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The Natural Eye 2017

Red Admirals and passing Hobby by Darren Woodhead SWLA

The annual exhibition of The Society of Wildlife Artists opens to the public on Thursday 19th October and closes on Sunday 29th October at 1pm. Over 360 works by more than 100 artists inspired by the natural world are on show and includes printmaking, drawing, painting, mixed media and sculptures. To see a selection of work click here

There is a calendar of events including workshops, talks and ‘meet the artist’ days. Click here for more information on talks and portfolio days.

New Art Prize

The Terravesta Art Prize

The SWLA is delighted to announce that Terravesta, the pioneering UK business creating sustainable energy from miscanthus, is to sponsor ‘The Natural Eye’ the Society’s annual exhibition which runs at Mall Galleries, London, from 19-29th October 2017. As part of the sponsorship, Terravesta has created a new £2,000 prize for the best work exhibited.

“We are very pleased to be supporting the SWLA and The Natural Eye,” said William Cracroft-Eley, chairman of Terravesta. “We are passionate about the environment and sustainable agriculture both here in the UK and elsewhere, so it is a natural fit to become involved with the Society in this way.”

Terravesta’s sponsorship of the Natural Eye will make a real difference to the exhibition, facilitating a raft of activities to make the event even more attractive for both visitors and artists. The creation of a major prize is an additional benefit and is particularly welcome.

The Natural Eye shows the very best of art inspired by the natural world. The open exhibition includes a wide range of contemporary work from both SWLA members and non-members which celebrates the wild whether close to home or further afield. The different approaches to the subject ensure a delightful mix of the detailed to the more abstract in many different media including oils, watercolours, pastels, printmaking, drawing and sculpture.

“The work exhibited in previous years has been magnificent so we’re excited to see the final selection for the 2017 show,” added Cracroft-Eley. “I know that the choice of a ‘best in show’ exhibit for the Terravesta Prize is going to be extremely difficult.”

Terravesta works with farmers to grow miscanthus which it can process to produce sustainable, high quality fuel and energy. The company’s mission is to establish miscanthus as the UK’s no.1 home-grown biomass resource and it is developing new initiatives ranging from added value energy products to fully self-contained heat supply systems to support this. Terravesta aspires to be a leader in the responsible and economic evolution of sustainability grown and processed energy crops. www.terravesta.com

To find out more about free events and talks supported by Terravesta please click here.

The Natural Eye exhibition events


 

 Events during The Natural Eye exhibition 2017 are generously sponsored by Terravesta, pioneers of sustainable energy from miscanthus.

All events are held at Mall Galleries, London SW1 admission charge to the exhibition £4 (concessions £2.50)

Thursday 19th October Portfolio Day

Bring your own work for appraisal. SWLA members including Harriet Mead and Kittie Jones will be available to discuss sketchbooks and portfolios of non-member artists.  11am-3pm in the main gallery.

Friday 20th October Portfolio Day

Bring your own work for appraisal. SWLA member Darren Rees will be available to discuss sketchbooks and portfolios of non-member artists.  11am-2pm in the main gallery.

Friday 20th October Terravesta illustrated talk:

Ice Bound by Darren Rees

Darren Rees talks about his experience as Artist in Residence on board the Royal Navy ice breaker HMS Protector. The five week trip to the Antarctic waters was organised by the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute and Darren has just brought out his book, Ice Bound, about the project. 2pm Learning Centre.

Tuesday 24th October Terravesta illustrated talk:

Welding Wildlife by Harriet Mead

Harriet Mead will talk about her work and give an insight into how she approaches making her distinctive sculptures from old tools. 3pm Learning Centre.

Friday 27th October BTO illustrated talk: Flight Lines by Mike Toms

Mike Toms of the British Trust for Ornithology will be giving a talk about the BTO/SWLA Flight Lines Project – a major collaboration between the BTO and the SWLA involving many artists. The Flight Lines book, published this year, highlights through art and narrative the challenges that migrant birds face and brings to a wider audience the research and conservation work that is being done to help them. 3pm Learning Centre. To reserve a place click here.

