Lara was one of 3 bursary winners in 2015 and has sent an account of the experience.
I am grateful that the SWLA bursary provided me with the opportunity to participate in the seabird drawing course. The week of activities entailed field drawing at specific seabird colonies, drawing exercises lead by acclaimed artists Greg Poole, John Threlfall and Darren Woodhead who all provided excellent guidance and inspiration.
Participating in the course allowed me to try new approaches, develop a new body of work and make connections with people working in similar areas. Since the course I have been enjoying exploring the east coast of fife, looking for new inspiration. I have become more attuned to my surroundings and the birds that inhabit it. I will be taking up an artist in residence on the Island of Shetland next year with the intention of drawing the large puffin colony.
During the course it took me a little while to settle into this new way of field sketching that required looking at bird colonies through binoculars and a telescope, proving difficult at first as it involved a lot of patience and concentration. The image through the telescope revealed subtle nuances of each bird whereby the pattern and colour were much clearer to me than any museum display had been able to offer before.
This new approach to drawing proved both a challenging and inspirational endeavour. It highlighted many strengths and weaknesses in my ability as a draughtsman, reigniting my passion for nature and working outdoors.
There was a provocative tension between drawing an accurate depiction of a bird specimen and producing something more expressive. It highlighted for me that field drawing is an important skill to have and a good foundation to build on.
After completing the course, I returned to my comfort zone of working from museum collections and I realised the limitations of this type of approach. Whilst the museum environment has enabled me to develop my style within a safe and relatively controlled environment, it lacks the element of spontaneity. Therefore, the fleeting moments and sense of urgency to work quickly are imagined rather than experienced.
The seabird drawing course proved an invaluable opportunity to work alongside other artists who share a similar passion for drawing birds and facilitated further sharing of ideas and techniques.
The Bass Rock, Fidra and St.Abbs Head each offered something different in their unique characteristics both in terms of the topology of the landscape and bird colonies that reside there. After many weeks, I am still dreaming of the islands and their birds.
The drawing course has equipped me with the confidence and necessary tools to further pursue this way of working. I am currently researching other locations in Scotland where I will visit and continue to tackle this elusive and challenging subject matter.
See more of Lara’s work on http://www.larascouller.com/