Category Archives: Wild Art

Amir Balaban

Wild Artist, April 2014

It’s all about a passion for birds and wildlife. It started while trying to describe warblers into my childhood notebook. Words seemed inadequate. How does one describe the jizz of a juvenile autumn Ruppell’s warbler? Trying to visually describe birds led to a growing number of sketches  and confidence with a pencil. During the late 1970’s photography was not an option. The quick field sketch was a pretty good way to observe and learn the birding trade

It was not till my early 20’s when I stumbled by coincidence on Keith Brockie’s, inspiring book, one man’s Island. This was a pure example of how far and further field work can go

I spent most of my artistic education in Jerusalem’s Bezalel’s Photography department spending time in the field working on large and medium format stills and sketching birds

And to date this is what I do; I use art to promote wildlife and bird conservation in Israel

For the last 20 years work for the Society for the protection of nature in Israel (SPNI). Together with one of my best birding mates Gidon Perlman and a dedicated group of birders we established Israel’s first community urban wildlife site. The Jerusalem Bird observatory (JBO) with its ringing station, hide and gallery is a dream come true. A place to study birds, enjoy good company and wildlife art

Jerusalem Bird Observatory

Jerusalem Bird Observatory

The JBO ringing and training programme

The JBO ringing and training programme

 

The Beracha Foundation bird hide

The Beracha Foundation bird hide

 

The Gail Rubin wildlife art gallery

The Gail Rubin wildlife art gallery.

Looking back, it becomes clear that I have become addicted to observing nature and birds in particular. It’s becoming clear to me the sketching started as a tool of understanding and today has become a mean of sharing an experience. When I published my first book; The Golan Sketchbook most of the work was an accurate description of birds, mammals and plants I encountered in a 6 month Journey from the Alpine peaks of Mount Hermon to the steamy Jordan River

Pallid Harrier Golan Heights

Pallid Harrier Golan Heights

 

Today, my camera and especially video are used to document wildlife and birds with relative ease. The material is edited and loaded with much ease to the web and is ready for mass consumption on national TV or any conservation issue

Stork Migration

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkr6jHYHzOQ

Although my most of my videos have a specific conservation purpose, many are experimental and view wildlife in a different perspective. The ability to mix visual and audio tracks enables to recreate magical and complex moment and birdscapes

Mating Ostrich

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az6NEbKyVr0

Daddy long legs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwhkKTzAqhU

My Pencil and aquarelle are now used for capturing those moments where the camera no longer matters. This has led me down a very interesting new trail. I think it has unchained me from the consuming need for detail.  This spring, visitors to the JBO can view my work in our gallery

Hoopoe Lark southern Arava Valley

Hoopoe Lark southern Arava Valley

Houbara Bustard display, Nizzana

Houbara Bustard display, Nizzana

Black-shouldered Kite, first recorded fledging, Hula Valley

Black-shouldered Kite, first recorded fledging, Hula Valley

 

White Pelicans resting on migration Hula Valley

White Pelicans resting on migration Hula Valley

Working on the field

Working on the field

 

art gallery

 

One of the most rewarding activities is the wildlife sketching workshops that are held regularly. Everyone can sketch! It’s true. Not always easy, but it’s very rewarding indeed

Wildlife sketching workshop

Wildlife sketching workshop

The JBO Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jerusalem-Bird-Observatory/236657824436?fref=ts

The Gail Rubin wildlife art Gallery: https://www.facebook.com/wildlifeartjerusalem?ref=hl

Amir Balaban artist page: https://www.facebook.com/wildaboutnature?ref=hl

Subscribe to my Youtube Channel!: https://www.youtube.com/user/amirbalaban

Chinstrap Penguin, The Antarctic Peninsula

Chinstrap Penguin, The Antarctic Peninsula

 

 

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Wild Artist March 2014

Just a reminder

Great feedback on this series. Folk being inspired. How about you?  Have a slow read through Darren’s story.  Maybe, just maybe you’ll have a go. Read on and check out he stunning art:

>>>>  Darren Woodhead is our Wild Artist- March 2014 <<<<

Early morning pre-breakfast Darren begins on a Red Squirrel in the Pasvik forest, March 2013

Early morning pre-breakfast Darren begins on a Red Squirrel in the Pasvik forest, March 2013

The finished painting a couple of hours later. Look no lines!

