Upfest 2017 Rory McCann – inspiring a greater love of nature

Rory McCann a mural artist, working in schools, hospitals, businesses and peoples homes. For him, painting on a big scale is a great way to captivate, engage and inspire people. ‘I believe in using my art to make indoors and outdoors spaces more uplifting and exciting. And I believe in using my art to help people to feel more connected with the world around them. I welcome people watching, chatting and getting involved while I paint, as I feel that the process of watching a mural come to life is as significant as the outcome itself.’

Wonders of the universeunderwater biodiversity mural

Can you tell me about how you got into art

Originally, my love of art came through a love of nature – and a desire to try and recreate the beauty of nature as best I could. Even at age three, my drawings were (seemingly) of birds and fish. At age eight, I fell ill with arthritis, and was no longer able to be very active. The silver lining was that I became even more immersed in my art- as a form of escapism. Finally at age 28, when my dad was very ill and I’d recently been in a near-miss on the roads, I saw the light and starting working as a wildlife artist. 

Influences and inspirations

As a young boy, I was greatly influenced by Robert Bateman – a Canadian wildlife artist – his work epitomised what I wanted to achieve. I also took a great deal of inspiration from a family friend, Bruce Pearson – another wildlife artist. The way that both these artists captured the essence of nature has made a lasting impression on me. 

Can you tell me something about your exhibitions

My work as an artist started with an exhibition age 18 at the Syllavethy Gallery in Aberdeenshire. Over the next few years of occasionally having exhibitions, I slowly got into working on a bigger scale. This started with doing collaborative murals at the BirdFair over several years. The vast majority of my work is now on a big scale, aimed at engaging people. I’ve carried out big scale projects in the Seychelles, Japan, Oman, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and throughout the UK. 


What do other people say about your work?

Most of my work is in schools, so most of the commentary is from headteachers! This is from Mike Dixon from Acresfield Primary School: ‘Rory has transformed our learning environment with his artwork, to create a vibrant, engaging and welcoming school that is talked about by all our visitors and community.’


Tell me about the shows you have coming up this year

The main project of interest I have coming up will be out in Mongolia at the end of September. I will be carrying out a series of workshops and painting a large mural in a rural region of the country. It will be funded by the Saiga Conservation Alliance and WWF Mongolia – and aimed at engaging the local community in conservation work more widely. 


Can you tell me about Marine mural in Tokyo, Japan.

This came about through my old art teacher – who’d taught me in Australia age 12.  Eighteen years later, she saw my work on facebook and asked if I’d like to come out to her current school – a school run by nuns! I had had the nursery kids watching me every day for their lunch break and the older students helping out with the painting, which depicted Japanese wildlife.

Japan Marine Mural

Can you tell me about your Community mural in Russia.

My background is in zoology and conservation. I did a Masters in conservation in 2008 and met E.J Milner-Gulland – a professor now at Oxford University. Her passion is the conservation of the Saiga Antelope – a bizarre looking animal, which is critically endangered. My work in Central Asia – most recently Russia – has been through E.J, with the aim of engaging more local support for research and conservation to help the Saiga. In Russia, I was in the Republic of Kalmykia. My first few days were spent getting to know the community and the local wildlife to gain inspiration for the mural. 

Section of Russia Mural - with Saiga Antelope


What is important to you about your art?

To use it as a way to engage with people, to inspire a greater love of nature.


Can you tell me something about what you will be doing at Upfest?

Not 100% decided, but it is likely to be a single animal painted super-sized. I’m still working on the deeper meaning!


What are you looking forward to about Upfest ?

Connecting with people – especially other artists.


Website           Facebook                    Upfest profile

See Rory’s wonderful work at Ashton Gate Stadium.

Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017

Upfest Festival Map


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