Seabird Drawing Week bursary

  Group warm-up exercises at St Abb's Head to start the day
Group warm-up exercises at St Abb's Head to start the day

PLEASE NOTE The John Busby Seabird Drawing Course 2020 has been postponed until June 2021 due to the Covid-19 Crisis. All offered places will be transferred to next year — if places become available we will put out a call for applications.

The SWLA offers between three and five bursaries for places on the John Busby Seabird Drawing Course each year which takes place at a number of key seabird colonies around Dunbar and the Firth of Forth. You can also apply independently for the course — see details below. The six-day course is usually held at the end of June each year. Course leader Darren Woodhead, plus tutors Kittie Jones, Nik Pollard and Pascale Rentsch will guide students through a number of different ways to approach drawing wildlife in the field based on their own experience and artistic practice. This is a fantastic opportunity to work alongside a group of both new and established artists with the shared aim of creating exciting, diverse and innovative artwork. Each year sees students bond over the triumphs and struggles of working with moving subject matter in all weathers, forming friendships and working relationships which continue well beyond the parameters of the course.


  Students drawing at Seacliff beach  © Kittie Jones
Students drawing at Seacliff beach © Kittie Jones

We aim to make visits to a couple of islands whenever possible — this usually means the Bass Rock or Fidra. Payment for boat trips is separate from the course fee and payment is taken at the end of the course. Weather, tides & poor sea conditions can mean that an island trip is not always possible.

Our most frequent destination is the dramatic clifftops at St Abbs Head. This is a thrilling location, alive with seabird colonies as well as being a visually spectacular landscape.

We usually start the field drawing days with warm-up exercises and we ask that everyone shares their work in the evenings (even if it has been a hard day). A really important part of the ethos of the course is one of a shared experience.

Although seabirds are a central theme we have had many artists focussing on the wider landscape, the flora, the sea, the rocks, the butterflies etc. It is perhaps best described as an intensive drawing course with seabirds at its centre.

  Wynona Legg with her work at the end of course exhibition in Winterfield Golf Course.  © Sally Muir
Wynona Legg with her work at the end of course exhibition in Winterfield Golf Course. © Sally Muir

The course headquarters’ is the Winterfield golf club — we meet each evening here for a review of the day and to have dinner as a group. This is also where any evening teaching activities take place. 

Most participants stay at the Belhaven Bay campsite which offers a range of accommodation options.
B&B’s and hotels in Dunbar would also be an easy option. We ask that everyone with a vehicle shares transport if possible.

Founder Member John Busby set up the Seabird Drawing Course some thirty years ago and although many SWLA members have participated, it is an independent course and open to all. If you would like to apply independently to the course please email seabird.​drawing@​gmail.​com and request to be put on the mailing list. The call for applications normally goes out in the autumn.

What the bursary provides
The current bursary is £550 per person and it is divided as follows:

The full course fee of £395 paid directly to the course.
The remaining £155 will be paid to the applicant shortly before the course. This money can either be used to cover the cost of any boat trips taken (£30/​trip, ranging from none to 3 or 4) or towards the cost of accommodation.

Please read the requirements to be met by bursary winners page before applying.

There is inevitably an element of selection to who is accepted for the course because of limited places. We try to keep the course diverse in all ways. This includes allocating places for relative beginners as well as for seasoned professionals.