Sunday, November 05, 2023

Review: 60th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists

I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND this exhibition which is open daily 10am to 5pm and continues until Saturday 11th November. It opened last Thursday at the Mall Galleries  and continues until next Saturday and has events in the gallery next week  on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th November from sketches and linocuts to monprinting and wood carving.
The exhibition has over 430 works in the catalogue plus unframed project work from the Wadden Sea residency.

There are original prints, paintings, drawings, sculptures and animations on show including a hundred works by non members. The SWLA Bursary Scheme awarded 5 places on the John Busby Seabird Drawing Course and work from those artists will be on display. SWLA website
Medium and smaller works, together with smaller sculpture and drawings
tend to be located within the three smaller Galleries in the North Gallery.

You can view 
Below I'm going to comment on 
  • my overall impressions 
  • artwork I liked (to be added tomorrow - my other half wants his dinner!)
  • awards and prizes. 
  • and finally, new members and associates.

The Annual Exhibition is called The Natural Eye. This neatly encapsulates two important aspects of the exhibition:
  • firstly it's about very best of fine art inspired by the natural world
  • secondly, it's also about artwork which has been drawn, painted, printed or sculpted only after encounters with wildlife i.e. it's NEVER ever copied from another artist's photograph of a wild animal - and the members of the Selection Panel can definitely tell!
The latter reason is why you typically won't see a lot of endangered animals or big cats which are much photographed and omnipresent in other wildlife art exhibitions.

It's predominantly about wildlife art seen within the UK and Europe - with some relating to expeditions to other countries. The exhibition is also very popular with international artists and diversity of location of the wildlife is often related to it being local within the country where the artist lives. 

Overall Impressions

Part of the West Gallery during the Private View

One of the things which always strikes me, every single time I walk into 'The Natural Eye Exhibition' run annually by the Society of Wildlife Artists, is the sheer diversity of style and media in terms of the artworks selected for the show.

Style and Colour

  • It has a great deal of contemporary approaches to representational art (i.e. NOT hyperrealistic). This, I think, is linked in part to the fact that the SWLA very much encourages direct observation of wildlife and NOT copying from photographs. This is NOT an exhibition where an artwork looking like a photograph is seen as a compliment!
  • While there's a fair amount of realism, this is balanced out by a more gestural approach to artmaking.
  • Colour is accurate where realism is preferred - and palettes are pushed where the artwork is more stylised.

Types of Artwork

  • there's always a lot of very good sculpture - and this exhibition is not different. In part this is because the SWLA has a number of excellent sculptors as members - who make and create in diverse materials from scap metal to cobalt serpentine
Kodiak Brown Bear (Indomitable - head study)
by Nick Bibby SWLA
Bronze (edition of 9) 
I was rather glad I took the photo from this angle - where he looks a sweetie!
  • I always love looking at the fine art prints - and again the sheer diversity of approaches to making prints makes this an excellent show for anybody who loves printmaking (and they're having a number of events related to printmaking this coming week)


  • There's a lot of mixed media - mixing watercolour or gouache with pencils of various kinds seems to be a favourite
  • Probably the most prevalent painting media is oil - but this in turn is painted on a variety of supports in a range of sizes.
There is also a LOT of red dots and sales seem to be going really well. However, given the quality of the artwork that's hardly surprising!

Artwork I liked

I liked:
  • The Young Hare by Tianyin Wang ASWLA (see below) - This eas a really sensitive treatment of this animal and the shape and posture are perfect.
  • Puffins over Coquet Island by Paul Henery SWLA  (see below) - This jumped off the wall at me - because of the flight of puffins coming towards me. Plus the fact it shows puffins in flight as opposed to waddling around on rocks. So impressive! Plus great landscape painting too.
  • Harvest Mouse by Simon Turvey SWLA - A harvest mouse in typical travel mode from one stalk to the next - blending completely into the background. I really appreciate artists who go to the trouble of demonstrating both character and habitat of wildlife.
Oil on board, 20 x 15 cm (32 x 27 cm framed)
  • The collection of Drypoint Prints (see below) by Marco Brodde - a Danish
    Wildlifeartist and naturalist living and working  around the Wadden Sea area, in Denmark. The Wadden Sea project and the artwork by SWLA artists associated with it have been facilitated by Marco. A clear demonstration below of the benefit of making a collection of prints by one artist.

PS. I want to add more - but that will need to wait until later - Sunday dinner is calling!!

Awards and Prizes

You can see large images of the art which won the prizes in Society of Wildlife Artists 2023 | Award Winners. I'm just going to list the winners below.

