In 1940 Simon Combes was born in Wilderness Cottage, in
Shaftesbury, England, and from that day in June, the Wilderness always
attracted him. His first adventures began early when in 1946 when his
parents moved onto farming Kenyas Great Rift Valley, a magical
place for a young boy.
Simon loathed his years at boarding school in Nakuru and at Duke of
York in Nairobi, always longing for the freedom of the bush. While managing
a 2,000 acre farm when he was seventeen, he was drafted into six months
compulsory military training after already applying for appointment
in the Kings African Rifles. He was accepted into 4 KAR but having just
finished his training was sent to Uganda where one of his duties was
to teach basic etiquette and rugby to a young Idi Amin. Sandhurst Military
Academy was next and upon return to Kenya joined 3 KAR in time for Kenyas
Independence. In 1964 he was chosen to train 250 soldiers as Paratroopers.
They all attended parachute school UK. Simon translated all the instruction
into Kiswahili. When all the men were qualified, he became their first
commander in Kenya. Immediately they were involved in the Shifta war
in the northeastern province. It was during this time Simon started
to draw and paint as a hobby to occupy his spare time. His subjects
were the Somali and Boran people and the landscapes of the North. In
1969 he had an exhibition in Nairobi and sold all the paintings. It
was then that the idea of painting full-time started. However, he was
refused release from the army and was moved to army HQ as staff officer
in charge of all operations and training. He was also captain of the
army shooting team and vice chairman to the Kenya Rifle Association.
He performed the duties of a Lieutenant Colonel. He has been called
a True Kenyan .by his military peers. Finally, in 1974 he
was released from the army and started life as a professional artist.
Best known for his stunning images wildlife in the African bush, he
achieved worldwide success and acclamation through many prestigious
awards. His paintings hang in private and museum collections around
Simons life was rich with great adventures and wildlife encounters.
From being lost in a blizzard while crossing the Altai Mountains in
Mongolia and flying into the jungles of Venezuela to sketching Bengal
Tigers atop a howdah on a swaying elephant in India his experiences
and observations led him to develop his exacting artistic style, rendering
his subjects with such depth and exquisite detail. Africa & Beyond:
The Art and Adventures of Simon Combes, a retrospective exhibition of
Simons major works, was held at The Wildlife Experience Museum
in 2004 to celebrate his great artistic achievements.
Since 1979, The Greenwich Workshop, Inc, have published his works as
Fine Art Reproductions on paper and canvas. He always said, if given
the time he would rather write than paint. This talent is apparent in
his books An African Experience and Great Cats
also published by The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. Simon was also working
on a book of Limericks about life in Kenya which reveals his ability
to entertain us with his wit and humor.
Simon had a wonderful talent for communication, whether it be in speech,
writing or painting. Never self assuming, be gave talks in Kiswahili
to the farm staff, to school children in Russia and to many interested
groups around the world.
Not only a man of the Arts, but also an avid conservationist Simon was
recently appointed Kenya Representative and Project Director for Rhino
Rescue Trust. He sat on the boards of several wildlife conservation
organizations and raised, through his art, many thousands of dollars
for their causes.
On Sunday, December 12, 2004, atop a beautiful ancient volcano near
his home in Africas Great Rift Valley, Simons life was tragically
taken by one of the wild animals he so lovingly portrayed in his paintings.
He never gathered moss and now he as come home. He is survived
by his wife Kat, his children, Cindy and Guy, his sister, Jenny all
of Kenya and his former wife Susie of England. We shall remember Simon