The finished painting a couple of hours later. Look no lines!

Art and people, March 2013

Art and people, March 2013

 

Red-breasted Mergansers by Darren- latest work sent out on twitter yesterday from somewhere in Scotland no doubt!

Red-breasted Mergansers by Darren- latest work sent out on twitter yesterday from somewhere in Scotland no doubt!

>>>>  Darren Woodhead is our Wild Artist- March 2014 <<<<

 

 

Darren Woodhead

Wild Artist, March 2014

Darren Painting Steller's Eider, Varanger 2013

Darren, painting Steller’s Eider, Varanger 2013

From M.G. It’s hard to imagine less helpful conditions for painting. I sat next to Darren, in that spot above, watching him paint Steller’s Eiders in that weather. His passionate resonant Yorkshire accent enthuses the virtues of ‘no lines’ and all in the field in a most contagious ways. Hope you catch what he’s got! Be inspired.
 

No Studio, just the field.

I am a passionate field painter, and i believe that working outside with the elements, for me brings a sense of the subject onto the page that I would struggle to do any other way. I have no studio, just the field.

Waxwing Group, above, is painted all outside and direct in brush with watercolour as all of my work is, it is as much about the elements as it is the subject. I am a passionate field painter, and i believe that working outside with the elements, for me brings a sense of the subject onto the page that I would struggle to do any other way. I have no studio, just the field.Waxwing Group, above, is painted all outside and direct in brush with watercolour as all of my work is, it is as much about the elements as it is the subject.

Goldcrests and Pallas's Warbler

For me, there is nothing better than just been out, feeling wind against the face, a hint of warmth in the low spring sun or the excitement of watching something happen in front of me. Recently i was sat painting Goldfinches, a species that i have worked on a lot recently when suddenly I was driven to look up, as silently as a cloud drifts but a female Sparrowhawk caught a Robin within a few metres of me, dropping to begin to pluck it so close to me that its deep yellow eyes stared through my own. This is what been out and working is about for me, energy, excitement, unpredictability and that magical sense of witnessing something happen.

Beginnings

I am regularly asked if I always wanted to be a painter, and the truth is that I never pushed it.  It has fallen into place, a driven passion and love. I have always been an outside child, for me I feel ‘jailed’ being indoors, driven by a passion for natural history and always had a similar love of drawing. Drawing and Natural History has dominated my life.  When I was recently in Varanger, as part of the Gullfest crowd, I was talking to Martin ( Garner) one evening; I recalled to him how perhaps my desire to follow my heart dawned on me when i was 9 or 10.  The day is question was sports day to see who could represent their schools on a Saturday morning. The 60 metres dash was down to its final 8 or so ‘athelete – lets’, and I was up against the familiar crowd. The whistle blew and off we went. To my surprise, with 20 metres or so to go, I glance to my left and right and everyone was behind me, I was winning, 15 metres to go and it dawned – if I won this, Saturday morning around the reservoir with my mates would be out, gone would be Kestrels, Gulls and Lapwings – Little Owls and Woodpeckers – so I slowed and came fourth! Decision made, and even though I would never have been fast enough to take it any further, I needed my time out so much more.

Last Arctic Redpoll, Varanger 2013

Last Arctic Redpoll, Varanger 2013

 The 60 metres dash was down to its final 8 or so ‘athelete – lets’, and I was up against the familiar crowd. The whistle blew and off we went. To my surprise, with 20 metres or so to go, I glance to my left and right and everyone was behind me, I was winning, 15 metres to go and it dawned – if I won this, Saturday morning around the reservoir with my mates would be out, gone would be Kestrels, Gulls and Lapwings – Little Owls and Woodpeckers – so I slowed and came fourth!