Links in the title of the artwork are to its page on the Mall Galleries Website
  • The Birdwatch and Swarovski Optik Artist of the Year AwardWinter sun, Avocets by Richard Allen SWLA A prize of an ATS 80 HD spotting scope with 25-50x zoom eyepiece (with a value of £2,430), plus subscription to BirdGuides/Birdwatch
  • The BIRDscapes Gallery 'Conservation through Art' Award Jonathan Pomroy  £1,000 divided equally between the winning artist and a conservation organisation or project of their choice
  • This is part of the reason for his award studying his own colony, he has amassed a great deal of knowledge about the behaviour and biology of these birds. He has translated this knowledge and observations into: a sell-out book, a plethora of sketches, a multitude of studies and a body of beautiful and evocative paintings.
  • The Swarovski Optik New Artist Award:  Jose Antonio Sencianes Ortega £250 for the best non-member work in the show
  • Trymwood Studios Art Prize: Helen Kennedy An exciting opportunity of a solo exhibition at Trymwood Studios in 2024
  • The Michael Harding Oil Painting Prize: Barn Owl under a blue moon by Peter Partington SWLA, £500 of art materials
  • The Michael Harding Watercolour Painting Prize: Great Grey Shrike by Stephen Message. £500 of art materials
  • Art Safari Works on Paper Award: The Cleaver loomery by Christopher Wallbank SWLAValue: £250 A new prize to artists working on paper in any media, showing an artist’s engagement with wildlife and the environment. 
  • Mall Galleries / FBA Award: 3rd calf of the season by Roseanne Landon Ten free submissions to exhibitions by the Federation of British Artists at Mall Galleries (worth up to £200) for a non-member exhibitor
  • Dry Red Press Award: Puffins on the sea by John Hatton SWLA, The winning work reproduced as a greetings card
Also, at the British Trust for Ornithology evening, the SWLA President Harriet Mead was awarded the Dilys Breese Medal for 'outstanding communication of BTO activities' which was lovely. 

The British Trust for Onithology Gold Medal
awarded to Harriet Mead, President of the SWLA
for 'outstanding communication of BTO activities

New members and associates 

New members and associates are generally voted for by members at the annual exhibition. Typically, artists have to become Associates before they become members.

There was a big call while I was at the PV on Wednesday  for all members and associates to convene elsewhere - and this, I think, is when they vote!

Puffins over Coquet Island by Paul Henery SWLA
Oil on board
84 x 121 cm (86 x 123 cm framed)

The new full members are:
  • Paul Henery - very striking paintings in oil on board. He is a Wildlife, Landscape and Environmental Artist working from his studio at The Old Bathhouse in Northumberland. Was a member of the SWLA between 2002 – 2011 and after a gap he was elected an associate member once again in 2022 and a full member in 2023. He has won several prizes in the past
  • Liz Myhill - an award winning scottish landscape and wildlife artist whose work evokes her encounters with the natural world. She is a native of Skye and her observational works are gathered through working 'en plein air' directly from life. 
Carbon Pencil and Watercolour Drawings by Adele Pound ASWLA

New Associate Members are
  • Laura Andrew - oil paintings on linen, canvas and board - inspired by both flora and fauna of the natural world. Based in Lincolnshire, UK, she works both in the field and in her studio
  • Melanie Mascarenhasa UK based artist of Indian heritage and naturalist whose practice is informed by a love of direct, considered, observational fieldwork. 
  • Adele Pound - These are her collection of drawings in carbon pencil and watercolour. She studied fine art and painting at Winchester School of Art where she dismayed her tutors by insisting on painting wildlife. The inspiration for all her work now is the natural world and she insists on drawing wildlife - sometimes using a telescope or clipping magnifiers on to her glasses. She is based at Boom Studios in Bangor and has participated in a number of residencies and received a number of bursaries.
  • Tianyin Wang. UK based artist with a BA in Illustration from the Arts University in  Bournemouth. He specialises in charcoal and focuses on and produces greyscale drawings. He is inspired by nature and animals, wildlife and birds are regular subjects. He uses different types of charcoal to achieve his style.
As soon as I saw Tianyan Weng's drawing of a young hare, I hoped he had applied to be an Associate and got it. I felt positive. The price of his framed drawing of 'A Young Hare' is maybe pitched a tad high - however the giclee prints he's been selling through his shop since he posted it on his Instagram account have sold out!

Charcoal on paper
50 x 40 cm (60 x 50 cm framed)

REFERENCE: Society of Wildlife Artists

My blog posts include images of artwork in the annual exhibitions:

2016 - Review - Society of Wildlife Artists 53rd Annual Exhibition
2015 - Review: Society of Wildlife Artist's 52nd Annual Exhibition (2015)
2014 - Video: 2014 Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 - Review: 50th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 - If you want a lot of people at the Private View......
2013 - Society of Wildlife Artists - a new book and a bursary
2012 - Review: 49th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists
2011 - Review: Society of Wildlife Artists - Annual Exhibition
2009 - Society of Wildlife Artists - Annual Exhibition 2009
2008 - 45th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2007 - Society of Wildlife Artists at the new Mall Galleries

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