Every one of Richard's paintings includes his trademark – a small image of a fly. First introduced into his early paintings of birds as a point of interest for the subject, it's been a fixture ever since. It takes a keen eye to spot it though!
Richard was born in Yorkshire, and his time spent on the family dairy farm had a huge impact on his art. His grandmother was a biologist, and it was she who encouraged his interest in the natural world around him. He was never without his German Pointer and even had a pet Magpie called Spike who slept on his bedhead and hid silver milk bottle tops in his shoes!
From the Huddersfield Daily Examiner July 23rd 1979
Self-taught, Richard began painting at the age of 5 and sold his first pictures – a Bullfinch and a Chaffinch – when he was only 13. He held his first exhibition aged 14 and first exhibited with the Society of Wildlife Artists at just 22.
In his teens Richard bred Pheasants, Quail, Ducks and Finches, and birds remain his first love.
"I built a huge aviary with my dad," he recalls, "and I would sit in there among my birds for hours, watching them, sketching them and observing how they interacted with each other: their mood changes, their busy moments and their quiet, and the ebb and flow of their daily lives. I remember all this now when I paint. I'm imagining my subject's circumstances and next possible movement. This helps create the reality."
For his 15th birthday, Richard's parents gave him an acre and a half plot of land on the farm. He fenced it, dug a wildlife pond and planted hundreds of native trees, all of his own accord. He put up nest boxes and studied the animals and birds which were attracted there.
This was 1978, there were no grants available or even official encouragement, it was many years before it became a fashionable thing to do.
Richard's love of taxidermy helped him understand anatomy, feather tracts, bone structure, the fall of fur and the general feel of whether a bird or animal is physically and properly balanced. So important when portraying a live subject correctly.
From the District Chronicle November 3rd 1978
By the mid-1980's, Richard was selling his wildlife paintings at the Stud Farm Gallery on the Chatsworth Estate – this lost gallery is now the restaurant at the Chatsworth Farm Shop. He later sold paintings at Harrods in their picture gallery and through his own gallery in North Yorkshire.
He returned to Derbyshire with his wife Amanda in 1998, later opening the Richard Whittlestone Wildlife Gallery in Pilsley in 2005, only a stone's throw from the farm shop where his career really began.
"Chatsworth has always been a draw for me," says Richard. "It made sense to have a gallery here. It's a spiritual home. I draw much inspiration from the birds and animals to be found right on my doorstep."
And even though Richard's clients now come from all around the world, some are those who bought his paintings over 30 years ago.
Richard has been commissioned to produce artworks for countless companies, charities and private clients. Despite winning the British Watercolour Society's top award twice (in 1989 and 1990), he has little interest in competition and is happiest painting and exhibiting our native wildlife at his own gallery.
Richard's work is also exhibited at the House of Bruar in Perthshire, Scotland.
Photograph by Nick Lockett