© courtesy the Watson family
© courtesy the Watson family

Donald Watson 1918–2005

SWLA Founder member

Donald Watson was born in 1918 at Cranleigh, Surrey, the son of a Scots farmer and English mother. The family moved to Edinburgh in 1932 and after school Donald read modern history at St John’s College, Oxford. During World War II, his military service took him to India and Burma, where he still managed to paint. Returning to Scotland he was invited to stay in Dumfriesshire and commissioned to paint a series of bird portraits, starting his career as a professional artist. After marriage in 1950, he and his wife settled in Galloway, in south-west Scotland, where he lived until his death in 2005.

Donald began to draw birds at the age of four and was a professional artist since 1946. His first one-man exhibition was at Edinburgh in 1949, and he went on to exhibit at the RSA, RSW and Royal Institute of Watercolour Artists, as well as at SWLA. He illustrated many books including The Oxford Book of Birds (1964),Greenshanks (1978) and The Peregrine Falcon (1980). He also wrote and illustrated Birds of Moor and Mountain (1972), The Hen Harrier (1972), A Bird Artist in Scotland (1988) and his autobiographical One Pair of Eyes (1994). Donald was constantly inspired by the landscape around him in Galloway, where the geese, ducks and his beloved hen harriers were his favourite subjects. He once wrote Colour and tone values are vital to my pictures. Often some effect of light and colour fires my interest in a landscape. Looking at birds in their surroundings has been a lifelong enjoyment and I aim for a true relationship between the two.’

As well as an artist, he was a notable ornithologist, serving as county bird recorder and President of the Scottish Ornithological Club (SOC). Fittingly, when the SOC built their new headquarters at Aberlady the exhibition space, the Watson Gallery, was named after him.

Images from around this site by Donald: