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About the artist

Darren Hughes is an award-winning wildlife and figurative artist from Australia specialising in highly detailed works in pastel and pencil.

Graduating with a degree in design, Darren directed his attention toward a professional career as a graphic designer. In 2018 he began refocussing on his personal artistic practice.

“Some of my earliest memories are intrinsically linked to art. Drawing came quite instinctively to me, even from a very young age. I could often be found sitting with a pencil and paper sketching anything from a collection of objects to streetscapes or local birdlife.

“I have never had art lessons or drawing instruction, so in that sense I am self-taught. I have simply worked hard, and patiently, at improving and refining my skills over many years.”

Darren’s practice is greatly influenced by a long-held fascination with the natural world and desire to encourage others to develop a deeper understanding, empathy and respect for the non-human animals with whom we share our home.

“We navigate the world in such a way one would think we are exempt from nature when we are not only a part of it but depend on it entirely. We romanticise the parts we find lovely and subjugate or overlook that which we find strange, do not understand, or are conditioned to view as expendable or a commodity.

“Non-human animals have their own subjective experience of life and their own value. Though different from ours, theirs is no less relevant, yet we consistently assign a different moral worth to their existence based on whether or not they have a relationship with us. To judge what consciousness is more valuable than another is just another element of the human tendency to be paternalistic and domineering.

“Recognising the sentience of other species and the ecological roles they play means confronting our own behaviours and the systems we create which exploit both animals and the planet.”

Each of Darren’s compositions are meticulously constructed, capturing the finest details in a contemporary aesthetic which celebrates the chosen subject. His work relates both a keen observation of reality and a whimsical sensibility, presenting visual narratives that explore the fragility and fortitude of nature. No grid reference techniques are used, meaning every piece is drawn purely “by eye” and come to life over hours, weeks, sometimes months of work.

“I’ve always gravitated to works of realism, such as those of the Old Masters and 18th century natural history illustrators and am motivated by the challenge highly detailed subjects present. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I am so greatly drawn to animals – the incredible diversity and complexity in their anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics. They make for truly fascinating subjects.”

Darren works exclusively with the finest soft pastels including Rembrandt and Unison Colour, for whom he is an associate artist, and pastel pencils by Faber-Castell, Carbothello, Derwent and Caran d’Ache. With rich, traditional pigments and lightfast qualities confirmed by the most rigorous international testing, each piece is nothing short of museum quality.

“Soft pastel is one of the oldest and purest mediums, having been used by artists since the Renaissance. It is essentially pure, finely ground pigment with just a little binder. In the best quality pastel, this is typically tragacanth – a natural gum obtained from the dried sap of several middle eastern plants, or kaolin – a silicate clay mineral frequently used in the production of porcelain.

“Pencils ultimately remain my favourite tool to work with because of the control and line quality they allow. The craftsmanship and technology behind today’s professional-grade pastel pencil is a huge departure from the humble colour pencil that may come to mind. They provide pastel artists a means to achieve fine detail and precise mark-making previously not possible in pastel work.”

Darren’s work has been selected for various local and national exhibitions. He has been a finalist in the Clayton Utz Art Award and a five-time finalist and two-time category winner in the Lethbridge 20000 Small Scale Art Award in Australia. Two of Darren’s pieces were selected for publication in the tenth edition of Strokes of Genius: The Best of Drawing published by Northlight Books, and his work has appeared in art magazines internationally.

A portion of all sales from his art supports conservation and animal welfare projects throughout the world.

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