Another aspect of childhood that shaped my course was the day that a few friends and I joined a mailing book club. Primarily this was to bulk order The Birds of Yorkshire so that we could all afford it but also through this, I purchased Drawing Birds by John Busby. Suddenly this book was to change the way i thought about bird painting and painting in general. Within a couple of turns of the squar-ish pages, I was transported into fleeting moments of posture, character, energy and life on the page.  John is a dear friend of mine now and what he has done for painting of the natural world for the last 60 and more years, can never be overvalued. His drawings and paintings are as fresh now as ever, and I urge those who are unfamiliar, and those who know his work well, to look, look and look again. That made my journey begin, as I know it has for countless others.

On the Bass Rock

On the Bass Rock

Hours upon hours were spent making marks, sometimes terrible mistakes but occasionally a rare success. It was only through the guidance and enthusiasm showed by great Artists and friends such as John Busby and of course the late David Measures, that it became possible to have a way of doing this.

Style: "Neutral"

Long-Tailed Tits_edited-1

That Watercolour feeling

There is no better feeling in the world than when brush and colour are flowing over the paper surface, almost void of my physical actions. I strive for the days when I am zoned in so much that I am connecting so intensely with the image on the paper that I forget or almost cannot recall how or when i achieved the mark. An almost Zen-like state of painting. Watercolour does this for me. At school colour was at first alien, and I recall my teacher complementing my drawing – though asking for more colour! Colour fascinates me, and it was my tutor at The Royal College of Art that got me to forget the pencil and push the colour. I teach myself now, and though I love line, the power of line is masterful – one only has to look at Busby, Talbot Kelly, Ennion and currently James Mccallum to see this. However, we all have our own way of working and for me I know that I naturally draw with paint and colour, and rarely even take a pen or pencil out with me. As I do not pre-draw, and all my marks are just in brush, I feel a deep appreciation for every mark, run, well that the colour on paper makes.  Watercolours are so simple yet perhaps the most complex of all mediums. They are made for working in the field, yet so fragile that any change in quality of mark, any hesitation or even climate change can be read in the result. To me they are so basic yet intrinsically complex that they are just simply magical.

Male Pied Flycatcher, Springwatch 2013

And then, at the same time as the paint is going so are the subjects. I have developed this awareness of energies too, and as I often spend the whole day in one spot, it constantly amazes me how by becoming part of the environment, and then you also become sharp to events or happens around. How often have I switched my gaze to see a passing distant Fox or silent unusual bird flying over, or that Sparrowhawk. For me these are the story of the days, and will be drawn or written on anything I am working on.

Sparrowhawk Taking Robin

And then there is the weather.  I recently heard a humorous song by Flanders and Swann, A Song of the weather, which kind of summed up a day out in the office for me. Yes, there are days when my page has been wiped clean with a sudden onslaught of rain or snow yet somehow, whether it is how i have had to tie the board to the trees to escape the buffeting wind or how ice has formed intricate patterns in the washes of colour, the environment has had a say in the end result, and I treasure this. Watercolour reacts so delicately to any change and these changes become part of the story, part of the days’ event and they shine through in any end result.

Autumnwatch Long-tailed Tits in Hawthorn

Autumnwatch Long-tailed Tits in Hawthorn

It all happens when I am out…

I am currently absorbed in masses and tangles of vegetation that hide our birds and wildlife. I am blessed that within minutes I can venture from the heather clad hills through winding wooded valleys to open estuaries and stunning rocky shorelines.  The winter here is one of the reasons that brought me to these parts, and the natural history just seems to get more and more spectacular.  This wealth of habitat has meant endless supplies of subjects. Recent winters have seen me sat in among the thousands of Fieldfares that gorge on the Buckthorn in Gullane, a spectacular combination of noise and colour. The recent years welcoming arrival of Waxwings featured heavily, as do the hours i have spent wandering through local woodlands where Roe Deer feed so unobtrusively and come early spring, a rustle in the bracken could just be a basking Adder.  Painting for me is about what happens when I am out, unscripted stories of the day and excitement when often it is least expected. My subjects are never really planned – can you ever with certainty when working outside – although over the months ahead, the snow, wind and rain that no doubt will come and go, I am sure there will be many more special days ahead. I have been very honoured to have travelled worldwide painting – once the bug has bitten it is hard to forget – as well as recently being very honoured to have been involved with the BBC and their Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch programmes.

Bonxie over Birsay

What lies ahead?

