliated with Britain’s National Portrait Gallery in London. Two years later, in 1984, he received an art scholarship to Malvern Boys College in Worcestershire, and subsequently went on to receive an Art Foundation Diploma from Cheltenham Art College at the University of Gloucester in 1989, and an Interior Design Diploma from Inchbald School of Design in London in 1991. Throughout the 1990s, he worked in catering while taking additional classes at Brighton University.

Like many artists embarking on their careers, Combes struggled to find his own voice. His art education, as was typical of the time, emphasized abstract and conceptual art, but simultaneously, he was very conscious of his father’s worldwide prestige as a wildlife painter working within a realist tradition. When his parents divorced in the late 1990s, Combes’ father moved back to Kenya to pursue his work there. In 2001, Combes too returned to his birthplace, where he worked as a safari camp manager while continuing to paint. Gradually, he developed a deeper understanding of the land and the environment around him; and he renewed his relationship with his father at his home, Soysambu Ranch, in the Great Rift Valley.

Today, Combes is based in the East Bay area of northern California, although he also spends considerable time in the West Country of England with his mother. His painting continues to evolve, focusing on realistic depictions of African wildlife, but also beginning to explore other aspects of the African landscape and history.

Janet Whitmore, Ph.D. full bio: courtesy of,

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