John Busby in Drawing Birds, 2014, said ‘To copy from nature without resolving our own thoughts is a barren process’. I copied from nature for many years and when I applied for the John Busby bursary, I had stopped painting altogether and had pretty much given up on my art. I knew the barrenness John had spoken off and it was not a nice place to be. I was desperately looking for an answer because nature and art were something I had once loved.
I came to the course expectant to receive the answer I needed and I was not disappointed. I was greeted with a warm, friendly atmosphere and a group of tutors and students willing to share, encourage and inspire. I couldn’t help but be affected by the infectious enthusiasm and passion for wildlife and painting outdoors. This sparked in me a new desire to draw and paint nature, not solely focusing on a finished painting but learning to enjoy and embrace the process of seeing, understanding and mark making. I feel I have still much to learn but the course has helped me see that this process is full of rich experiences with much value and rewards.
One of the most special things about the course was drawing as a large group of artists for an extended period of time. I don’t think I could have grasped the importance of field drawing on my own however this week has taught me stamina and determination and has shown me the importance of sitting in gales, rain or sunshine so that I can bring a fullness of experience and knowledge to the page. During this week I have learned to love drawing in the open air but more than that I know it is the way forward to engage with my art again.
The process of learning to see was also a revelation to me. Although I’ve painted for over 20 years, being in the field presented me with challenges and difficulties that working from photographs in a comfortable studio did not. One of my most valuable lessons was the practical task of trying to capture form using cool and warm tones. This really challenged my seeing, thinking and indeed my relationship with colour and mark making. I know it will be something I will continue to wrestle with in my practice for many years to come. It also helped me recognise the need to better understand the anatomy of birds hence I plan to do further study and develop my understanding and knowledge in this area.
The amazing thing about this course was that I started having totally lost my way in my art but left with enthusiasm, motivation, excitement, a longing to learn more and a burning desire to work in the open air. It has given me direction and purpose and for that I am so grateful. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the wonderful legacy of John Busby!
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.
The exhibition is held at the prestigious Mall Galleries in London and runs from Thursday 25th October to Sunday 4th November and includes over 350 catalogued works plus unframed project work in the Out of the Frame room. The catalogue and selected works are available to view here.
On 25th October at 12.30 there will be an informal talk by Jill Moger SWLA about her extraordinary ceramic sculpture of a hydrothermal vent. Jill will chat about what Hydrothermal vents are and the life forms that thrive on and around them and give an insight into how she went about creating the piece.
Harriet Mead PSWLA will give a short informal tour of the show on Thursday 25th October at 2.30 pm.
Kittie Jones SWLA will be happy to discuss artist’s portfolios on Friday 26th October.
Meet the Artists
There will be a member artist available most days to answer questions.
Thursday 25 October – Julia Manning and Jane Smith
Friday 26 October – Kittie Jones
Monday 29 October – Robert Greenhalf
Wednesday 31 October – Chris Wallbank and Richard Allen
Friday 2 November – Max Angus
Sat 3 November – Peter Partington
Leopard and Carmine Bee-eaters by Greg Poole SWLA
The award is named in memory of the ornithologist, conservationist and publisher Ian Langford (1956-2017). Ian was passionate in his support of wildlife art and of the SWLA and particularly keen to encourage those artists working directly from nature.
Artists are invited to submit work for consideration for the £500 prize which will include displaying a selection of field sketches at The Natural Eye, Mall Galleries London in October. Overseas applications are accepted.
Extended Deadline is Friday 21st September.
For details on how to submit please click here.
The Natural Eye, the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists showcases the very best of fine art inspired by the natural world. Renowned for displaying a wide ranging collection of exciting and thought provoking work including sculpture, printmaking, painting and drawing there will always be something to delight and inspire you. The Out of the Frame room celebrates the tradition of working from life and will show a selection of field sketches and project work from member artists. Each day a member artist will be at the gallery to meet visitors and share their experiences of creating their work. Alongside the exhibition our events will include workshops, talks and a portfolio day. Details will be published on this site in due course.
EXHIBITION DATES 2018
Private View Wednesday 24th October
Open to the public: Thursday 25 October, 10am – 5pm
Closes: Sunday 4 November, 1pm
- Birdwatch Artist of the Year Award (£1000 plus Swarovski optics)
- Terravesta Prize
- The RSPB Award
- Birdscapes Gallery Conservation Award
- Mascot Media ‘Nature in Print’ Award
- Dry Red Press Printmaker’s Award
The Natural Eye exhibition 2018 is sponsored by
Terravesta, pioneers of sustainable energy from Miscanthus
Male Cuckoo, Wicken by Richard Johnson
The Society of Wildlife Artists and the British Trust for Ornithology have joined forces in following our summer visitors, such as cuckoos, on their long incredible journeys from Britain to their wintering grounds in Africa and back. The scientific research undertaken and the amazing information and resulting artwork feature in the highly readable book Flight Lines by the BTO’s Mike Toms. Originals from the book and other works on the theme of migration, including those birds which travel huge distances to Britain from further north for our winter make up this fascinating exhibition.
Midday Saturday April 28th to May 20th 2018
The Birdscapes Gallery, Glandford, nr Holt NR25 7JP
Tel 01263741742 Open daily 11.am-5pm