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CÒIG SGIATHAN | FIVE WINGS // with Derek Robertson – Isle Ornsay

Artist Derek Robertson describing his passion for wildlife research and painting

25 WALKS ON THE ISLE OF SKYE & LOCHALSH

Wednesday 20 September – Isle Ornsay to Cruaird through Camus Cross

We met at Isle Ornsay in Sleat and gathered together for introductions under a sky of lifting clouds that had only just ceased to rain. Our walk was an easy stroll along narrow, single track roads that led from the hotel across the isthmus of Eilean Iarmain – the island of flooding. This time of year is busy with migrating birds heading south and I talked a little about my interest in wildlife as subject matter in my paintings and how I gather field studies and sketches to inform my compositions back in the studio.

Our stroll through the crofts and shore at Camus Cross was an opportunity to share stories about gardens, birds and plants. We browsed on brambles by the roadside and occasionally stopped to chat about some of the subjects of my paintings. I read a few passages from my books describing the portrayal of plants and insects and the seasonality of wildflower meadows, the birds that survive the winter on rowan berries that were now ripening on the trees around us and about the pine martens that have recently colonised Skye by crossing the bridge.

Derek reads from one of his books

I also talked about my interest in wildlife research – how I take part in research projects, especially wild bird research, as an enthusiastic amateur naturalist and have written and published scientific papers and collaborated in these with scientists from around the world. My work with migrating birds has taken me on research expeditions following our birds from the Arctic to Africa through locations across Europe and the Mediterranean.

Starlings gathered on electricity wires

At the shore, we stopped to watch curlew, heron, mergansers and oystercatchers and I described how I tracked and watched otter- how to work out where they might be hunting and when best to look for them. Everybody on the walk seemed to have a tale to tell about otters they have seen or failed to see -otters that have been unbelievably tame or craftily elusive. As we walked further we found a flock of starlings singing and a field full of meadow pipits on migration and we discussed how birds are so important to ecologists as environmental indicators.

At the next corner, we explored the abandoned hulk of a wooden lifeboat…

On the shore we stopped to examine an abandoned boat/

…and I took out my sketchbook and demonstrated how to sketch birds by drawing some of the greylag geese that were resting in the bay.

 

At the end of Cruard township we turned and retraced our steps and I spoke about how I develop my studies of wildlife and landscape into a set of works that I describe as “Poetic Narratives” which layer imagery, observations and reflections. These have often been the result of collaborations with scientists or other creative practitioners.

Derek I spoke about how he develops his studies of wildlife and landscape into a set of works that I describe as "Poetic Narratives" which layer imagery, observations and reflections

Our well-timed return to the gallery avoided the sudden return of poor weather and I was able to show everyone my recent paintings and leaf through work from my latest project. This has been a year-long, self-directed project using imagery of birds as a metaphor for refugees and has taken me on research trips around Scotland, to The Jungle refugee camp in Calais, to Cyprus, Jordan and Sicily. Inside, I talked about teaching art classes to refugee children in the desert while, outside the gallery, rain clattered off the windows.

Our well-timed return to the gallery avoided the sudden return of poor weather and I was able to show everyone my recent paintings and leaf through work from my latest project.

It was a very sociable afternoon spent with an enthusiastic and happy crowd of walkers and we explored an attractive corner of the island. Thank you to everyone involved with the project for making it such a good day.

It was a very sociable afternoon spent with an enthusiastic and happy crowd of walkers

 

Tha Seo Math Dhuibh – Good for you

A  partnership project with Aros Centre, Portree

 

Published on 12 December 2017