Simon Coomes - Artist
"My art has taken me on many adventures to wild and beautiful parts of the world. In Rwanda, I spent several days sitting close to the mountain gorillas which Diane Fossey spent many years habituating. I felt I was in the presence of great dignity, wisdom, intelligence and tolerance. I felt gauche and somehow insignificant in their presence. If they looked my way, it was not to look at me but through me." Simon Combes
In 1940, Simon Combes was born in “Wilderness Cottage,” in Shaftsbury, England, and from that day in June, the wilderness always attracted him. His first adventures began early when, in 1946, his parents immigrated to farm in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, a magical place for a young boy. Simon loathed his years at boarding school in Nakuru and at Duke of York in Nairobi, always longing for the freedom of the bush. While managing a 2,000 acre farm when he was seventeen, he was drafted into six months compulsory military training after already applying for appointment in the Kings African Rifles. He was accepted into 4 KAR but having just finished his training was sent to Uganda where one of his duties was to teach basic etiquette and rugby to a young Idi Amin. He attended Sandhurst Military Academy and returned to Kenya to join the 3rd Kings African Rifles in time for Kenya’s Independence.In 1964, Simon was chosen to form and command Kenya’s elite Parachute Regiment. This involved training the first 250 paratroopers in England, and translating all the instruction books into Swahili. Their first posting back in Kenya was fighting the Shifta war in the North Eastern province. It was during this time Simon started to draw and paint as a hobby to occupy his spare time. His subjects were the Somali and Boran people and the landscapes of the North. In 1969, he held his first exhibition in Nairobi which was a sell-out on the opening night. It was then that the idea of painting full-time started. However, he was refused release from the army and was moved to army HQ as staff officer in charge of all operations and training. He was also captain of the army shooting team and vice chairman to the Kenya Rifle Association. A Major at 28 and performing the duties of a Lieutenant Colonel, his military peers remember him fondly as a “True Kenyan.” Finally, in 1974, he was released from the army and started life as a professional artist. Best known for his stunning images wildlife in the African bush, he achieved worldwide success and acclamation through many prestigious awards. His paintings hang in private and museum collections around the globe. Simon’s life was rich with great adventures and wildlife encounters. From being lost in a blizzard while crossing the Altai Mountains in Mongolia and flying into the jungles of Venezuela to sketching Bengal Tigers atop a howdah on a swaying elephant in India, his experiences and observations led him to develop his exacting artistic style, rendering his subjects with such depth and exquisite detail. Africa & Beyond: The Art and Adventures of Simon Combes, a retrospective exhibition of Simon’s major works, was held at The Wildlife Experience Museum in 2004 to celebrate his great artistic achievements. Since 1979, The Greenwich Workshop, Inc., has published his works as Fine Art Reproductions on paper and canvas. He always said, if given the time he would rather write than paint. This talent is apparent in his books An African Experience, distributed by The Greenwich Workshop and Great Cats, published by The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. Simon was also working on a book of Limericks about life in Kenya which reveals his ability to entertain us with his wit and humor. Simon had a wonderful talent for communication, whether in speech, writing or painting. Never self assuming, he gave talks in Kiswahili to the farm staff, through a translator to school children in Russia and also to many interested groups around the world. Not only a man of the arts, but an avid conservationist as well, Simon had recently appointed Kenya Representative and Project Director for Rhino Rescue Trust. He sat on the boards of several wildlife conservation organizations and raised, through his art, many thousands of dollars for their causes. On Sunday, December 12, 2004, atop a beautiful ancient volcano near his home in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Simon’s life was tragically taken by one of the wild animals he so lovingly portrayed in his paintings. He never “gathered moss” and now he has come home. He is survived by his wife Kat, his children, Cindy and Guy, his sister, Jenny all of Kenya and his former wife Susie of England. We shall remember Simon well.
An African Experience : Wildlife Art and Adventure in Kenya - a safari in Africa can be one of the great highlights of our lives, and Simon Combes has lived his life on one. He is one of the finest painters of wildlife alive and with this book makes his mark as a writer as well. The story of his life contained in this volume is an enthralling one: the son of an expatriate raised in colonial Kenya, a military career that spanned both sides of that nation's independence, a safari guide and artist with an eye for the adventure that is Africa.
Africa & Beyond: The Art & Adventures of Simon Combes - The last book published before Simon Combes' tragic death in December 2004 near his home in Kenya. Pictorial covers; 67 pages; 50 color illustrations, plus many sketches and photos. Combes discussion of each of the paintings gives great insight to this most dedicated Wildlife Artist. Many of these paintings shown in the book are from private collections and have not elsewhere been reproduced.
Great cats: Stories & Art from a world traveler - Adventurer, artist, and author Simon Combes embarks on the greatest adventure of his lifetime--a search for nine great cats of the world. In a hair-raising, hysterical account, Combes captures--in stories, paintings, and photos--the drama of these nine elusive species of felines.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
SAFARI USA 2002 - During the months of August, September and October Simon was working on the painting "Forest Waterhole". This page is devoted to the research, development and progression of the painting throughout the tour.
From his publisher, The Greenwich Workshop : In 1969, Simon persuaded to stage an exhibition of his work in Nairobi's New Stanley Art Gallery. The show was a near sell-out and an idea about an alternate career began to form in Combes' mind. Someone made the suggestion that he paint wildlife and the creative seed was sown. In 1974, Combes said farewell to the army, bought a small house on the outskirts of Nairobi and set up shop as a freelance artist.In the three decades since, he achieved worldwide success, countless commissions and many prestigious awards—including the Society of Animal Artists' Award of Excellence. He was chosen "Artist of the Year" for the 1994 Pacific Rim Wildlife Art Show. The success of his work has aided Combes as he seeks to raise awareness of wildlife conservation; he has made contributions and served on the councils of several conservation organizations. In June 2003 Combes was appointed Project Director Kenya for the UK based Conservation organization The Rhino Rescue Trust. Combes is the author and artist of two critically-acclaimed books Great Cats and An African Experience.
From Soysambu Conservancy: Overlooking Lake Elmenteita among Acacia and Candleabra trees the campsite faces south with a commanding view of the Sleeping Warrior crater and Mt. Eburu. This private campsite is named for Simon Combes, the renowned wildlife artist, who hosted artist safaris on this site.