My midlife crisis saved my life


How does someone go from the taxing physical labour of life as a builder to the refined, delicate work of wildlife painting? Paul Dixon’s wife thought the move was a midlife crisis. His kids thought it was a sign that the family was doomed to starve. Dixon didn’t care if they thought he was mad. He just wanted to paint.

Born in Scotland, Dixon moved to South Africa in 1981, developing a love for its wild animals that would later find an outlet in art. In 1996 Dixon made the full-time transition from kitchen and bathroom renovations to life as an artist. The stubbornness and commitment to deviating from the norm that drove his decision has manifested itself in his personality. He is a delightful eccentric, an uncommon figure with a long white beard wandering through town in tiny shorts, rolled up socks and a dog whose outsized personality belies its miniscule stature.

The risk that Dixon took all those years ago has paid dividends today. He has been a finalist for International Artist Magazine’s Wildlife Art Award on multiple occasions, winning the prize in the “My Favourite Things” category in 2013. Painting wildlife is a way to get people to talk about the issues facing our planet’s animals – a form of artistic activism that Dixon has made his own.