A selection of videos reflecting a broad range of styles and techniques. These give a glimpse of the creative process and are designed as much for the art appreciator as the practitioner. It may be that you will not find all the end results appealing, but we trust that you will enjoy these rare glimpses of artists in action which can give you a fresh appreciation of their skill and dedication and possibly set you off on your own new journey of discovery. See videos by these artists (items in red available now):
- John Busby (1928 – 2015) – painting and sketching in the field (3 min)
- Andrew Denman – creating an acrylic and gesso painting in his California studio. (14 min)
- Soraia Hasan and Basima Mohamed – tapestry weavers at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Centre in Cairo, Egypt
- Oliver Heywood (1920 – 1992) – a new film retracing the steps of one of Heywood’s last paintings (32 min)
- Gary Hodges – time lapse video showing the drawing of two young elephants in pencil. (3 min)
- Keith Jansz – painting on a beach in Cornwall. (1 min)
- Larry Norton – painting on location in southern Zimbabwe (11 minutes)
- John Pearce – painting out of doors in Normandy. (3 min)
- Bruce Pearson – sketching and painting out of doors in Norfolk. (3 min)
- Shelly Perkins – creating a digital collage inspired by a residency in Antarctica (5 min)
- Michael Porter – mixed media landscape painter working in both the field and in the studio. (21 min)
- Derek Robertson – painting skylarks in the field (7 mins)
- Chris Rose – time lapse video showing the development of a painting of a moorhen in bullrushes (1 min)
- Stephen Walton – time lapse video showing the development of a charcoal drawing. (5 min)
JOHN BUSBY (1928 – 2015). In 2015 Nature in Art had the pleasure of working with John on a special retrospective exhibition of his work, embracing not just his paintings and drawings of birds and animals, but his large oil paintings exploring patterns in nature, birds-eye views of the landscape and rocks studied through a microscope. Tragically between making all the arrangements and the start of the exhibition John died, so he was never able to see the final result that delighted our visitors. Continuing the long association between John and Nature in Art, we currently have a large oil painting (‘Crane Dance’ (2000)) by John on long term loan.
John taught at Edinburgh College of Art from 1956 – 1988 and in 1989 he began a seabird drawing course based at North Berwick which has continued each year since. He was a founding member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (1960), President of the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA) 1976-79, and was elected to the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW) and to the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA). He was involved with the Artists for Nature Foundation since its inception in 1991 and was elected Master Wildlife Artist in the USA (2009), one of the few British artists awarded the honour (others included Sir Peter Scott and Keith Shackleton).
Landscape, and particularly the abstract geometry of landscape, was always the main focus of his work, but meeting the renowned artist Eric Ennion (1900 – 1981) in the 1950s turned his bird watching hobby into what became a major part of his artistic output.
John worked in traditional media: watercolours, pastels on paper and oil on canvas. In the field he first used a sketchbook, adding watercolour if time and location allowed. He liked to stay with a subject watching all aspects of behaviour and interaction. In the studio he then developed the gathered material into the final works.
This brief video was made in 2020 to mark the 5th anniversary of his death. It features images of him out in the field sketching and finishes with a picture of him as a young man at the easel painting one of his larger canvases. Had he lived John would have been 93 in February 2021. His legacy lives on and is celebrated by many nature inspired artists who recognise him as an inspiring mentor and one of the most influential nature artists of the twentieth century.
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ANDREW DENMAN has a painting ‘Late Spring Lyric II’ in the permanent collection of Nature in Art and had a joint exhibition with Guy Combes in 2015. An American, Andrew received his training in California where he still lives and works.
He primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. Whether painting an animal in its natural habitat or juxtaposing it against an abstract background, Denman goes to great lengths to faithfully portray his subjects, taking frequent field trips to observe his subjects and acquire reference material. Yet while accuracy is always of great importance, Denman says he is an artist before he is a naturalist.
This video with subtitles follows the creation of one of his ‘pattern series’ paintings. Called ‘The Sneak’, it was inspired by one of his many visits to England. He uses a fascinating variety of techniques, including, in this case, sanding his painting with an electric sander when more than half way through.
SORAIA HASAAN and BASIMA MOHAMED are weavers at the world renowned Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Cairo. Examples of their tapestries are held in the permanent collection of Nature in Art, one acquired with the generous assistance of The Art Fund and MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. Over the years we have hosted two special exhibitions of work by Wissa Wassef weavers. Other museums with Wissa Wassef tapestries in their permanent collections include the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the British Museum, Victoria and Albert, Royal Museum of Scotland and Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.
