When Wyn Davies was a boy he eagerly anticipated the arrival of his father’s copy of Farmers Weekly every Friday. The farmer’s son would skip the articles and turn straight to the cartoon strip.
Wyn suffers from dyslexia and struggled to make sense of the words in the articles but he was inspired by the illustrations in Jake Tebbit’s column. “The cartoon strip usually reflected the main topic of discussion in agriculture that week. It was a short and sweet and, for me, the pictures summed it up,” he recalls.
Fast-forward two decades and Wyn is making a name for himself as a gifted cartoonist and illustrator. Although he divides his time between the family’s beef and sheep farm and a local dairy farm, he spends his spare time creating caricature images of livestock for an expanding list of clients, mainly in the agriculture sector.
He enjoys this balance and is in no doubt that he made the right decision when he gave up his university art course within two months of enrolling to go home to farm. The position he has developed for himself gives him an opportunity to both farm and draw.
Wyn’s artistic talent was evident at an early age, but his first major recognition came in 1999 when he won the prestigious overall prize in the craft and design section at the Urdd National Eisteddfod at Lampeter, Wales. His entry was a striking drawing of a black-and-white cow, which still counts among his personal favourites 10 years later.
Cattle and sheep are his preferred subjects and working with livestock every day is a definite advantage. “You quickly learn their characters and how to reflect these in a drawing. I often take photographs of the animals if I think there is something lacking in a drawing and they help me to understand what that missing. It brings life to my drawings,” says Wyn, who lives with his wife, Allison, and baby son, Lloyd, on the family farm near Llandeilo.
With every one of his drawings, it is the eyes of his subject that draws the observer. It is no surprise that the eyes are always his starting point. “If I get the eyes right, everything else flows from there,” he explains.
Wyn doesn’t regard his dyslexia as an impediment because he believes it has contributed to his strength as an artist. “My wife is a teacher and she believes that people with dyslexia overcompensate in other areas and are creative,” he says.
When he reads a newspaper or magazine he always looks at the pictures first. “If it’s a good photograph I can work out what the story is about,” says Wyn, who pens his signature RWD, an abbreviation of his full name, Robert Wyn Davies.
He describes his style as clean and quirky. He works mainly in pencil and once he is happy with the outline he uses a computer programme to fill in colour. He then uses pencil to create the final details.
His most recent commission was a Welsh Black bull, cow and calf trio for animal health company Animax. It earned him many favourable comments and he hopes it will lead to interest from other companies. “I’d like to be in a position where I cut down a bit on the farm work and do more drawings. I’m away from the house for 11 hours a day and I’d like to spend more time working at home so that I can see more of my family,” he says.
If everything falls into place, Wyn can finish a drawing in three hours, but some do occasionally present stumbling blocks. If he has difficulty getting started on a drawing he has learnt to leave it and revisit it when his mind is fresher. “I can be struggling with a drawing for hours but have been known to put it down for a few days and then finish it within an hour,” he says.
His parents, Robert and Moira, have always encouraged his creativity and are delighted that he is using it productively. “They encouraged me to go to art school but they know I am happier on the farm. I’ve got the best of both worlds now,” he says.