I need to paint and in the future perhaps add to the two books I have done.  I teach myself, and enjoy it so much. There is something very special being involved with encouraging people to see and record. The end results do not have to be Turner- esque, what is important for me is encouraging the visual memory and the joy witnessing the event can bring.  And now life for me is turning a full circle and I can see this drive of the natural world in my own boys. That is what life is about, for sure.  I would say to everyone, go out, experience, recall and who knows by reacting in any way, shape or form you may just keep that memory longer.

Male Willow Warbler in Hawthorn

Male Willow Warbler in Hawthorn

Website: www.darrenwoodhead.com

Twitter: @DarrenNWoodhead

Publications:

Solo:

‘Up River, The Sound of the Esk’ Birlinn 2009

‘From Dawn Till Dusk’ Langford Press 2005

 Joint:

The Great Fen, Langford Press 2006,  Aig on Oir, Langford Press 2005, Drawing Birds, John Busby, Helm 2004,

Trees of the Forgotten Forest, The Wildlife Art Gallery 2004, Mature Forests, Lynx 2003,

Living Paintings, Quinta Do Lago 2002 and Drawn to the Forest, The Wildlife Art Gallery 2000.

 

Awards:

Swarovski / Birdwatch magazine Artist of the Year 2009

Swarovski / Birdwatch magazine Colour Artist of the Year 1999.

 

Fieldfares in Buckthorn II

Fieldfares in Buckthorn II

 

Wild Artists – are you one?

Wild Artist of the Month – WHY?

One of  our dreams is to inspire folk. That’s why we are delighted that some of our top bird and wildlife artists are willing to showcase their work. THEY want to inspire others! They hope to do that by telling some of their story. Invite you and me into their world. Talk about the ups and downs, being misunderstood, not feeling their work was good enough, finding breakthrough, believing enough (ignore what others think)… enough to have a go.

 We want to help folk drawing out their amazing creative potential. It ain’t just about drawing…

So before our new artist appears at the weekend- click on the pink names and have read (again)

 

James McCallum – Wild Artist of the Month   February

 

Sketching with his daughter, Nola, in Blakeney Harbour. July 2014

Sketching with his daughter, Nola, in Blakeney Harbour. July 2014

 

Ian Lewington – Wild Artist of the Month   January

Ian Lewington driving a team of huskies in the Taiga Forest, Arctic Norway, March 2013

Ian Lewington driving a team of huskies in the Taiga Forest, Arctic Norway, March 2013

 

Dark-bellied Brent Geese alarmed and ready for takeoff. This flock included a single Pale-bellied Brent and a Black Brant. Painted in my home town of Wells-next-the-Sea. 10th January 2011

James McCallum

Wild Artist, February 2014

 

Important! Take time on this 2nd in the series from Norfolk based artist James McCallum. James’ narrative has inspired me, hope it does the same for you!  Or maybe you know a budding artist in need of encouragement. Pass it on. Make sure you Click on the Images below the Firecrests to see them in very pleasing larger format.

Sketching with his daughter, Nola, in Blakeney Harbour. July 2014

Sketching with his daughter, Nola, in Blakeney Harbour. July 2013

Firecrests feeding their young high up in a breezy Corsican Pine. By sitting on a slope and using a telescope it was possible to watch this pair rear their second brood. 21st July 2009

Firecrests feeding their young high up in a breezy Corsican Pine. By sitting on a slope and using a telescope it was possible to watch this pair rear their second brood. 21st July 2009

 

“I would love to begin this by writing: “I’ve been drawing birds for as long as I can remember” but…

…as is often the case in life, things are seldom so straightforward. Birds have been a passion since my early teens but, aside from a few laboured drawings for the logbook, my interest in art came later. I did enjoy art at school but if I’m honest I chose it because it was an easier option than other subjects and, remarkably, we were allowed to go into the town unsupervised to sketch. I left school with absolutely no direction and was shepherded on to A levels at a nearby sixth form. My heart wasn’t in it and I soon got side-tracked and was shown the door. That looked to be the end of my education but fortunately art college took pity on me.

