We started the day with a visit to John Busby’s studio. John passed away 3 years ago and his studio has been left the same way as when he last used it. The studio is set in a beautiful Scottish estate with 16th century homes and outbuildings. It is certainly an environment that would inspire any artist!
We entered into an old stable block, stalls laden with cobwebs and a collection of bits and bobs obviously collected over many years. We respectfully climbed the old wooden open tread stairs leading to the studio. I was aware of how many times John must have journeyed to this place over his lifetime. It felt such a privilege to be there.
On the door of the studio, read the sign, ‘close the door, swallows!’ It seemed only appropriate that a wildlife artist would share his building with a family of swallows. We entered into an airy space, drawers filled with drawings, watercolours and sketchbooks. A painting sat on the easel and paint on his palette from the last time he lifted his brush. It almost felt we were somehow imposing into the secret place of this old artist. However from all accounts, this man would have welcomed us in with open arms and shared his knowledge with all.
It is very much evident through the John Busby Seabird Drawing Course that this man loved painting, loved nature but also loved encouraging others. I felt honoured to have gained an insight into the work of this great artist.
Following our visit there, the group spilt, some going to Dunbar to tackle the Kittiwakes and the group I was with to a new location called Seacliff. Seacliff, is a golden beach with jagged rocky outcrops, cliffs and multiple rock pools. It is a stunning location overshadowed by Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock. We had great views of flying Gannets and Fulmars.
Unfortunately this day was not very productive for me. I found it difficult to settle and get focus. I did one sketch of nesting Fulmars, then gave up. I retired to the shore to enjoy the scenery before drifting over to sleep!!!
That evening I presented my one and only picture. I received some good comments and I was frustrated that I didn’t push through my poor mental attitude! However that evening I discussed my struggles with tutors, Nik and Darren about how disconnected I felt my drawing and painting were. They said some interesting things which made me think.
For nearly 30 years I have worked with oil paint. I developed a way of working which allowed me to produce well executed paintings. They were fine and detailed. My sketching however was not so well established and it seemed to have an energy and freshness that my painting did not. It was said to me, ‘when you draw, you draw but when you paint, you paint. You need to learn to draw with your paint!’ In that moment I realised that was the answer to my quest. Oil paint for me was like a stale marriage. There was no excitement, no energy, no surprises. I needed to re-establish my relationship with paint and find a spontaneity in my response to my subject and most of all through my paint.
Despite the low number of pieces produced the day had become a day of revelation and I had gained my eureka moment. Another step and challenge for Day 4!