Never a dull moment: Sophie Walbeoffe

Never a dull moment: Sophie Walbeoffe

By Antonia Filmer | 22 August, 2015
Sophie Walbeoffe.

Sophie Walbeoffe's irreverent sense of humour and gaiety are quite charming, her eyes match the blue topaz ring her husband gave her for an important birthday. During her bucolic Devonian childhood she claims to have been a tomboy, but today she appears too feminine and dainty to imagine her panning, successfully, for gold in the River Dart with her father.

She still wears a memento of those muddy days, a gold nugget found and fashioned into a smooth lozenge shaped pendant on a gold chain around her neck.

Perhaps prospecting was an early omen of her irrepressible sense of adventure. At fourteen her art teacher at Downe House School reported to her parents that she had unusual talent; since the age of 21 she has been financially independent thanks to an increasing following of collectors who admire her pictures. Her paintings are sought by royalty worldwide, a Qatari royal bought a large oil of The Gates of Damascus and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall gave Prince Harry a sketch of elephants for his 21st birthday.

After a spell at Wimbledon College of Arts, Walbeoffe went to Vancouver Island to set up her easel in a shopping mall and paint the First Nation People. A gallery invited her in and she has been exhibiting ever since.

Dubai provided the location for her first "adventurous portfolio" a collection of oils painting in the desert and souks featuring her budding attraction to camels. Next stop to Kenya as the Expedition Artist for Operation Raleigh when she walked from Lake Turkana to Maralel, the city of shining lights in Swahili, where she met a knight in shining armour Dr Piers Simpkin who at the time was working on a camel project for Farm Africa, he is now the world's camel expert. An unusual proposal followed along the lines of "will you marry me and my herd of 70 camels". Walbeoffe absconded from Operation Raleigh and they are still living happily ever after.

Travel painting en pleine aire involves sitting on a stool with an easel in unusual locations, when asked if she has ever been afraid she tinkles that once she was charged by a very maternal hippo, which sent her paints and brushes flying as she fled. Once in Dubai a young man dropped his trousers as he made the wrong assumption as to why she was sitting on the pavement.

Now a mother of two and an established travel painter Walbeoffe lives a peripatetic lifestyle. She has painted in India, Syria, Jordan, UAE and the Oman, spent two years living in Jerusalem and is now living in Nairobi. Her spirit of adventure does not pale she has just walked the Camel herd from Laikipia to Soysambu, having to charm the farmers en-route into allowing her and the herd to camp on their land overnight.

Travel painting en pleine aire involves sitting on a stool with an easel in unusual locations, when asked if she has ever been afraid she tinkles that once she was charged by a very maternal hippo, which sent her paints and brushes flying as she fled. Once in Dubai a young man dropped his trousers as he made the wrong assumption as to why she was sitting on the pavement.

Presently Walbeoffe is illustrating an anecdotal book about Lamu Island capturing the traditional Swahili traditions before the new port brings development. Later this year she will join Bobby Grewal, Chairman of the India Association, on his marathon fundraising for cancer walk from Kanyakumari to Delhi.

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