The Edinburgh Art Book by Emily Ingrey-Counter

I am delighted to have had a piece of work selected for the Edinburgh Art Book………...

“The Edinburgh Art Book, the third in the 'City Art Book' series will be launched in its home city in May 2019. The book will show the city through the eyes of 67 contemporary artists it inspires, working in a range of media and form. 

A hard-backed 127 page illustrated book, The Edinburgh Art Book will be created by artist and editor Emma Bennett and published by UIT/Green Books, Cambridge.”

The Edinburgh Art Book, BENNETT, E.,ed. The Edinburgh Art Book, UIT/ Green Books, Cambridge, June 2019

The Edinburgh Art Book, BENNETT, E.,ed. The Edinburgh Art Book, UIT/ Green Books, Cambridge, June 2019

‘Arthur’s Seat Windy Day’, Soft pastel and Charcoal, 34 x 55cm.

‘Arthur’s Seat Windy Day’, Soft pastel and Charcoal, 34 x 55cm.

I made this drawing in 2017, in situ, overlooking Arthur’s seat.

Living in Edinburgh I am constantly astounded that we have such an incredible park in the centre of our city. It must be one of the most beautiful ‘city’ parks in the world. It is a constant source of refreshing as I run, cycle and walk my way past this volcanic landform several times a week. The best thing when I am in Holyrood Park, is that I actually feel like I am far, far away from the city. Another aspect of the park which brings ongoing inspiration for my work is the abundance of wildlife such as Canada and Greylag geese, swans, tufted ducks, cormorants, goldfinches, treecreepers, finches, tits, corvids and much, much more.

John Busby Seabird Drawing Course 2018 by Emily Ingrey-Counter

This year I was delighted to be awarded a bursary to attend the SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists) John Busby seabird drawing course. The week was led by Darren Woodhead, Greg Poole, Kittie Jones, Esther Tyson and Mark Boyd. Their role was working  alongside the artists in an atmosphere that was mutually supportive rather than directive.  We were  based in Dunbar, East Lothian, but also travelled to St.Abb's Head, Fidra and the Bass Rock. Each day of intense drawing was followed by an evening together, eating, discussing the day's work, planning the following day's trips and looking at each others drawings/ paintings from the day. 

Tutor, Greg Poole, teaching on anatomy at Dunbar Harbour.

Tutor, Greg Poole, teaching on anatomy at Dunbar Harbour.

Drawing on Bass Rock, surrounded by 150,000 gannets.

Drawing on Bass Rock, surrounded by 150,000 gannets.

The highlight of the week, for me, was visiting the Bass Rock. The weather, winds and swells were in the right alignment for us, as we were lucky enough to land on the Bass and remain on the island for a whole day. A unique and rare privilege of the SWLA seabird drawing week. It was noisy, smelly, dirty and quite fantastic! I felt like we'd landed on another planet with 150,000 inhabitants tolerating our presence. Due to the wind that day the birds were constantly in flight around us, hovering, landing and taking off. We all drew intensely for about 6 hours. Amazing! The following day the swells were too strong to land on the island so we sketched from the boat for an hour - which was a great way to develop fast sketches, but challenging in terms of motion sickness!  

Drawing on the Bass was exciting and challenging with the intense noise, smell and wind. Everything was constantly moving and changing - with so much going on it was quite hard to settle on a composition/subject and see it through to a finished piece as inevitably the birds were always moving..

Drawing on the Bass was exciting and challenging with the intense noise, smell and wind. Everything was constantly moving and changing - with so much going on it was quite hard to settle on a composition/subject and see it through to a finished piece as inevitably the birds were always moving..

Bass rock lighthouse from the boat  2018 .jpg
Quick line drawings from the boat whilst constantly in motion.

Quick line drawings from the boat whilst constantly in motion.

Another highlight was getting to know other artists, picking up different techniques, hearing how others approach their work and looking at each others pictures at the end of the day. Although the prospect of sharing my  work was sometimes quite daunting, I did also find the feed back really encouraging. 

