“Apart from the specific benefits of each project, the SWLA bursary has been key to nurturing my practice in wildlife art, without it, I doubt my practice would of grown in the direction it has. In this respect a very important aspect of the bursary is the opportunity each winner gets to exhibit at the annual exhibition. This involvement has added confidence to my practice, again important, as other opportunities for emerging artists seemingly tend to omit those dealing with the wildlife theme.”
Amazonian Field-guide: Produce a site specific field-guide for a Peruvian, foundation run rainforest research and education centre.
The bursary enabled me to finance a self published field-guide based on drawings made during a resident naturalist placement in the Peruvian rainforests. Several copies of the resulting publication were donated to the ‘Crees run Manu Learning Centre’ where they are being used as teaching aids on the trails; a gesture which has enabled me to establish a life long working relationship with the Crees foundation.
The publication was a major element of my application portfolio in 2006, which won me a place on MA Illustration: Authorial Practice at University College Falmouth. Exhibiting with the SWLA as part of the bursary also bolstered my chances in securing this place.
In 2009 I decided to revisit this project and created a more marketable self publication called the ‘Garden Birds of the Manu Learning Centre’. This is a full colour ‘primer’ to over 50 Peruvian bird species which is now on sale at the Manu Learning Centre. It is my first publication as an illustrator to go on sale and a distinct result of SWLA bursary support.
This project was a strong factor leading me towards a practice in illustration which is now a major component of my art career. It enabled me to develop skills in self publishing; from print production to book design to liaising with
printers and clients. In other words, the bursary is an example of the assistance I have had towards developing a professional practice. It has also made it easy for me to approach established artists, editors, conservationists and the like.
Depth and Altitude : Travel across the Bay of Biscay by ferry and into the Picos de Europa National Park on foot between 7th October and 9th November 2009. Observing and documenting a whole range of ecosystems, supporting wildlife from deep diving cetaceans to high altitude dwelling species like the Rebeco and Wallcreeper.
After working in a university environment this project has enabled me to become an artist again, that is to say; realise the creative methods and environments that are unique to me and enable me to thrive.
Working from life, in the field and under changing natural conditions is a practice that unites the myriad of perceptions and imagery on show at the SWLA’s annual exhibitions. However, through my introduction to these exhibitions and the artists involved, I have come to realise that successful field work is a very individual process unique to the artist.
The Depth and Altitude project enabled me to work and live outdoors in a national park, observing and drawing wildlife for a month. Crucially this immersion in nature gave me the opportunity to identify those methods of field drawing that work for me. It has enabled me to develop skills for working in a variety of environments from sea to snow and tackling the different challenges of depicting individual species. Above all, the project helped me discover and develop confidence in my own individual methods and visions. The point that the project took place in a foreign environment gave my expedition a theme and added purpose, but it also helped to heighten my senses and feel fresh inspiration.
The main outcome of this project has been the online blog (picoslog.blogspot.com) which is proving to be an excellent means to publicising my practice and offering a gently encouraging conservation message in sharing experiences of nature in the way that has been made possible here.
Since completing my MA in 2008, I have been self-employed as an illustrator both in natural history and historical subjects. I try to maintain a healthy balance between working to a brief as an illustrator and working a freer personal art practice. I have also recently returned from a short trip to Iceland where I painted volcanic eruptions, Northern lights and eider ducks, though I had to spike my paint water with gin to stop it freezing.
Chris Wallbank SWLA is a visual artist with an interest in working from direct observation of landscapes and wildlife; rural and urban. His practice focuses on observational drawing as a means to re-engage with the familiar environments he finds on his doorstep.