Society of Wildlife Artists – Meet the Members

Members of the SWLA will be on hand throughout this year’s Annual Exhibition to meet and greet visitors:

Thursday 19 October (all day) – Harriet Mead and Kittie Jones

Thursday 19 October (afternoon only) – Brin Edwards

Friday 20 October (all day) – Richard Johnson

Sunday 22 October (all day) – Richard Tratt

Tuesday 24 October (all day) – Harriet Mead

Thursday 26 October (all day) – Robert Greenhalf

Friday 27 October (all day) – Michael Hampton

Saturday 28 October (all day) – David Parry

Sunday 29 October (morning only) – Richard Allen

Langford Press Field Sketches Award

The deadline for applications to the prestigious Langford Press Field Sketches Award close 15th September. If you are inspired by the natural world and work from life in the field please consider applying. The prize includes £200 and a choice of titles from the impressive collection of Langford Press art books. A selection of the winner’s sketches will be displayed at the annual exhibition of the SWLA The Natural Eye at Mall Galleries, London in October. Click here for more details.

busbydraw

Gannet study, John Busby

Wynona Legg – bursary winner 2017

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Receiving the news that I had won a bursary with the SWLA, I was so incredibly over the moon. The news was especially welcome having had to turn down a place on the seabird drawing course the previous year because I could simply not afford to go. Receiving a bursary was fuel to keep me focused and I was so ready to fully embrace it.
I am not new to drawing birds but I am very much someone who has put my artistic career on the backburner to make room for other focuses. My recent years have been spent working within nature conservation in warden roles at some pretty special reserves around the UK. I have been privileged to have had close encounters with many breeding birds and would take the opportunity where I could to make sketches in the field between periods of intense monitoring. But I had gotten rusty and felt that I was not yet where I wanted to be in my artistic career. I wasn’t new to the concept of drawing moving subjects or working in the elements and I was ready to get stuck into a focused week of drawing. I was perhaps more than a little naïve in thinking that it would be easy…

Guillemot studies using chinagraph lead, wax crayon and graphite.

Guillemot studies using chinagraph lead, wax crayon and graphite.

This week has pulled me in every direction a person can be pulled! At times, I felt as brittle as the charcoal I was holding in my hand! To have eyes cast over your progress each day was originally a daunting prospect but it was incredibly motivating to have people notice things in your work that you have missed and will you to try new things to lift your work. There were overwhelming moments amongst all the mini revelations where it felt like I had forgotten how to draw! I think to be fully committed to this week you have to be someone who is okay with baring your soul and I definitely did that! I came here to push myself as an artist and I think in order to fully embrace something as unique as this, there is an element of stripping everything back and forgetting momentarily what you already know.
Similarly, I have become very used to being by myself when I am sketching. Coming into a group of other working artists suddenly felt like a lot of pressure. At first it took all my focus not to compare my work to others’. As the week moved forward, this feeling fell away. Being surrounded by other artists working was exciting. Watching other ways of working taught me so much about myself and the way I work.

Razorbill studies using chinagraph lead. Fellow coursemate Andy lent me some lead of a black chinagraph marker to try. The buttery soft wax left some really interesting marks on the smooth cartridge paper and I ended up filling several pages of my sketchbook that day using that tiny length of lead. Laying it flat and pushing it around the paper I could sculpt out the shapes that the razorbills made as they jostled on their ledges. Pressing harder on the tip of the flat lead left a sharper outline that mimicked the stark contrast of the rock and the razorbills ink black plumage. Switching to use the point of the lead allowed a more delicate line for the bright white chest or the detail on the face. For me this was the perfect example of how the introduction of a new and unfamiliar tool can revive perspective or help to grasp a particular technique.

