Dan Bradbury, WLT’s Director of Communications and Development, met the artist Darren Woodhead at Birdfair in Rutland and before he knew it he was applying to take part in the Society of Wildlife Artists, John Busby Seabird drawing course.
I have long admired Darren’s wonderful field paintings and enjoyed meeting him at Birdfair. When he suggested I might apply to be on the John Busby Course the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it. I love to paint and when I looked into it I felt the course would give me a fantastic opportunity to learn and develop my field sketching skills, and also allow me to start the process of capturing the natural world in a more organic way. I have long endeavoured to capture the wonders of the wild world through my paintings, but wanted to develop a freedom that I lacked and felt the course would challenge me to look more closely at the movement and feeling of what I’m seeing. More usually I work from photographs and the result is very structured. Even when I’m in the field my paintings still hark back to my formal training of technical illustration. So being offered an opportunity to work with a group of incredible artists such as Darren, Pascale Rentsch, Nik Pollard and Kittie Jones was a dream come true.
The other reason for wanting to attend the course is that I feel extremely fortunate to work for WLT and to have had the opportunity to visit some of the most threatened habitats in the world. I want to learn, pick up new skills and most importantly to have the confidence to try to capture these places if I’m lucky enough to travel there again in the future. I once heard someone say that art has the opportunity to change the hearts and mind of people and I believe this is true. Art brings a real opportunity to put across a strong conservation message and seeing it and feeling it and then interpreting it on paper or as a sculpture is a skill I would love to learn and develop.
While working at WLT I have been lucky to meet many accomplished wildlife artists who have a history with the trust; artists such as Andrew Haslen, Steve Cale, Nick Day and the late Martin Woodcock. And, of course, the current Vice President of the Society of Wildlife Artists, Bruce Pearson who has, over the years, been a trustee, council member and regular supporter of WLT.
WLT currently has around 20 artists and illustrators who collaborate to support our work in a variety of ways, including through the sale of original pieces of work, prints, exhibitions and Christmas and greeting cards. It was in 2002 that wildlife artist Greg Poole donated the use of his wonderful Capercaillie print for a WLT Christmas card and an original hangs in a central position in the WLT office. Greg’s unexpected passing in December 2018 was a huge loss to the art community. He was due to be a tutor on the John Busby course and I am sad that I didn’t have the chance to meet him. He was clearly an artist who influenced a lot of people directly and indirectly over the years.
I can’t say that the week was relaxing or even ‘fun’ all the time. I discovered that ‘freedom to paint what you see’ comes at a price. The price in Scotland was seven layers of warm clothing, working in dense fog and being faced with a blank sketch pad while being surrounded by hugely talented artists. I knew the course would be a challenge and it certainly was, but at the end of it I came back pretty elated, having benefitted enormously from the friendly and helpful advice from those in the group.
If you are an artist and would like to support what we do at WLT, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org