Rodger McPhail, son of a Scottish father and Lancastrian mother, has always lived in Lancashire. After leaving school he studied for three years at the Liverpool School of Art. In 1975 he travelled to Spain to undertake a series of Partridge shooting commissions and in 1977 he made the first of his visits to the US to paint commissions of shooting scenes in South Carolina and Georgia.
McPhail has for many years been acknowledged as the country’s leading sporting and wildlife artist. He is to wild animals and birds what Susan Crawford is to horses – in a class of his own, he is the automatic first choice for anyone wanting a book illustrated, a front cover, or even a postage stamp. McPhail is also a highly competent portraitist and much in demand as a cartoonist. Many of his pictures have been reproduced as limited edition prints and he has illustrated several books. In 1986 the Tryon published his book ‘Open Season’, which has been highly successful, and this was followed in 1990 by ‘Fishing Season’.
Rodger McPhail will modestly say he took to painting as he was no good at anything else. His extraordinary versatile talent was recognised early by Tony Jackson, the editor of the Shooting Times, who introduced him to The Hon Aylmer Tryon of the eponymous gallery. He regards the Dutch artist, Rein Poortvliet, as his greatest mentor and has high regard for the work of the Dane, Bruno Lillefors, and Frank Southgate among many others. Although he makes frequent use of his camera and other references, he has an inimitable style which is all his own, and also the ability to work quickly and accurately with wonderful photographic memory. In his early days McPhail was criticised for being too photographic and recording wingbeats which the human eye could never store by itself. No such criticism is heard nowadays.