It all started with a cat called Harvey the Schmoo …

One day ATTY and his girlfriend Romana adopted an 18-year-old cat named Harvey the Schmoo. After a few days of adoption, and while still adjusting to his new Bronte territory, Harvey found himself in a ferocious, feline duel. Pitted against a wily, younger opponent, the odds were stacked against this neighbourhood newcomer. Or so it seemed.

Harvey proved himself to be made of sterner stuff, using his artful experience to his advantage and obliterating his younger foe, a Dr. Seuss lookalike moggy (albeit without the red and white stripy headpiece).

It proved a proud and seminal moment for ATTY (full name, and here only Graham Atwell), born and bred in Rugby, England, a former central London cop, and Sydney resident for over a decade. Inspired by Harvey, he sat down and depicted a tribute to his fearless pet. The result was a striking sketch of a lion, full of vibrant colours and bountiful energy. The Animal Explosion had begun.

Sydney Artist ATTY

Animals on every continent

ATTY had always doodled and as he grew increasingly disillusioned with his day job, drawing became a more frequent and fervent creative release. Before his tribute to Harvey, he sketched a quirky, greeting character called MoodyJoe, who ultimately proved too dark for some sensibilities. ATTY’s creations, from hares to emus to giraffes, have been adopted in over 50 countries and on every continent. What inspires ATTY is not critical acclaim or disdain from strangers in the art world but appreciation and acceptance from the general public, from friends and family. As ATTY, succinctly put its: ‘I was right to trust my gut and not wait for validation from the art community as if I had I would still be sitting chained to a corporate desk with a catheter attached.’

Labour of love

His process is meticulous, painstaking, something he admits habitually does not come naturally. He spends countless hours on each design, working in three phases until each one is executed perfectly. Among the most crucial elements are colour composition, balance and placement. Most animals take 150 to 250 hours to complete but his latest conception, an elephant will take around 800 hours. A long labour. What keeps him going is knowing that ‘every time one of my animals is adopted I feel very privileged and it is amazing to know that my beloved animal is going to a loving owner and new home.’