Barnacle Geese painted during a holiday on Islay. 27th January 2004

Barnacle Geese painted during a holiday on Islay. 27th January 2004

 

Dark-bellied Brent Geese alarmed and ready for takeoff. This flock included a single Pale-bellied Brent and a Black Brant. Painted in my home town of Wells-next-the-Sea. 10th January 2011

Dark-bellied Brent Geese alarmed and ready for takeoff. This flock included a single Pale-bellied Brent and a Black Brant. Painted in my home town of Wells-next-the-Sea. 10th January 2011

To my surprise, art college was completely different from school and I really enjoyed it; suddenly I had direction and drive. I focused on fine art but strangely seldom combined it with my passion for birds. It was only later when studying for a fine art degree at Falmouth that the two interests came together and with a fellow student, John Walters, I began drawing wildlife in the field. This went down like a lead balloon with the fine art tutors who considered that wildlife as subject matter was more suited to illustration.

Pinkfeet dropping on to fields after the sugar beet has been harvested. Wells, New Year’s Eve 2007

Pinkfeet dropping on to fields after the sugar beet has been harvested. Wells, New Year’s Eve 2007

It was too late for me. I was hooked on drawing and painting in the field so swapped disciplines and transferred to a wildlife illustration course. That, however, was a bit of a blunder on my part as there was a very strong emphasis on graphics and layout, which I found dull and totally uninspiring. I went on to study for a masters in natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art and, at last, found some middle ground that allowed me to focus on my fieldwork.

I’m attracted to work that has been completed outdoors directly from the living subject and this is how I choose to work. Direct contact with nature always throws up surprises and interesting situations and being subjected to this allows greater insight into nature and can result in original observation and compositions. The light and weather conditions change frequently, sometimes quickly and dramatically, so adapting to these changes adds further challenges.

Pinkfeet painted from the comfort of my van during heavy snowfall. Burnham Market, 22nd November 2008

Pinkfeet painted from the comfort of my van during heavy snowfall. Burnham Market, 22nd November 2008

While I was studying at the RCA I used to spend the summers at home in Norfolk, working as a warden on Blakeney Point, looking after nesting terns and waders. We lived on site and when off duty much of my spare time was spent drawing and painting the birds. The wardening contract and term times overlapped slightly but the college was really flexible and allowed me to follow the entire breeding season from arrival and displaying through to hatching and fledging. The more time spent watching and drawing the more behaviour I witnessed and recorded. I became completely engrossed in sketching the wonderful display sequences and the fascinating behaviour.

Treecreepers nesting in a hole in a pine. The parents feeding young and removing a faecal sac. Late May 2010

Treecreepers nesting in a hole in a pine. The parents feeding young and removing a faecal sac. Late May 2010

 

A wonderful moment watching the young Treecreepers fledge and, later, one being fed by a parent. 27th May 2010

A wonderful moment watching the young Treecreepers fledge and, later, one being fed by a parent. 27th May 2010

These involved studies of bird and animal behaviour have become one of the main elements of my work. To fully understand, record and paint entire behavioural sequences requires endless hours in the field simply observing. As a result I have perhaps spent less time trying to develop my painting techniques but the sacrifice is more than worthwhile for the sense of fulfilment in unravelling the meaning of initially bewildering behaviour then recording the entire sequence in paint.

One thing that surprised me at art school was, with the exception of my art foundation course, how little traditional drawing and painting is taught at art school. These skills are often self-taught and I found a significant source of learning and inspiration came from interaction with other students. I agree with Ian Lewington that drawing and painting are skills that you don’t have to be born with but can be learnt. Enthusiasm and hard work are the essential requirements and in my mind these qualities are as important if not more important than both formal training and natural talent.

To begin learning about a species I spend long periods simply drawing it rapidly from lots of angles. Living creatures are constantly moving so my sketchbooks are often full of lines and fragments of unfinished drawings – once something has moved it is pointless trying to finish a sketch as you will be making up the rest and learning nothing.

