Monday, 9 January 2017

2016 into 2017

Recent work has been a reflection on the early winter in Orkney - from the much anticipated arrival of the waxwings from Scandinavia tot he weather-whipped landscapes of the isles.

Monday, 22 August 2016

House Move and Recent Work

Having just visited my blog to check if I’m due to make another entry, to find it is almost 2 years since my last contribution!!! Where does the time go??!
So, to be brief; we moved house in May 2015.  The new house is Dale Farmhouse, Evie and we have spent the time renovating it from top to bottom.  We will be running it as a Bed & Breakfast, offering a suite of three rooms for guests (bedroom, bathroom and sitting room) on the first floor of the house with wonderful views over Eynhallow Sound and Rousay.  I think Sally and I shall have to book in as our own first guests!

The rest of the time has been spent illustrating (The Common Eider, Poyser) and a few illustrations for the wonderful new book by Andy Roadhouse “The Birds of Spurn” in addition to new interpretation panels for the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Gallery work continues, hopefully with some progress . . .
Here is a small selection of work completed over the past several months since my last post here.  

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wet & Miserable Winter

The recent weather inspired these two small oil paintings - and they are now available as prints - 10" x 8", mounted, £25 each.
Why not send a grey, wet and miserable Orkney print as a gift this year?  Share the love!

Back Road, Stromness

Dreich Street

Thursday, 25 September 2014

End Of Season 'Out Of The Frame' Bargain Originals

Having to make space on the gallery walls for new work, so in a fit of madness we have reduced the prices of many original paintings.
The new prices are the unframed price - please note postage and packing is at cost, or FREE for orders over £450.
Many thanks or looking!

1: arctic terns (50cm x 35cm, watercolour, was £575, no frame £SOLD)

2: black headed gulls (80cm x 50cm, watercolour, was £750, now £450 - unframed)

3: female red-backed shrike (40cm x 30cm) was £525, now £SOLD)

4: hares and snipes (conte & watercolour, 90cm x 50cm, was £835 now £SOLD)

5: lapwing (watercolour, 80cm x 50cm, was £735 now £375 - unframed)

6: liquid black - shags and eiders (charcoal, 70cm x 50cm, was £785 now £SOLD)

7: long-tailed ducks (charcoal, 90cm x 50cm, was £775 now £375 unframed)

8: manx shearwaters (charcoal, 90cm x 50cm, was £825 now £SOLD

9: Roller (70cm x 50cm, watercolour, was £785 now £390 unframed)

10: Should I stay or should I go - shags (charcoal, 75cm x 50cm, was £695 now £SOLD)

11: trout (charcoal, 80cm x 50cm, was £395 now £200 unframed)

12: willow warbler (watercolour, 50cm x 35cm, was £445 now £SOLD

13: woodchat shrike (watercolour, 70cm x 50cm, was £1250 now £SOLD)

14: wrens in butterbur (conte & watercolour, 80cm x 50cm, was £775 now £SOLD)

15: yellow-browed warblers (conte & watercolour, 80cm x 50cm, was £855 now £SOLD unframed)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Exhibition at The Loft Gallery, South Ronaldsay, Orkney - August 2014

It seems an age since I updated my blog . . . that’s because it has been!  Almost all of this year has been spent trying to get the cottage into some semblance of shape before our Building Warrant expires and making dozens of paintings for my new show at The Loft Gallery on South Ronaldsay.
The show is titled ‘Near & Far’ – referring to the eternal dichotomy of representing those things dear to me on these islands; the close-up wonderment of the special species living here and the momentous land-and-sea-scapes containing them.  Most of the works are small-ish oils on board – a technique I am becoming more drawn to recently.

The show opened a couple of weeks ago and runs until September the 5th – please try and pop along if you’re in the area.  Here are a few images from the exhibition:

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Book Review - The Unfeathered Bird



The Unfeathered Bird – Katrina Van Grouw 

This book is not an anatomy of birds, states the first line of the introduction to The Unfeathered Bird, by Katrina Van Grouw.  What is it then? It is a beautifully illustrated book dealing with ornithology or it is a gracefully annotated picture book. In fact it’s both; a convergence of art and science – the science is authoritative and expressive; complex structures, forms and functions are revealed and explained by the author who is familiar and comfortable with the technical detail of anatomy.

