Latest News - Painting of a Scottish wildcat

Painting of a Scottish wildcat

Jonathan visited the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie in spring 1998 to draw the wildcats as preparation for a new painting.  There were two wildcats at the park then.  The male had an ear missing, so Jonathan had to use a bit of creative licence to show him at his best for a painting, to celebrate this beautiful creature.  

Jonathan went on to the Abernethy Forest to sketch and gather information about typical wildcat habitat: the branch, the tree and the moss. Many people think that wildcats live in the mountains but they are essentially an edge species, preferring the safety of forests to den and rest in but with easy access to open areas where rabbit or vole can be hunted.

Johnathan Sainsbury - Artist

Jonathan would stay at The Freedom Inn and drag bits and pieces of logs into his room to draw and paint at the end of the day.  Over his working life, he has visited the Abernethy Forest many times so it wasn’t new to him, but with this particular wildcat picture in mind, this was a way for him to reawaken the excitement of the environment as a totality.

The painting was done in Old Master technique.  That means he started with a panel that was 26 x 38 inches, covered it in gesso (a mixture of chalk and size, hand-mixed) then a layer of grey imprimatura, on which he made his drawing in charcoal. This was followed by the development of the painting using gesso and glazes, in what is called the ‘under and over’ technique.  It is this technical means of layering glaze and pigment that allows the picture to shine from within.  It is also this technique that allows the hairs and the whiskers to be painted so finely. 

Scottish wildcat by Johnathan Sainsbury

Limited edition prints of the painting will be on sale at a free exhibition of Scottish wildlife art by Jonathan, called My Ark For Nature at Inverness Cathedral from 2nd to 7th June (Open weekdays 9am to 5.30pm and Sunday 1pm – 6pm).  Jonathan will be demonstrating drawing and painting, showing tools and reference materials from his studio, poems, things that inspire him, talking with visitors.  There will be free leaflets provided by wildlife conservation charities to take away and opportunities for visitors to contribute stories to the Ark.  The Cathedral community welcomes all visitors, of all faiths and none, into this historic space, to enjoy its peace.  They share Jonathan’s wonder at Nature and desire to care for it.

Johnathan Sainsbury - Artist

The artist has followed Scottish Wildcat Action’s progress online and is supportive of the efforts to preserve these wonderful animals, natives of the Highlands.  A small percentage of the sale of these wildcat prints will therefore be donated to Scottish Wildcat Action.

For more information please visit Jonathan Sainsbury on Facebook.

Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners.

Contact for more information or visit our website at

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This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Heritage Lottery Fund


Image for Johnathan Sainsbury

Jonathan Sainsbury is an acclaimed artist who has won national awards and whose work is in museums and private collections world-wide. 

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