Repeated observation frequently gives clues as to the meaning of displays but in species like the Dunnock some of the behaviour is bewildering! Wells-Next-The-Sea 15th March 2007

Repeated observation frequently gives clues as to the meaning of displays but in species like the Dunnock some of the behaviour is bewildering! Wells-Next-The-Sea 15th March 2007

Piece by piece those important lines that capture the essence of jizz and expression become clear. It is only when comfortable with this first step that I find it possible to progress to painting, it can be a frustratingly time-consuming process but there is a positive – the more time spent watching, the more behaviour is witnessed.   For those just starting off drawing and painting it often comes as a surprise and definitely a comfort to find out that many established artists continually find drawing and painting a challenge and many efforts end up being fit only for lighting the fire – there’s always smoke coming from my chimney.

The traditional pencil and watercolour are my chosen materials but I have a great respect of all mediums from the woodcuts of Robert Hainard, linocuts of Robert Gillmor to the large-scale oils of Bruno Liljefors. For capturing movement and light, watercolour is a wonderful medium and I have much admiration for the skill of watercolourists such of Lars Johnson and Darren Woodhead. My great love, however, is the use of line and from the first time I saw the work of Eric Ennion and John Busby I was captivated.

The use of a simple line and a few washes of colour may at first glance appear simplistic but capturing the essence of a living creature with the minimal use of marks requires great skill and understanding. The small studies and drawings in ‘The Living Birds of Eric Ennion’ – were a revelation to me and I think that many of these tiny studies capturing moments of light, movement and character are amongst the beautiful images of birds ever made. I’m fortunate to have a few Busby seabird drawings at home and the sense of movement in those masterful compositions is quite incredible. There is something magical about his sensitive use of line that continually draws the eye around the picture.

One summer we had the privilege of having a pair of Montagu’s Harriers nesting in a field by the house. They fledged four young and the young could be regularly watched exercising their wings and play fighting. 31st July 2010

One summer we had the privilege of having a pair of Montagu’s Harriers nesting in a field by the house. They fledged four young and the young could be regularly watched exercising their wings and play fighting. 31st July 2010

My current preoccupation with behaviour takes up much of my spare time during the spring and summer and I really enjoy being lost in a strange world somewhere between art and science. Artists such David Measures and John Walters who use of drawing and painting as a tool for understanding the nature greatly interest me.  However I find as much inspiration in reading books by great observers and scientists like Desmond Nethersole-Thompson, Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz who are not only remarkable observers but skilled writers sharing their finds in very accessible, beautifully written accounts.

Bittern feeding young. I sketched this female feeding her four recently fledged young from the main path at Titchwell RSPB – it remains one of my all-time birdwatching highlights. 14th June 2011

Bittern feeding young. I sketched this female feeding her four recently fledged young from the main path at Titchwell RSPB – it remains one of my all-time birdwatching highlights. 14th June 2011

Working on Blakeney Point rekindled my teenage interest in migration and I especially love the autumn falls on the Norfolk coast. This kind of birdwatching, employing what Ian Wallace regards as age-old hunting instincts, I find very fulfilling but it can be all-consuming and is often not conducive to producing artwork. So during this season it can be a real battle to strike a balance between artwork, birdwatching and family life.

Wigeon painted on a still, bright and cold winter’s day. Stiffkey, 30th January 2011

Wigeon painted on a still, bright and cold winter’s day. Stiffkey, 30th January 2011

During ‘hunts’ for migrants I’ve occasionally been fortunate to encounter some rare and difficult-to-identify species that require careful observation and detailed note-taking. I’m continually staggered at the quality of artwork to be found in modern field guides. I occasionally draw dead birds as much to learn about their structure and mechanics as their plumage. After finishing a page of studies I’ll often look at the illustrations in the field guides just to see how artists like Killian Mullarney, Dan Zetterstrom, Lars Jonsson, Ian Lewington et al. have rendered the fine detail. You can’t fail to be impressed – not only is every feather tract well represented but they are presented in both a natural manner and in positions that allow direct comparison to similar species. The results are so far removed from what I try to achieve but increasingly I see parallels between levels of correctness that they have achieved in the field of identification and those I strive for in the field of behaviour.

Northern breeding waders in their winter quarters and a Willow Warbler feeding alongside a Grey Hornbill and Rock Hyrax -painted during a sketching trip to Namibia in November 1999.

