John Busby Seabird Drawing Course

John Busby Seabird Drawing Course

On the 21st June I joined 20 other artists from the UK, Japan and Germany to be part of an extraordinary open air wildlife drawing week in Dunbar,Scotland. Last year I was a bursary winner but found the course overwhelming and extremely challenging as I had been out of art for a few years and had never worked outside as part of my daily practice. This time I approached the course having had a year’s experience of plein air work and for me it was a week of fun, experimenting and growth.

Because of this, I have decided to do a short blog as my Instagram posts were turning into essays!!! The blog will be written in retrospect as there’s little chance to do anything else during the week but draw!!

A little background to the John Busby Drawing Course: John Busby was a British artist born in 1928. He was the founding member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and was also recognised as Master Wildlife Artist by Birds in Art, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum in 2009. (the same year I had an painting in their exhibition. I wish I could have been there to meet him!)

He set up the Seabirds Drawing course in 1989 and it has run every year since then. Sadly he passed away in 2015 however left a rich legacy of the value of drawing wildlife outdoors and coming together to encourage each other in this skill.

Day 1

Drawing Kittiwakes in Dunbar.

Every artist wants to move their work forward. The statement often used to explain this is, ‘I want to loosen up’. But what does that mean and how? As artists we want to experience the freedom of making a mark on a page and it still look like a masterpiece. In fact for most, whether beginner or experienced, the need to represent the thing we are seeing is so powerful it often strips away creative freedom and expression.

No doubt observation and analysis is incredibly important but somehow to just replicate what we see seems to fall short of making a great picture. We are artists, so we recreate, we reimagine, we reinvent. We should stir people to fall in love with something they have overlooked or have been dulled towards. We should make great paintings which challenge opinion and implement change. Artists from the past impacted society with their reimagined paintings.

This has been my journey and battle for the past 4 years. How do I do this, how do I recreate or reimagine? I have had the pleasure of exhibiting in some amazing locations with Society of Animal Artists and Artists for conservation yet all these accolades does not give me satisfaction in knowing I have come anywhere close to achieving this goal. In fact I think in many ways I have failed dismally!

Why do I say this? When I paint from life, my goal is to paint accurately what I see. I want to prove to myself and others that I’m good at what I do! However there is no freedom in this. What I see is dictating what I paint. I am enslaved to reality and there is no room for imagination.

When I painted my first Kittiwake, I looked at it and my description to the tutor was its boring! This simple painting determined the direction of the rest of my week and set me on a path of discovery. I have no idea what I want my work to look like but what I am sure about is that if I want change, I have to let go of my safe approach and need for success and embrace experimentation and the risk of failure. 

Description of paintings above:

* Line drawings/paintings of Kittiwakes at Dunbar Harbour. I liked the graphite drawings. There was something in them that appealed to me however I was unable to identify what it was. So I decided to do oil paintings based on a similar approach. This was not what I liked!!! Hence by the end of day 1, I worked out that my attraction to the line drawing was not the multiple lines but something else.....question for day 2, What did I like about my graphite drawing?

* Oil painting of a Kittiwake.