Esther Tyson – 2002

“Life as a painter can be a solitary one; being involved with the Society of Wildlife Artists has aligned me with fellow painters, sculptors and printmakers who also gain much inspiration from the natural world.”

John Busby’s Seabird Drawing Course

In 2002 John Busby’s Sea Bird Drawing Course was my destination having received the Young Artist’s Bursary from the Society of Wildlife Artists. I had already spent my first of two years in London at the RCA and was desperate to have a break from the city. The coast line along the Firth of Forth was a breath of fresh air. We were a mixed bag of amateur, professional and student, all coming together to spend time in the landscape to draw and paint sea birds. This was a challenge for me, my subject of choice was mammals and I struggled with bird’s hence, tended to avoid them.

Bass Rock was something else. Sitting on the ground, surrounded by thousands of breeding gannets. From each other, the distance of their outstretched neck. The noise. The smell. Observing the interaction between the birds in your immediate area and the overwhelming masses over a greater area. Birds walking the gauntlet having landed a few feet from their nest, Birds hanging in the air above your head and their helpful addition to your pallet… Before you knew it, your time was up and back to the mainland.

Every evening we would meet up for a meal, the conversation would buzz, each full of our experiences of the day. Then we would retire to the sitting room for a show and tell. All our drawings and paintings, laid out for everyone to see. A daunting experience but an invaluable and encouraging one. I enjoyed watching John work, he drew birds with seeming effortlessness and this was to be aspired to. His description of the mechanics of a birds wing has remained with me to date and has been incredibly useful.

I returned to London re-energised and thoroughly embraced my final year at the Royal College. I was awarded the RCA’s Travel Award to journey to Slovakia for 4 weeks; here I work alongside a scientist studying brown bear and wolves in the Western Tatras. Fantastic. I returned the following year to run a workshop at the local school. The end result was a mural inspired by the children’s drawings. I smile because It was painted in -5 conditions and just when I thought I would freeze, a kind old Slovak chap popped by with a flask of hot tea with a shot of something stronger…

The SWLA has encouraged me along the way as an associate, then member, I have been awarded their Bursary, the Artist for Nature Award, the RSPB and CAPMARK award. I have been involved with their Aig an Oir project and currently serve on the SWLA Council, also as Governor on the board of the Federation of British Artists (FBA).

esther.tyson@network.rca.ac.uk