The Centre is the life work of its founder, Ramses Wissa Wassef (1911-1974), who was dedicated to releasing the innate creativity of young Egyptian villagers freed from the constraints of a formal education. Trained as an architect (partly in Europe), he had a great enthusiasm for indigenous Egyptian forms and spontaneous expression which he lived out designing award-winning buildings using traditional methods and vernacular forms. The Centre itself was designed by him.
Ramses advocated moving away from the routine mass production of the modern world and returning to a more natural and expressive way of working. To test his theories, he established an after-school club where he taught the craft of high warp weaving. As soon as students had mastered the basic technique, he left them free to decide what images to produce. He insisted on only three rules: no sketches, no external aesthetic influences, and no critical interference from adults. Encouraged by the success of this experiment, in 1952 Ramses and his wife established the Wissa Wassef Art Centre. They then invited, with the consent of parents, any child to come to learn to weave and to develop their skills and individuality at their own pace. It quickly became clear that ‘no child is devoid of the most surprising gifts.’ In the almost 70 years since weaving began it also has become clear that this innate creativity can grow with the child into adulthood. Nine of the original group of children, many of them now grandparents, are still weaving at the Centre.
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OLIVER HEYWOOD (1920 – 1992) has a painting in our collection ‘Hornbill, Bushbuck and Colobus’ (oil on canvas, 1975), donated by the Heywood family. We also presented a one-man exhibition of his work in 1998.
Heywood showed an ability to observe, paint and design at a very young age. This was coupled with a life-long interest in wildlife, particularly birds, and a deep love of the great outdoors. Together, these passions fuelled a remarkable life of creativity. Heywood’s detailed drawings and sketches completed in the field were the bedrock of his work. The sketchbooks he left are a fascinating insight into his way of working and of looking, bursting with notes on both the finest details and the bigger picture. His output developed from skilfully painted representational watercolours in the 1940s and ‘50s, to abstract oils in the early ‘60s, through to the gradual fusion of both over many more years into what became his own distinct and instantly recognisable style, mainly in oil.
Heywood was a spiritual man, whose life was full of inspiration, colour and adventure, but also rooted in the practical and logical. The abstraction in his landscape paintings opened doors for the viewer to find different avenues and thoughts that complemented the image of a specific place. He delighted in people finding their own meanings in his paintings.
Living most of his life on Gloucestershire, he spent many days out in the woods and wilds of The Cotswolds, experiencing them in all the seasons. But he also searched out places that had different characters, and he and his wife Denise would regularly go to Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland in their converted delivery van. They also ventured further afield to Europe and made two trips to Africa, to Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. There they would camp out in the national parks in a hired van. Denise was a talented photographer and her pictures taken during these shared experiences, as well as being hugely valuable reference material for Oliver, were also exhibited in their own right.
It was at this time that Heywood was beginning to fuse his two previous styles, representational and abstract. The painting in our collection is an example of this. Everything is not handed to the viewer on a plate, there is room for the viewer to go on their own journey of discovery and to use their own imagination. (The trips to Africa culminated in an exhibition at the Watutu Gallery in Nairobi, in 1974, Heywood’s only one-man show out of Britain.)
From the 1970’s Heywood sold almost all his work through his own bi-annual exhibitions held at his home, big-hearted events where the atmosphere was far from that of most commercial galleries. Then, in 1992, although he had suffered from angina for nine years, he had a heart attack whilst circle dancing with Denise and friends and was gone instantly. The commemorative service, on what would have been his 72nd birthday, was held in a packed Nailsworth Church, with his mural on the west wall. Like his many paintings and artistic legacy, it was an occasion that was a vibrant celebration of a fulfilled life.
This film by Pip Heywood, Oliver and Denise’s youngest son, is a beautiful account of Heywood’s artist life. It is a personal journey retracing the steps of one of Heywood’s last paintings that he had not had time to sign, depicting a view in North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
GARY HODGES has a drawing in the permanent collection of Nature in Art – ‘Vanishing’ (Scimitar horned Oryx). He has taken part in a number of exhibitions (including one major retrospective and one other solo exhibition) and is a regular artist in residence. Gary is self-taught as an artist. He has his own instantly recognisable style and has been described as having ‘an intoxicating mix of sensitivity and alertness to the spirit of the subject and mastery of the medium’.