Northern breeding waders in their winter quarters and a Willow Warbler feeding alongside a Grey Hornbill and Rock Hyrax -painted during a sketching trip to Namibia in November 1999.

Although content watching the wildlife of Norfolk, I have travelled to many other parts of the world to paint birds. The objective of many trips has not been to see a wealth of new species but to see familiar ‘British’ birds on other parts of their migration routes. Most cherished are entire summers spent in Northern Finland, Varanger and Siberia painting breeding waders and passerines and trips to Ghana and Namibia to paint migrant birds in their wintering quarters.

Common, Steller’s and King Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks during winter storms. Vadso harbour, Varanger, 23rd March 2001

Common, Steller’s and King Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks during winter storms. Vadso harbour, Varanger, 23rd March 2001

 Books by James McCallum:

A series of books featuring James McCallum’s paintings and observations have been published

The Long, Wild Shore – Bird & Seal Seasons on Blakeney Point

Wild Skeins and Winter Skies – Paintings & Observations of Pink-footed Geese

Arctic Flight – Adventures amongst Northern Birds

Larks and Leverets – Wildlife on Norfolk Farmland

North Norfolk Summer Sketchbook

Wild Goose Winter

North Norfolk Wildlife through the Seasons

Website     www.jamesmccallum.co.uk

Twitter       @jamesRMcCallum1

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Ian Lewington

Wild Artist, January 2014

One of the new features on the Birding Frontiers blog gives us the chance to showcase the wonderful variety of bird and wildlife art, and especially hear from the artists themselves. We beginwith Ian Lewington, who’s juvenile Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) is the Birding Frontiers symbol.

Ian Lewington

Ian Lewington driving a team of huskies in the Taiga Forest, Arctic Norway, March 2013

Ian Lewington driving a team of huskies in the Taiga Forest, Arctic Norway, March 2013

… has been watching and drawing birds for as long as he can remember. His fascination was kindled at the age of five when his father began taking him on nature walks in the Berkshire countryside close to his home. As he became more familiar with the species he saw, the diversity of birdlife, subtleties of plumage variation and the unending learning curve of birding captured his imagination. Encouraged by his elder brother Richard, an illustrator of entomological subjects, Ian set his sights on following in his brother’s footsteps.

Grey Phalarope. Svalbard, June 2004. Loved the perfectly still conditions (rare on Svalbard) and reflections on the water.

Grey Phalarope. Svalbard, June 2004. Loved the perfectly still conditions (rare on Svalbard) and reflections on the water.

“I hesitate to write this but . . .

 anyone can draw – and that includes you. There’s no gift, no talent, just a bit of an aptitude fed by hours of practice. That’s my theory anyway. Drawing is just like football, tennis, dancing, magic . . . . it’s a learned skill. If you do anything for long enough you will improve. I’m in the in the Matthew Syed school of achievement. Practice, hard work and will/obsession. I’m not a fan of innate ability. It excludes people too easily.

As a small boy my interest in natural history was kindled by my father and I was inspired to draw what I was passionate about by my much older brother (Richard) who by the time I’d reached eight years old was already illustrating entomological subjects professionally. I thought lots of people must do this job so at 14 I decided I would be a bird artist when I grew up. After ‘A levels’ my brother studied fine art and illustration at Maidenhead and Reading Art Colleges, however, during this crucial time when you would endeavour to hone, develop and perfect the techniques that would hopefully propel you into the world of field guide illustrating, his progress was somewhat stagnated by the time spent being ‘loosened up’. Anyway he turned out alright in the end but advised me not to go to college and stay at home and draw birds all day. This I did and have been doing so ever since. Thanks Rich.

If you think you can’t draw then I’m afraid you’re wrong. Please take time to have a go. Choose a subject matter that you’re passionate about. If it’s a bird, not only will you nurture an understanding of avian anatomy but the mere physical process of trying to reproduce what’s in front of you (regardless of what the finished product looks like) will make you a better observer through learning to see . . . . another acquired skill.

My wife illustrates this perfectly. Up until about three years ago she’d never entertained the thought of picking up a pencil but after a little encouragement from me (but no tuition) and a lot of practice drawing subjects that grabbed her imagination she has produced some really nice pieces and has sold more exhibited work in the last year than I have! So go on . . . have a go”

Ian Lewington, December 2013

Kentucky Warbler. High Island, Texas, April 2002. I really love the shapes created when certain species with 'masked face pattern' look directly at you.

