Standing on Bass Rock, looking up into a dark, ominous sky trying to take in the spectacle of thousands of Gannets reeling and swirling in the wind. The constantly changing shapes, sharp and angular, soft and rounded, delicate tones. To try and fix an image in your minds eye and transfer it to paper. To capture the foreshortening of a wing, the form of a beak in a moment.
To have the opportunity to be in such a place, surrounded by so much energy and activity and to draw is one I will never forget. The sheer intensity of those few hours trying to capture as much of the experience on paper as possible and to have that experience with other artists was invaluable. To then contrast that with the peace and quiet of Tyninghame estuary or the towering cliffs of St Abbs is incredible.
When I first began drawing, I worked on etchings primarily. By the very nature of that medium my work has always been executed in a very detailed and methodical manner which then fed into the pencil drawings I have been doing of late. From the earliest stages of an idea I spend many hours meticulously studying and drawing a subject in as much detail as possible until starting on a plate on my studio. When it was first suggested to me that I apply for the bursary I was over the moon. As a self-taught artist, the chance to spend a week with tutors from the SWLA and other artists was too good to miss. I must admit, I had no real idea quite what to expect from the week but that I wanted to try to learn to draw more freely and be in an environment that might push me somewhere new.
As someone with no artistic training, the course has given me a huge insight into the working practices and approaches of artists I aspire to be like and it has certainly challenged every facet of the approach I have developed toward my work. Of course there is the opportunity to spend time at wonderful sea bird colonies from St Abbs with Guillimots and Razor Bills to Dunbar with Kittiwakes and Bass Rock and its Gannets drawing intently. But, there is also the opportunity to do that with a group of artists with widely differing approaches, triggering new ideas, new thinking and pushing you to try new techniques and media.
This experience, the conversations, the talks from the tutors, seeing everyone else’s work, (overcoming the inevitable and frequent mental overloads!) has changed my way of working and thinking. It is not only a seabird drawing course, it is also a creative process course and that is something that I feel must make this a unique and vital experience – I cannot wait until the next one!
For anyone thinking of applying for the Seabird drawing bursary – Do! It is an incredible experience that the SWLA gave me and one that is unique and wonderful in its nature. One for which I will be grateful forever.