Gary Hodges is the UK’s best selling pencil artist. His many accolades include the ‘Oscars’ of the UK published art world, the ‘Best Selling Artist of the Year’ and ‘Best Selling Images by a Living Artist’ (two years in succession) from the Fine Art Trade Guild. Other winners of these awards include Jack Vettriano, Beryl Cook and David Shepherd. He also won the WWF Fine Art Award on two occasions. In 1990 he was awarded membership of the highly respected Society of Wildlife Artists. He served eight years on their council. Since 2008 he has also been a judge on the selection panel for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s ‘Wildlife Artist of the Year’ competition.
In 2010 Nature in Art hosted a major retrospective of his work. A limited edition book “Drawn to the Soul” was published to coincide with this landmark event (now sold out). In April 2016 his major central London charity show ‘Heart & Soul – the Exhibition’ raised £160,000 for elephants and other wildlife. Through his wildlife art over a million pounds has been given back to protect the wildlife he feels so passionate about. This passion has been boosted by his many expeditions across the world to witness wildlife in the wild, to collect reference and to take his own photographs for his work. It is little surprise then that his drawings are invariably infused with personal experiences of the subjects he is depicting.
This time lapse video follows the progress of a drawing called ‘Joy’, depicting two orphaned elephants ‘running free’, as Gary puts it, in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. (No commentary)
KEITH JANSZ has been both an artist in residence on several occasions and has exhibited at Nature in Art. He started painting for the first time since junior school after having run the London Marathon for Barnardo’s in 1995. Just two months later he suffered a broken neck in a tragic car accident, resulting in complete paralysis from the shoulders down.
After six months in the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Keith returned home to begin the painful process of adjusting to his new situation. Unable to do anything for himself he naturally experienced the depths of despair. But in December 1996 Keith read a collection of biographies of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists and was inspired by reading their triumphs and successes. One, Trevor Wells (who also was artist in residence on several occasions), persuaded Keith to try painting by holding a brush in his mouth. By 2000 Keith was promoted to a full Member Artist within the Association. He says ‘painting was my salvation, and now is my purpose in life’.
Since then Keith has exhibited in museums around the world including Lisbon, Madrid, Copenhagen, Shanghai and Atlanta. He enjoys exploring the sensations of light in his paintings, from the sparkling reflective sunlight at the beach to the unique atmospheric light in Venice, and the long shadows of winter light on snow. Nature is a driving inspiration for Keith who revels in the challenge of painting ‘en plein air‘ to capture the most authentic effect, later completing his paintings in the studio.
This brief video shows him painting on a beach in Cornwall. (No commentary)
LARRY NORTON has had an association with Nature in Art for 30 years. Born in 1963 in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, Larry is firmly established as one of Africa’s best known wildlife artists. He grew up on a farm in the north east of the country where he began drawing as a boy. He continued his passion for painting whilst studying for an agricultural degree in Australia and eventually began his career as a professional artist in 1988.
In 1989 he received the Catasus Medal (the Society of Animal Artists’ most prestigious award). Soon after he worked with artist Simon Combes (1940 – 2004) whose studio was close to Nature in Art. It was then that our association with Larry began. Since then he has been awarded many other accolades, has illustrated numerous publications on Africa and its wildlife and has exhibited worldwide, particularly the USA, UK and South Africa. His own gallery is at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
His adventures have included a year-long expedition with bush pilot Tom Claytor crossing eighteen countries in North, West and Central Africa and participating in a three-month expedition for National Geographic Television filming life on the Zambezi, from its source to the sea. All his work is based on extensive field trips, where, as is the case with this video, he can often be found painting large canvases in situ, in what he describes as his ‘studio’. As this film shows, some of the conditions can be a challenge, but the rewards are great, for him personally and for the integrity of the work.
Filmed by Bad Rabbit Studio, this video accompanies Larry to the far south of Zimbabwe, to its second largest National Park – Gonarezhou, which plays host to a globally significant population of African elephant, currently numbering close to 11,000 animals. He places his easel on a windswept bank opposite the spectacular Chilojo Cliffs towering 180 metres high and running for some 20 kilometres along the south bank of the Runde River and then starts work ….
JOHN PEARCE has a painting on long term loan to the collection entitled ‘Overgrown Rockery‘ (St Saviour’s Church, Muswell Hill in the background). It is typical of his work, depicting a favourite subject – untended or semi-wild urban gardens –which he describes as ‘small, fenced-off, owned areas of the planet, offering a unique sense of closeness to nature and at the same time, a remoteness from the world, affecting how we see ourselves and behave in relation to the Earth’. John has exhibited in France and the UK including at Tate Modern and Geffrye Museum.