Kentucky Warbler. High Island, Texas, April 2002. I really love the shapes created when certain species with ‘masked face pattern’ look directly at you.

Scops Owl. Cornwall, 9th April 1995. This is a field sketch of a vagrant half way down a cliff, which is why it looks ball-shaped. The bird's appearance was foreshortened as I was looking down from above it.  Due to the constant movement of birds, field sketches normally consist of a just a few lines. However the subject sat perfectly stationary for 2 hour only a more 'finished' and detailed drawing.

Scops Owl. Cornwall, 9th April 1995. This is a field sketch of a vagrant half way down a cliff, which is why it looks ball-shaped. The bird’s appearance was foreshortened as I was looking down from above it. Due to the constant movement of birds, field sketches normally consist of a just a few lines. However the subject sat perfectly stationary for 2 hour only a more ‘finished’ and detailed drawing.

 

Taiga Flycatcher from forthcoming 'Rare Birds of North America' by Princeton, with Steve Howell and Will Russell. I love'em- saw the male at Flamborough and seen lots in China.

Taiga Flycatcher from forthcoming ‘Rare Birds of North America’ by Princeton, with Steve Howell and Will Russell. I love’em- saw the male at Flamborough and seen lots in China.

 

Skylark. A little inkwash drawing for the Oxford Annual Bird Report in 1995

Skylark. A little inkwash drawing for the Oxford Annual Bird Report in 1995

Pied Wheatear. One of several I have seen on the Isles of Scilly in October (me and Debs have been  regular visitors there since 1984).

Pied Wheatear. One of several I have seen on the Isles of Scilly in October (me and Debs have been regular visitors there since 1984).

King Eider. Svalbard, June 2004. Ice and King Eiders just can't help but present themselves as an ultimate arctic image.

King Eider. Svalbard, June 2004. Ice and King Eiders just can’t help but present themselves as an ultimate arctic image.

 

Broad-billed Sandpiper from forthcoming 'Rare Birds of North America' by Princeton, with Steve Howell and Will Russell. I like anything with stripes and this is one of the stripiest shorebirds in the world (probably).

Broad-billed Sandpiper from forthcoming ‘Rare Birds of North America’ by Princeton, with Steve Howell and Will Russell. I like anything with stripes and this is one of the stripiest shorebirds in the world (probably).

Goshawk. I see this species annually. This was an experiment for me. It's my one and only ever oil painting and I really enjoyed the exercise. I hope to do more. Normally I only work with gouache.

Goshawk. I see this species annually. This was an experiment for me. It’s my one and only ever oil painting and I really enjoyed the exercise. I hope to do more. Normally I only work with gouache.

 

Ian’s main interests continue to be the identification and taxonomy of holarctic birds.

He enjoys foreign birding (when time allows) and has traveled widely throughout the Western Palearctic as well as to North America, South America, India, China, Antarctica and Spitsbergen in search of birds.

Published Work: Field Guides and Publications:
Rare Birds of Britain and Europe with authors Per Alstrom and Peter Colston (Collins 1991)
Auks of the World (OUP 1998)
Birds of the Western Palearctic
Handbook of the Birds of the World (Lynx Edicions)
Ian has also contributed to guides covering the birds of Southeast Asia, India, Madagascar, and Malaysia and produced plates for identification articles and papers describing species new to science for a variety of journals.  These include Birding World, British Birds, Dutch Birding, Limicola, Var Fagelvarld, Ibis, The Auk and the Wilson Bulletin.
Current work:
Ian is currently working on a new field guide to the Birds of North America. He has recently completed the Rare Birds of North America with authors Will Russell and Steve Howell for Princeton Press (due out March 2014).
Awards
British Birds Bird Illustrator of the Year 1985
Richard Richardson awards 1985
Other Activities
County Bird Recorder for Oxfordshire since 1994
Former Member of the British Ornithological Union Records Committee
Identification consultant to Birding World

Visit Ian Lewington’s website.