2013: The year in review

Looking across the Forth,

Looking across the Forth, mixed media field sketch

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?):

david attenboroughAnd many thanks to Jo Dungey for this shot of my Nesting Bass Rock gull in the Exhibition:


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:

paul klee making visible exhibitionI was also lucky enough to be in the company of some inspiring people this year.

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!

Resting curlew sketch

Resting curlew sketch

Group of waders sketch

Group of waders sketch

Curlew and oystercatcher sketch

Curlew and oystercatcher sketch

About flyingcreature

I'm a Cumbrian born painter and printmaker based in Scotland. My work is inspired by British nature. I studied on the Foundation Course at Leith School of Art in 2003 before going on to take the MA Fine Art degree at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University graduating in 2008. I now make my work from my studio in Coburg House and teach drawing, painting and printmaking at Leith School of Art and around Scotland.
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3 Responses to 2013: The year in review

  1. Lesley says:

    Kittie, I’ve just found your wonderful blog whilst searching for something bird related and have spent a happy hour reading all the posts and absorbing your images. What a feast for the eyes and very inspiring too. I’ve followed links that have introduced new things to me but have also been really pleased to find such common ground with someone – especially an appreciation of Kathleen Jamie. I think Findings and Sightlines are two of the best books I have on my shelf and I’m now inspired to re-read Crow Country- that’s after I order the Ghost of Gone Birds of course! Thanks for an amazing read. I shall be a regular reader from now on!

    • Dear Lesley,

      Many thanks for your comment – it is always reassuring to realise that I am not just posting to a void and even more encouraging when someone who shares the things I love finds my posts! I’m delighted you enjoyed the blog so much and please do revisit…oh and don’t hesitate to let me know if you discover any great reads that I might have missed out on – I’m eyeing this up at the moment as a post Christmas treat: http://caughtbytheriver.greedbag.com/buy/towards-re-enchantment/ Some of my favourite writers have contributed.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Pingback: Trees for Life | Flying Creatures

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