The final day
The final day of seabirds seemed to come so quickly. It had been a busy week of challenge and growth. However, Seabirds is not all about drawing, it’s also about community. This aspect is truly special. It was something I had longed for, yet I didn’t think was possible. I had visited an orchestra a few years ago and watched how they interacted with each other. I was so envious because as a musician they could practice and play individually or come together to perform something so beautiful. I thought that would never be possible for an artist to experience. But I was wrong!! Seabirds does just that.
To be part of a group of 20 artists in one location promotes such a strong sense of unity and togetherness and at the same time exposes weakness and vulnerabilities. This combination creates an incredibly powerful environment for learning and for developing community . It is not an easy place to be at times because what you thought you knew often seems to disappear to be left with overwhelming sense of incompetency. I think I best described my experience last year as feeling totally deskilled. Mentally this becomes a battle because feeling incompetent does not help to produce drawings of any kind. One can get so caught up in this that it pushes a person to the point of tears! I had my moment of this last year!!!! However as a community, there is such an atmosphere of encouragement and acceptance. There is a non-judgemental approach and acknowledgement of how unbelievably difficult field study is.
As for day 6 (I accidentally missed a day in my blog! Opps!) the group spilt again half going to an island called Fidra and the others to St.Abbs. Although I’d been to St.Abbs a lot over the week, I the decided the island trip was not for me as it was a very short visit of approximately 3 hours. I was very aware of my previous experience at Seacliff, were I ended up sleeping instead of painting. So I headed back to tackle the Gannets and Guillemots!
I brought out my stumpy brushes again and purposefully laid down marks that were suggestive. The struggle of placing an accurate mark that held energy and yet described what I saw was certainly a challenge. The words of the tutors rang through my mind, ‘do not let the subject dictate what you draw on the page’. This may seem like a strange phrase however it is a liberating statement to me. From as far back as I remember, I felt enslaved to the subject, if it was there I had to paint it. But that’s not a creative response to something as dynamic as a location like St. Abbs. Firstly it would be nearly impossible to produce a realist picture depicting the immense volume of birds and their continuous movement. But secondly and more importantly, that carefully executed snapshot of life on St.Abbs would in no way come close to capturing the essence of such vibrant community of birds, in fact I’d go as far to say it would be boring! After 24 years of professional art, I had finally realised I was the master of the subject and the page…..an exciting realisation!!! What could I produce?! What would it look like?! It is my response, my creation, my re-imagining! Twenty-four years on I now feel like I am an artist, I am now creating!!!!!
My final reflection on my Seabirds Drawing Course is something many would not expect me to say. CAMPING!!! For the first time in my 40 something life, I camped for 10 days. It was an incredible experience with such a strong sense of community. Initiated by Dan, another participant of the course, the camping crew of about 6/7 people had breakfast together every morning, with quite an spectacular menu choice…….eggs, bacon, mushrooms, beans, toast and other mornings, pancakes, a selection of fruit and coconut syrup!!!! Think he could have opened a camp restaurant!!! We walked together, got to support each other and built friendships that will last a lifetime!
Seabirds 2019, has been another life changing year! Last year it introduced me to field drawing and helped me back into my art after a 4 year sabbatical. This year, it liberated me to be the artist I always wanted to be as well as planting me in a growing community of artists. It has been a privilege and honour to be a participant this year. Thank you to the tutors, Darren Woodhead, Pascale Rentsch, Kitti Jones and Nik Pollard, and for the encouragement and fun of the entire team. Yet again, I say it’s a truly special course!