Since leaving Hornsey Art College in the 1960’s, where his paintings and stained glass were often in a symbolist style, he has painted from direct observation. Though living in London, he was always drawn to natural settings – wild urban gardens, as well as countryside – and found the time he spent on each painting becoming increasingly prolonged. Many of his plein-air paintings have come to be called ‘plantscapes’ rather than ‘landscapes’, as they are close-ups of natural plant communities, usually in the margins of cultivation and wilderness. Contrary to what some people seem to think, his paintings aren’t photographic. They are observational drawings made directly in paint, usually dispensing with preliminary drawings in other media, and painted continuously over periods of several months – though, he says, always taking a break on Saturdays!
This video shows John at work in Normandy. As usual he is striving to paint a ‘community of wild plants’, starting with the most distant features and gradually working towards the foreground, painting overlaid lattices of vegetation. This, he says, ‘traces a journey through time as well as space, and often means that signs of seasonal change co-exist in the same picture’.
BRUCE PEARSON has an oil painting ‘Otters in Kelp’ in the permanent collection of Nature in Art. He describes himself as ‘an artist in the natural world’ and has participated in international art events and exhibitions in USA, France, Holland, Spain, Poland, Ecuador and Peru, as well as in the UK where he lives and works.
Early on he worked largely as a freelance illustrator on a wide range of natural history books, magazines and journals, as well as writing. Whilst painting and printmaking, early projects also involved filming including in Antarctica as a director-cameraman on a wildlife documentary film ‘The Private Life of the Fur Seal’, shown on BBC1 television, and being commissioned by Channel 4 Television to write and present the six part ‘Birdscape’ series.
Bruce’s studio is filled with a huge number of drawings, paintings, notebooks, and sketches reflecting visits over many years to the Arctic and Antarctica, Africa, many countries and regions of Europe, the Caribbean, and North and South America as well as favourite haunts closer to home. All Bruce’s studio work is based on his studies and experiences in the field. In recent years the obsessive urge to head off into the field at every opportunity has transferred itself into an equally strong desire to work in the studio, searching instead through the accumulated volumes of creative debris for fresh starting points.
This short time lapse video accompanies Bruce on a field trip sketching and painting in a windy North Norfolk. (No commentary)
SHELLY PERKINS has been a regular artist in residence and exhibitor at Nature in Art and has an item, Peony and Bees, in our permanent collection. Her work, primarily inspired by the natural world and travel, is created in a highly unusual way combining a variety of techniques both traditional and contemporary. Some of her work is quite small, others, like the one in this video, much larger, in this case 1.2m across. Her approach is a reminder how artistic endeavour is, and always has been, evolving and developing.
In 2017 Shelly was chosen as the Scott Polar Research Institute’s Antarctic artist in residence. Since then she has often drawn on the inspiration and reference material the experience provided.
But whatever the subject matter, she always starts working by hand with strong, fluid line drawings, painted textures, water colour washes and found textiles. She then brings them together digitally, layering up all of the hand rendered elements with the line drawings on top and the colour, textures and washes at varying levels of opacity underneath. Some pictures are made up of over 150 layers. Her finished illustrations are stored as detailed digital files which are then printed using the Giclee technique (a form of archival quality digital printing), usually in a short run of limited editions of just 50. Importantly, the prints are not a copy or scan of an original piece but an original output for the work in their own right.
As well as creating images for her own pleasure, Shelly produces illustrations for the likes of BBC Wildlife Magazine, The National Trust, The RSPB, WWF and The Radio Times.
This video gives a glimpse into the creation of ‘Ice Patrol’, a large image inspired by her trip to Antarctica. It combines traditional art techniques and vision with digital tools.
MICHAEL PORTER has two large paintings, ‘Road to Issel’ and ‘Shining Cliffs and Falling Leaves’ in the permanent collection of Nature in Art, acquired with the generous assistance of The Art Fund and MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. Nature in Art also hosted a one man exhibition by him in 2011.
Michael’s training included undergraduate and post-graduate studies at Chelsea School of Art finishing as Fellow in Fine Art at Gloucestershire College of Art in 1973. From 1974 he worked in the same studio in Hackney, East London until his move to Cornwall in 1997 during which he lectured in most major Art Schools in London and the provinces as well as several throughout Europe.