Razorbill studies using chinagraph lead. Fellow coursemate Andy lent me some lead of a black chinagraph marker to try. The buttery soft wax left some really interesting marks on the smooth cartridge paper and I ended up filling several pages of my sketchbook that day using that tiny length of lead. Laying it flat and pushing it around the paper I could sculpt out the shapes that the razorbills made as they jostled on their ledges. Pressing harder on the tip of the flat lead left a sharper outline that mimicked the stark contrast of the rock and the razorbills ink black plumage. Switching to use the point of the lead allowed a more delicate line for the bright white chest or the detail on the face. For me this was the perfect example of how the introduction of a new and unfamiliar tool can revive perspective or help to grasp a particular technique.

Watching the way others choose their palette, hold their brush or push their pencil around the paper. We were all sitting within the same landscape observing the same subjects but the marks on our pages were often unrecognisably different. It was so refreshing to me.

Kittiwake study using graphite and charcoal over blocks of soft pastel.

Kittiwake study using graphite and charcoal over blocks of soft pastel.

The tutors were incredible all week. The investment they gave to each person in turn was inspiring. To see their happiness as people made realisations and revelations in their work throughout the week was in itself a motivation to keep growing. The guidance given by working artists was so invaluable and isn’t something I have ever been lucky enough to get before now.
Coming away from this week I have learnt to embrace the struggles of drawing in the field. To be able to step back and change something about how you are working is an important thing to remember when things aren’t going right. I have learnt to be unafraid of using different mediums to express texture, energy or light. I have always loved the simplicity of line and can get too focussed on continuity but adding something different or changing the way you use your tools can introduce something unexpected. The thing that gives me the biggest smile is the connections I have made from being around other artists working in the field. It has been heartening to be carried along on tough days by the positive words of others.

More razorbill studies with chinagraph lead to explore shape and movement in flight.

More razorbill studies with chinagraph lead to explore shape and movement in flight.

Learn to draw birds in 30 seconds – The John Busby seabird drawing course 2017

Another great week long drawing course on the Firth of Forth. Our joint exercises getting more and more challenging with guest tutor Kim Atkinson inviting us to use sound drawing (clamour of kittiwake and gargle of guillemots in sound foreground) as a way of explore our toolboxes. What might make an equivalent for each sound we could identify.

Kim Atkinson setting up the sound drawing exercise above the cliffs at St Abbs

Kim Atkinson setting up the sound drawing exercise above the cliffs at St Abbs

Darren Woodhead got us all working with clay on the cliff tops on day 5 to feel out in 3D the forms we’d been exploring in 2. The shared activities right there next to the seabirds, sharing the same drizzle, a potent recipe.
On wednesday, day 4 we had a very brief landing on the Bass, only one hour, but the quantity and quality of work was outstanding. The time pressure seeming to force everyone into bolder, more vigorous drawing.
So gathered back on the cliffs of St Abbs we did timed drawing, a bit like a short pose session at a life drawing class. Crazy that we’d never thought to do it before. Ben Woodhams sheet below seems almost superhuman…he had to find and draw the kittiwakes…first in 2 x 2 minute slots, then 2 x 1 minutes and finally 8 x 30 second drawings.

Timed kittiwake drawings by Ben Woodhams on the 2017 John Busby seabird drawing course

Timed kittiwake drawings by Ben Woodhams on the 2017 John Busby seabird drawing course

 

 

30 second timed guillemot drawings by SWLA bursary winner Wynona Legg

30 second timed guillemot drawings by SWLA bursary winner Wynona Legg

2 & 1 minute timed guillemot drawings by SWLA bursary winner Wynona Legg

2 & 1 minute timed guillemot drawings by SWLA bursary winner Wynona Legg

 

SWLA bursary winner Wynona Legg’s drawings are equally impressive… Fantastic to see her development during the week.

This is only a small part of what the course is about and maybe invidious to pick out individual work but the phenomenon of the discipline of quick timed sketches seemed worth sharing asap.

I think John Busby and David Measures would be very happy looking down on the evolution of the course.