Mike Sibley

The Gatekeeper by Mike Sibley
What? (Parson Russell Terrier) by Mike Sibley
Drawing From Line To Life - Book by Mike Sibley
Scottish Deerhound by Mike Sibley
Cockatoo I by Mike Sibley
Cockatoo II by Mike Sibley
Tabby Cat by Mike Sibley
Ready & Waiting by Mike Sibley
The Gardeners by Mike Sibley
Vanished! by Mike Sibley
The Barn Patrol by Mike Sibley
Clarrie The Tortoiseshell by Mike Sibley
Whistlers Cove Set of 3 by Mike Sibley
Whistlers Cove by Mike Sibley
Roundly celebrated contemporary animal artist, Mike Sibley offers something a little different and alternative than his animal doodling peers; in as much as the sole tool of his magnificently illustrated trade is the humble pencil. Or graphite crayon/stick. Or whatever you wish to refer to it as. Plus Sibley never works in colour, so you’ll find that his pencil is strictly monotone as a medium, citing the long-held belief that colour gets in the way of executing the perfect illustration.

An established and hugely successful professional artist, Sibley would be the first to admit that he owes a debt of gratitude to his wife; in as much as it was her passion (for dogs and horses in particular) which is the subject matter which has helped him make his name in the industry. And if you wish to address Sibley’s talent as a numbers game then the following digits should be amongst the first to be acknowledged. Sibley has done what he does for over quarter of a century now, and it’s not unusual for him to spend in excess of two hundred hours (yes, that’s 200!) perfecting a single drawing.

Anyway, first things first, and Sibley was born in rural Essex back in 1948, in the village of Orsett, however at the age of five his father’s career meant the family had to up sticks and relocate some 250 miles north by north west to the town of Sale in Cheshire. Sibley created the only piece of work which remains from his school days at Sale Grammar School during this happy and settled time; a drawing of the school’s copse surrounding a pond, which was executed in ballpoint pen, and remains as something he’s rightly proud of. This of course was Sibley’s debut foray into the world of decidedly black and grey, which he to this very day assures us describes and projects the underlying essence of an object rather than its superficial colour.

In 1966 and at the age of 18, Sibley left secondary education and embarked on a pre-diploma course of study at Manchester College of Art & Design. It was at this principle juncture in his art education that Sibley was exposed to a diverse array of materials and techniques. More than you could possibly imagine when you learn that gas-welding was one of those artistic techniques taught thereabouts, alongside the more traditional methods and material applications. Sibley was also introduced to sculpting at this point too, and frequented this new form and function to engineer three-dimensional images of many of his then comic book heroes.

After Manchester, Sibley won a place at Leeds College of Art and Design, where he studied between 1967 and 1970, where alongside of his interest in art he also experimented with sculpture a little more as well as branching out into music. And specifically electronic music and synthesisers as it turned out at the time. On graduating from this establishment, Sibley later drew on the many parallels between his drawing techniques and his method of building up electronic music - layer on layer, finally re-applying the "bright" highlights that the process consistently muddied, as he described it.

After leaving Leeds in 1970 Sibley met his wife Jenny who’s own career (as touched on earlier) centred around dogs and horses to a large extent. This eventually led to Sibley embracing animal art in its entirety. Or rather it did in the aftermath of Sibley completing a motif design for his wife’s dog’s pedigree forms in 1978. From that point onwards, Sibley focussed his artistic attentions fully on animal portraiture and figurative work, as he embarked on an immediate dog illustrating spree. In the artist’s own words, Sibley concurs; “I drew nothing but dogs over the next three weeks - each night I would plan the next day's drawing and each morning I was enthusiastic to begin. Gradually the work improved”. Sibley went on to add; “I tried other media including scraperboard, but nothing transferred my thoughts to paper more accurately than pencil”.

On the back of this perfecting of his new-found artistic persuasion, commissions started to flood in; initially so from his wife’s friends who operated in the world of dogs as such, as word gradually spread. After a relatively short passage of time, Sibley arrived at the conclusion that he had now accumulated enough commission work to think about taking the business seriously. Until that point Sibley had been making ends meet by cab driving, often working 84 hour weeks, and only managing to keep his art eye in when employed on the night shift (thus freeing up his mornings).

Around this time Sibley exhibited some of the material he’d created thus far, with a graphical emphasis placed on head studies of dogs chiefly, and in the direct aftermath of this he had a chance meeting with an art publisher, Berjaya, who agreed to represent Sibley going forward. This formed the catalyst of a hugely successful collaboration which saw Sibley’s debut prints prove extremely popular and ultimately best-selling within their field/genre around this time. There followed much more exposure for Sibley, including in 1989 the BBC filming the artist working on various pieces during their coverage of the Crufts annual dog show, which later went on to become recognized and sold as the Mike Sibley Collection of Limited Edition Prints. A long-standing series of appearances in various commercial guises at Crufts followed for Sibley as he began making quite an impression on the dog circuit.

In the early 2000s – and after single-handedly creating and building his own bespoke website – Sibley rolled out his knowledge in this area so as to help out other emerging artists, and in just a few years Sibley was offering this website build service (based around an easy to use template design) to over 20 new artists, as he embraced new technologies with as much vim and vigour as he had done animals earlier in his career. In 2005 Sibley wrote and illustrated his own book, ‘Drawing from Line to Life’, a 288-page title which he self-published with a little guidance from a York-based printers. The book even has a foreword by the renowned artist, David Shepherd. Based on the success of this title, Sibley then offered workshops, the first of which was held in Sawley Village Hall, about three miles from the Fountains Abbey World Heritage site in North Yorkshire. Commenting on this new arm to his creative stable as it were, Sibley says; “I've run workshops every year since in the UK and USA, and in 2010 I ran three in Canada. Now I'm also running UK workshops in my own studio”.

With future instructional DVDs pencilled in, Sibley’s art empire goes from strength to strength, whilst his art continues to sell in many countries including America, Australia and Scandinavia. Sibley now rarely accepts private commissions from where it all began, and when he does it’s only as and when time permits, with a four-year wait not being unheard of.


View All Art Works By Mike Sibley