The way that birds move, and especially fly, takes a great deal of explaining (and reciprocal understanding).  In this book complicated mechanical processes are described in eloquent prose, at every step supplemented by perfectly rendered illustrations. The book is produced beautifully on superb quality paper which is a joy to handle. 

There is a distinct flavour to the artwork, classically crafted and hauntingly reminiscent of Gothic images – there will be the inevitable comparisons with these drawings and those of the great historical masters, and deservedly so.  But Van Grouw looks to emulate no-one; she draws in her own way – exquisitely!  For over two decades she has worked predominantly in subdued and low-key hues, painting with charcoals and other muted media, toiling away at her craft.  The works in this fascinating book are the culmination of this extensive and highly successful career.  Van Grouw’s use of monochrome or, occasionally slightly tinted drawings with highlighted areas, brings a sombre feel to the artwork – a respectful solemnity for the extinguished lives of the birds being depicted. And she handles the media with expert precision and dexterity.

The technical aspects of the book are softened and accessible.  The book follows a systematic order and threads of convergent evolution are woven seamlessly into the story of the birds. 

There’s a fascinating and curious paradox in the way the birds are displayed on the page.  There is (of course) no doubt that these specimens have been stripped of all semblance of life; many are presented as skeletons, some still have musculature in place - yet it is the skill of the artist that the subjects are decidedly more vibrant than many conventionally realist paintings of fully-feathered birds. The artist’s decision to re-create lifelike poses for her subjects removes any stuffiness in the compositions. One piece in particular (the Eurasian sparrowhawk with its blue tit prey) illustrates this dichotomy; the attacker’s posture brimming with latent activity whilst the dead skeletal blue tit could not be more lifeless!  The character of birds is expressed deftly – a glance at the parrots leaves us in no doubt as to their captivating personalities.   The underwater view of the red-throated diver is an exceptionally elegant piece of work, incorporating the underside of floating lily-pads and a tiny fish skimming along the (inferred) water surface.


The most striking and enjoyable aspect to The Unfeathered Bird is the way the text works with the images.  Often visual artists – usually reliant on creating images as our primary mode of communication, often fail to achieve a similar level of quality with our written efforts. Not so in this case.  Rarely does a book combine written and visual content so completely.  Prose comes just as readily to this author as the images do to her as the artist; and all combined in one sumptuous offering.  The passages are a delight to read and would stand up well with even the most rudimentary of illumination; when fortified by drawing of such sublime quality the result is astonishing. The writing has moments of wit and pathos, whilst underpinning this is a dialogue full of chatty authority.  The balance is perfect and I found myself flicking between images and prose subconsciously; a wonderful interplay of balancing counterpoints.  

The author reminds us of historical follies and aberrations.  The hunting and collecting trade gets a mention and there is a moment of pure brutality; “. . . notice the violence sustained at the back of the skull where the bird was bludgeoned to death.”  There are no prizes for guessing the species being described here, although sadly, it could be one of many.

A day watching fully-feathered birds in the field rarely disappoints, nor fails to surprise; this book of unfeathered birds is no different in this respect.  For instance; did you know that hornbills wear make-up? . . . or that toucans are likely to tire and drown if they attempt to fly over watercourses just a teensy-bit too wide?

Crammed with information, regularly poetic and often poignant, insightful, illuminative and educational; no doubt, yet it is the drawings which make this publication the stand-out, stand-alone volume that it is, and which will ultimately and absolutely make this book the seminal work it seems destined to be.  Ranging from diagrammatic illustrations to richly-textured interpretative observations, each is executed with clinical assuredness and delicate sensitivity.  The enjoyment of this book is easy, but to allow it to reveal the full depth of its rich textures, acute literary and artistic meaning will give the owner many years of pure pleasure.   

As Van Grouw defiantly states in her introduction; “This book is not an anatomy of birds”.  However, yet incidentally, it is.  But it is more than that.  It reveals aspects of birdlife which would remain hidden to most of us; it weaves tales of ornithological endeavours and vandalisms and, at its heart, connects art with science and history.  And in a manner which tantalises and delights in a way only the great works of art can.

This is the quintessential labour of love; over 25 years in the conception, drawing and writing.  It is a genuine life-work and will surely earn itself and its author a merited place in the history of the Art of the Natural World.

Tim Wootton 

The Unfeathered Bird is published by Princeton University Press – ISBN978-0-691-15134-2