Helen Kennedy – bursary winner 2018

  Over the past few years I have become more and more fascinated by the wildlife around my city home. The songbirds I watch from the window inevitably made their way into my artwork. A conversation with the lovely Kittie Jones at Edinburgh Printmakers led me to apply for the John Busby Seabird drawing course. Finding out that I had won the bursary on a dreich January morning was a moment of real happiness and excitement.

I had come to the course with little seabird knowledge but great enthusiasm to learn. Both the tutors and my fellow course members were generous, not only with their extensive knowledge but also with lifts to the various locations we were to draw in. Equipment was freely shared. Never having used binoculars or scopes whilst drawing before this was particularly useful. I was able to draw on the wealth of experience around me. It was interesting to see the different approaches and working methods. What to take on long days field sketching. How to work comfortably and efficiently in a range of weather conditions. Once we had reached our location one of the four tutors would give a short talk. Ranging from bird anatomy to colour theory these were always appreciated and often gave me a new way of thinking and working. The evening meal at the end of the day was a good time to share experiences, highs and lows. Seeing other people’s work was a joy.

When I began the week I knew I wanted to understand more about seabirds. I hadn’t anticipated how entranced I would be.The grace of the Kittiwakes at Dunbar harbour, the charm of the Guillemots and Razorbills at St Abbs, the challenge of the Gulls on Fidra. I shall be forever grateful for the opportunity to draw the Gannets on Bass Rock, the most visceral, astounding and beautiful place.

I have never looked so intently or for so long at birds before. It was at times difficult and demanding. The brilliant tutors were always there with energy and enthusiasm and not a little kindness and patience. I enjoyed getting to know the other people on the course. I could not have asked to share the experience with a more lovely group of people. I benefited greatly from their support and expertise.

Coming away I felt a bit dazed. The week had been very intense. Looking through the work I produced I have a great sense of being at the beginning, so much to explore and learn. It is an uplifting thought.