Sunday, 14 October 2012

At the Kelvingrove Museum

What a great museum! The Kelvingrove in Glasgow is an impressive victorian building which has been beautifully maintained and filled with an exciting variety of art, artefacts and natural history. I really enjoyed looking around it, once I finished hanging our FAME exhibition in the Scottish Natural History section.

Artists Tim Wootton, Howard Towll, Rhian Field, Sandy Grant, Ruth Carruthers and myself collaborated with the RSPB to publicise the work of scientists from the "Future of Atlantic Marine Environment" project. They are finding out where seabirds go to feed, so that Government can legislate to protect these areas.

Each artist contributed two pictures. This screenprint of a shag defending its nest I finished last week in the studio, using sketches from Colonsay.

This painting of kittiwakes was made at the seabird cliffs in May. The studio work is more controlled, whilst the field work has to be produced at speed. It started raining as I was finishing this picture, and I like the texture on the cliffs made by raindrops falling on the page.

All the pictures in the exhibition will be auctioned by the RSPB later in the year.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Seabird screenprints

In May I again visited the crowded seabird cliffs of Colonsay. An overwhelming number of birds were all pursuing the business of life and survival; choosing a mate, building a nest, finding enough food to raise young. We find these tasks challenging enough ourselves, but we have the help of weather forecasts, GPS and shelter from the elements (not to mention internet dating). How do these birds raise a chick perched on a cliff-face exposed to the Atlantic, and how can they find suitable food in that seemingly featureless expanse of water?

As fulmars wheeled above me, guillemots squabbled and jostled on ledges next to me, and the calls of kittiwakes shrieked up from the gullies below, I clung on to the cliff-face. As an artist I was supposed to be making some sense of this chaos on paper, but my paints were still in my bag. 

 That’s when I met Ellie and Tessa, scientists from the RSPB FAME project. They were studying individual birds to uncover some of the mysteries of seabird survival. When they showed me their results, my amazement increased. How could a bird as delicate as a kittiwake travel so far across the waves? How could a bird as small as a razorbill dive so deep below them? 

The FAME girls and I decided to work together. We invited other artists to join us in an exhibition at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, aiming to share a little of the magic of a seabird colony . By combining art and science we hope to offer a glimpse into that extraordinary world, and unravel some of its mysteries. The exhibition is called "Sea Art Differently" and runs from 13th to 21st October 2012.


On the west coast this year we had a lovely summer - which makes up for the wet mud-bath we had to endure last year.  The brambles are luscious in the hedgerows, and my painting has also been developing in the summer sun.  Thus no time for posting on the blog.  I hope to ferment the fruits of both brambles and field sketches into something that will sustain me through the winter.

Many small projects have also taken up my time this year. I've written an article on seabirds for the RSPB 'Birds' Magazine, and I ran wildlife art workshops on Colonsay for their Spring Festival.  I've been teaching paper-making and printmaking at a local school in association with Kilmartin House Museum. I also produced bird images for Buffera for them to use on an "I Spy" type identification buff.  Examples below.