For the past 20 years he has worked exclusively from the landscape, always using locations that he has been familiar with over long periods of time as the paintings incorporate both time past and time present. Art writer and essayist Clive Phillpot says that Michael ‘respects the native tradition of landscape painting whilst reinventing it by means of his innovatory techniques and personal vision……his prolific technical experiments have been harnessed to a radical form of realism resulting in works that are equivalent to natural phenomena and which take the viewer into metaphysical realms.’
This video, ‘Coast and Country’, by Bob Scholes gives a truly fascinating glimpse of Michael at work, from gathering inspiration and reference in the field to bringing those experiences back to life in his studio.
DEREK ROBERTSON has work in the permanent collection of Nature in Art (featured in this video) and has been both artist in residence and exhibitor at Nature in Art.
Born and raised in Fife, Derek Robertson works from his studio in Balmerino, Scotland. Graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee in 1989, his paintings, prints and publications are held in private collections in more than 40 countries. Public collections include Nature in Art, The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum (USA), several British Universities and the collections of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, The Tate Galleries and The Scotland Office in London. Derek is a signature member of the elite Society of Animal Artists (USA), an elected member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour , the Society of Scottish Artists and the International Watercolor Society. He has received multiple awards for his work.
Derek’s first book, ‘Highland Sketchbook’ was nominated for the McVities Prize. His latest book, entitled “A Studio Under The Sky” has received critical acclaim from around the world. He has written and presented a number of TV programmes including a four part series, “Drawn From Wild Places” which was nominated for a Scottish Bafta and an award at the Cannes Film Festival. As well as having a fascination for wildlife as an artist, Derek contributes to scientific research work as an enthusiastic amateur naturalist, researcher and bird-bander. He has developed a number of research and survey techniques that have been adopted by professional organizations.
This video tells the story of a painting of skylarks by Derek Robertson that is in our collection and sees him drawing skylarks in the field. The painting was produced as part of his innovative and ground breaking project which he called ‘Migrations’. It ties together human rights issues of the refugee crises and climate change through the imagery of migratory birds and their role as environmental indicators. Derek travelled and sketched through the UK, Europe and the Middle East drawing together imagery of birds and people as they negotiated borders, refugee camps and points of transit. The project resulted in a highly acclaimed collection of pictures bringing together ones completed in the field, like this one, and large studio pictures informed by his experiences. Find out more here. They were displayed at Nature in Art in 2019.
CHRIS ROSE has been both a multiple-time artist in residence and an exhibitor at Nature in Art.
He is best known for his paintings of birds which have resulted in him collecting many accolades including Bird Illustrator of the Year and European Bird Artist of the Year. Although he delights in the subjects themselves, as his pictures show, he is ‘inspired by the light, colours, textures and patterns which are found in nature, even in the most ordinary and often overlooked corners of the landscape.’ Working mainly in oils and acrylics his depictions of wildlife are usually inspired by the colours and patterns found in natural landscapes and his realistic paintings are often underpinned by abstract shapes.
Born in Uganda in 1959, where he lived until the age of six, his life-long fascination in the natural world, coupled with a passion for drawing and painting from an early age, underpin his work to this day. Soon after graduating with a biology degree, Chris began his artist life. Since then his work has been enthusiastically collected and exhibited internationally. Elected as a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists in 1984, he has served on their Council and as a governor of the Federation of British Artists.
His journeys to paint and study his subjects and their environments have taken him to the Antarctic, Poland, Spain, Peru and Ecuador amongst other places, some as an invited artist with the Artists for Nature Foundation. He was even filmed for BBC TV’s Countryfile drawing underwater whilst scuba-diving. He also has contributed illustrations to many publications and illustrated several bird books. A book of his paintings, In a Natural Light (Langford Press 2005) was chosen as the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Natural History Book of the Year’.
This short time lapse video witnesses the creation of a painting of a moorhen amongst the bullrushes.
STEPHEN WALTON is a regular artist in residence at Nature in Art. He also runs courses. His pictures are in charcoal and charcoal pencil, not, as some might assume, graphite pencil. He is interested in different compositions. This is called ‘Dusty Dozen‘.
This is a time lapse video that follows the creation of one of his drawings, ‘King’, designed specifically for the cover of ‘Counting Lions’ by Katie Cotton with a foreword by Virginia McKenna. Stephen produced all the illustrations in the book. (Published in 2015 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (UK) and Candlewick Press (US and Canada)).
There is no commentary – just enjoy the subject come to life before your eyes.