It has been a busy year with lots of uplifting events to spur me on as an artist. My mission continues to be to appreciate nature and the natural world more myself and celebrate its wonder and diversity in my work.
2013 saw me: working more on sustained pieces out in the field, going bigger, collaborating with a poet and developing and pushing my work in new directions.
My highlight of the year was attending the Natural Eye Exhibition, the annual Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries. I was lucky enough to have five pieces accepted for the show, which was opened by none other than David Attenborough. I was delighted to be there for the opening, which gave me an opportunity to see the diverse range of work on display and meet some really warm, enthusiastic people involved in the Society and the show (including Carry Ackroyd and Robert Gillmor – two fantastic wildlife printmakers). Much of the work I presented had been completed on the Bass Rock during the Seabird Drawing courses of 2013 and 2012 and many of the people who I met on the course were there in person or represented on the walls of the Mall Galleries.
In the excitement I failed to take any images of my work on the walls but I did manage this shot of David Attenborough (I did feel a bit like a groupy, but when will I have that opportunity again?):
I managed to squeeze in a visit to the wonderful Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern during my hectic day in London, I love his work which is endlessly surprising and uplifting. Here is a great quote of his:
‘Formerly we used to represent things which were visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are many more other, latent realities.’
And a fantastic light-filled image by this wonderful artist:
During August I spent an enlightening evening listening to Mark Cocker talk about his new book, Birds and People at the Scottish Ornithologists Club Headquarters, Waterston House in Aberlady. I first came across his sensitively observed book Crow Country which I would highly recommend and Birds Britannica (which he editted) is a book I return to again and again when I’m researching a bird. Birds and People is a huge tome, a collaboration with wildlife photographer David Tipling, it presents a sociological history of birds across the world and is a beautiful book to possess.
One of my favourite writers, Kathleen Jamie, visited my place of work, Leith School of Art for a talk about her first books of essays, Findings, with lots of insights into the creative process. This quote from Findings says it all:
‘This is what I want to learn: to notice, but not to analyse. To still the part of the brain that’s yammering ‘My God, what’s that? A stork, a crane, an ibis? – don’t be silly it’s just a weird heron.’ Sometimes we have to hush the frantic inner voice that says ‘Don’t be stupid,’ and learn again to look, to listen. You can do the organising and redrafting, the diagnosing and identifying later, but right now, just be open to it, see how it’s tilting nervously into the wind, try to see the colour, the unchancy shape – hold it in your head, bring it home intact.’
The best thing I saw at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year was George Monbiot talking about his new book, Feral. He is an inspiring speaker, clearly outlining a vision for a re-wilded Britain with mega-fauna roaming our wild spaces and re-balancing delicate eco-systems. Certainly some food for thought and some visually exciting ideas in there – have a look at this animation to get an idea of the premise of his book: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/video/2013/may/30/rewilding-animation-george-monbiot-video
The end of the year saw my work featuring in two great publications. I was delighted to have an image selected for the beautifully produced catalogue of the Natural Eye exhibition – my Herring Gull and Shag, Bass Rock drawing featured in a double page spread alongside the work of Greg Poole, Kim Atkinson and John Threlfall. And then, in mid-December, the brilliant book documenting the Ghosts of Gone Birds project arrived on my doorstep.
I was delighted to see such a well put together book, with contributions by the writers Margaret Attwood and Tim Dee amongst many fantastic artists. This is the first time my work has featured in a published book and it was a great feeling that it was part of such a worthy and creative cause. The book is well worth a look, find it here: http://www.hive.co.uk/book/ghosts-of-gone-birds/17042787/
I will finish this post with some recent field sketches made on a trip to Aberdour – I’m hoping to develop these into prints so watch this space to see how they are transformed – and a happy and creative 2014 to everyone!