Sunday, October 27, 2013

Society of Wildlife Artists - a new book and a bursary

The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) is celebrating the occasion of its 50th Annual Exhibition with a new book called 'The Natural Eye' - which is also the name used for its exhibition each year at the Mall Galleries.

NEW book by the SWLA - Images by members of the Society of Wildlife Artists

The Private View on Wednesday for this year's exhibition at the Mall Galleries will be opened by Sir David Attenborough - the naturalist and broadcaster. I'm expecting a packed house!

It also sees the launch of the new book - which interestingly has a subtitle 'Art Book One' which rather suggests there might be another one in the offing at some point!  I was sent a copy to review - which you can see below.

Review: The Natural Eye - Art Book One

The book celebrates the "contemporary art inspired by nature" produced by members of the society - and which we see every year at the annual exhibition. I've included links to past exhibitions at the end of this post and if you take a look at them you'll see I'm consistently complementary about the quality of the art in each exhibition

The 120 pages showcase the tremendous diversity of work - drawings, paintings, fine art prints and sculpture - produced by 52 of 67 members and 5 of the 6 associate members. It includes artwork from members who live in the UK, Europe and North America.  It has very good production values with excellent reproduction of the artwork.

Every double page spread of an artist's work includes both images of their work and a commentary on the artwork and/or his or her approach to making wildlife art.  It's one step up from the normal sort of art society exhibition catalogue which shows you just the images.  With this book you get an insight into each and every artist and how they like to make art.  You also get some idea of the incredible amount of travelling wildlife artists undertake to capture the information they need from their subjects.

This book demonstrates very clearly that this is an art society which places a lot of emphasis on observation. Most artists spend a considerable amount of time on observation of their subject matter 'in the field' (or the sea or the sky!) and the collection of information for making art before they get to the studio. This to my mind is what marks out the type of artist who gains admission to this society.  These are artists who are very committed to understanding the behaviour and the habitat of animals, birds and fish they portray in their work as well as getting the features right. Photos show the members in the field - in their waterproofs and with their binoculars - drawing and painting in sketchbooks. Some are also painting finished works on full sheets of paper!

It's a lovely book for any lover of wildlife art to own.  The artwork is stunning and demonstrates very clearly how diverse wildlife art can be.

For any aspiring wildlife artist, you can learn an awful lot about the sort of standards set by those who achieve membership of the society and those who work as wildlife artists on a professional basis.

The book is available from the bookshop at the Mall Galleries but can also be ordered online from the SWLA.


This Society is also one which supports a number of bursaries which help to nurture new talent and develops skills for artists of all ages by supporting individual projects or by helping with education, travel or creative development.  The proceeds from this book will help to create funds to support the bursary scheme.

Awards of up to £750 each are open to any artist (16 and over) to enable them to develop their skills through mounting a special project, putting forward a proposal for an expedition or help with education.
You do NOT have to be a member to benefit from a bursary - although a number who have received artists have gone on to become members of the Society. There is also no upper age limit for people wanting to apply for a bursary.
What we do want is to help artists who create work inspired by the natural world that shows an understanding and delight in the subject. We are not really looking for portraits of wildlife, we want expressive and exciting responses to wildlife that shows an inquiring mind, skill and creativity. Harriet Mead, President of the SWLA
Click the links above and below to read more about the bursaries on offer and what people have done with them in the past:
You're too late to apply for the next set of bursaries - but click this link to read an application form

‘Bull o’the Bog’ features on the cover of the catalogue
Linocut by Robert Gillmor - President of the SWLA 1984-1994
The main aim of the SWLA is to generate appreciation and delight in the natural world through all forms of fine art inspired by the world’s wildlife.  It succeeds every year - and then some!
The UK national art society which sells the most works in an exhibition - in a numerical sense - is the 
Society of Wildlife Artists. That probably won't come as a surprise to anybody who regularly attends the SWA Exhibitions - or indeed wildlife art exhibitions elsewhere.  Wildlife art has an absolutely huge fan base - which peaks with the birders.Which art society exhibition sells the most works of art?
This year's exhibition has over 300 works by members and non-members on show. It includes work by members who were in at the beginning 50 years ago. Four of the founding members are still regular exhibitors and past President Robert Gillmor, who was integral in setting up the Society, has his ‘Bull o’the Bog’ featuring on the cover of the catalogue. John Busby - who's regarded as a 'legend' by most bird artists was also there from the start and has work in this 50th anniversary show.

The ‘Out of the Frame’ room demonstrates how artwork is made. This is a regular feature of this exhibition. The room shows fieldwork from selected projects by member artists whi this year are:
The exhibition opens on Thursday to the public and is open every day until it closes at midday on 7th November. I enjoy it every year and highly recommend it.  I'm sure it will enjoy very good sales as always.

Links to reviews of previous exhibitions

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