Sunday, 3 November 2019

Art from a Bird's Eye View

Yesterday (2nd November) we had the delight to visit the Society of Wildlife Artist's exhibition The Natural Eye at the Mall Galleries in London.

The exhibition was outstanding and this year had a real focus on British birds, particularly those that are of conservation concern due to their declining numbers.

When I visit the exhibition, I always ensure that I have no time limitations to my visit.  There is so much to take in and see and it is always beneficial to have the opportunity to go back and look at pieces that particularly inspire and appeal.

Many of the artworks have evolved directly from fieldwork and completed in the field too.  There were several paintings where evidence of rain on the water colours had created a naturalistic effect which didn't detract from the main subjects but certainly added to the narratives of the paintings.

I always come away from this exhibition making a resolution to do more fieldwork.  Although I do some I know it is not enough and there is nothing better than making that connection with the subject in its usually natural environment.  What we observe definitely helps to inform the paintings and illustrations.

So out of all the paintings, prints and drawings were there any that made me want to return to them and why ? 

Yes there was, three in particular.  They all reminded me of previous visits I have made to seabird colonies, where vast numbers of Razorbills and Guillemots were perched on sea cliffs.  One of them took me back to seeing Gannets for the first time when approaching the island of Skomer, which is located off of the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales, although not from the height as depicted in the painting.
These two images show part of The Wick located on Skomer, which is a shear cliff face with numerous ledges where seabirds roost and breed.  Above you can see a ledge where Guillemots are perched.  

I thought that it would be almost impossible to capture a vast vista such as The Wick in one drawing, but yesterday I was proved wrong.

Christopher Wallbank SWLA was exhibiting two huge drawings in graphite and egg tempera called Guillemot Loomery, Fowlsheugh I and II.  I kept returning again and again to view these pieces, both from afar and up close too.

My husband who is 6ft 4in next to Christopher Wallbank SWLA Guillemot Loomery, Fowlsheugh I

Details from Guillemot Loomery, Fowlsheugh II  © 2019 Christopher Wallbank

Despite the shear scale of the drawings there was equal high quality of mark-making across both drawings and perfect observation of tonal values which accentuated the realistic form of each individual bird and the cliff face itself.  An inspiring touch was the painting of some eggs with egg tempera and also notes made next to each egg.  I was not able to find out what these meant, it would be interesting to know.

The third piece that I also admired was Uplift, Bempton by Matt Underwood SWLA completed in oils.  I felt as though I was peering over a cliff edge getting a true bird's eye view of Gannets flying above the sea and cliffs.  This painting also gives the feel of numerous gannets flying in layers down towards the sea and colony.

If you get the chance to visit the exhibition next year, do make the effort, you will not be dissapointed.  There is so much more I could have written about, but there is something special in not revealing all online!

It's been great to have the opportunity to return to my blog.  I do so enjoy writing about nature and art.  At the moment I am totally immersed in writing and illustrating a book on natural history illustration in pen and ink.  Publication is quite a while away but the whole process is so exciting, particularly as I am having the chance to illustrate subjects I have wanted to do for so long.

If you want to follow my progress the Natures Details Facebook page is the best way to keep up to date.  Follow the Facebook page link here: 

Happy writing, drawing and painting !