 

Quick loose sketch focussing on conveying the constant movement, energy and intensity of the Bass. The tutors led informal exercises such as; left hand drawings, blind drawings (not looking at your paper), block colour and continuous line drawings. These are a really useful ways to engage with the environment and develop the discipline of looking more at what we are seeing than at what we are drawing.

Quick loose sketch focussing on conveying the constant movement, energy and intensity of the Bass. The tutors led informal exercises such as; left hand drawings, blind drawings (not looking at your paper), block colour and continuous line drawings. These are a really useful ways to engage with the environment and develop the discipline of looking more at what we are seeing than at what we are drawing.

St Abb's Head was also another location which was incredibly inspiring. I have drawn here before, but previously focussed on small groups of birds. This time I really wanted to capture the sheer and exposed cliff faces on which the birds nest and how small (but numerous) they are in such an immense landscape. The days we spent there were very windy, creating large swells and crashing waves with thousands of guillemots on cliff edges, in flight and at sea.

Drawings at St Abb's Head: my focus was on conveying the tough and immense environment these thousands of seabirds nest and breed in each year.

Drawings at St Abb's Head: my focus was on conveying the tough and immense environment these thousands of seabirds nest and breed in each year.

9 St Abbs Head and crashing waves with kittiwake and guillmots, ink wash and soft pastel, June 201828.5 x 18.5cm .jpg
IMG_7569.jpg

The informal tutor guidance throughout the week was a really helpful in terms of reminding me of some key elements that had been creeping out of my drawings. Such as; "Keep a breathing space in your picture", "What excites you about your chosen subject matter? Keep this in mind throughout your drawing" and, "Keep your work fresh, try working on several at once so as not to overwork your pictures". Seeing examples of the tutors' work and hearing about their individual approach to working was something I really enjoyed. I left the week feeling really encouraged to value what I do, something that's easy to loose sight of.

I am really grateful to the SWLA for making this week possible. I hope the things I have learnt will continue to echo through my work for many months to come. It was such a privilege to meet so many people on the shared journey of making art inspired by our natural world. 

Isle of May 2018 by Emily Ingrey-Counter

I have recently returned from drawing trip to the Isle of May. (The Isle of May is located in the north of the of the outer Firth of Forth, about 8km off the coast of mainland Scotland. It is 1.8 km long and less than half a kilometre wide.) The Isle of May is a National Nature reserve and home to thousands of nesting seabirds including Kittiwakes, Shags, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins.

Sketching, puffins in the foreground and a guillemot colony in the distance.

Sketching, puffins in the foreground and a guillemot colony in the distance.

On arrival, mid - April, we were warned that the island was still recovering from the effects of the bad winter - waterlogged and little sign of seabirds. However, the very next day everything had changed. One of nature’s miracles had taken place early that morning and thousands of puffins had descended on the island. Walking amongst hundreds of puffins who had just arrived from a winter out at sea was an experience I will remember for a long time. They were everywhere - and as I walked along the path they were flying so close that I could hear, and almost feel, their wings beating above me. 

 

Puffins along path from Low Light cottage towards the South Horn
Puffins arriving on the Isle of May

The puffins spend the whole year at sea and only come to land when it is time to breed. For this reason they take a little while to settle back on the land and they have a tendency to come and go. But what is strange about this is that, on some days, they actually leave  altogether. So, on our second full day, they were around until midmorning and then …they were gone. The island seemed very quiet. This gave me an opportunity to focus on the kittiwakes, shags razorbills and eider ducks who were all busy mating and selecting nesting sites. In previous visits I have been more focused on shags and razorbills, two species I also love to draw. 

When approaching a drawing I will often start with a simple line drawing. This helps me to tease out what it is I want to draw, to explore the forms and shapes and to find an interesting composition. Sometimes I use this as a way of getting to grips with the form of bird and the sketch is simply a tool to develop my understanding - other times this might develop into a more sustained drawing.

When approaching a drawing I will often start with a simple line drawing. This helps me to tease out what it is I want to draw, to explore the forms and shapes and to find an interesting composition. Sometimes I use this as a way of getting to grips with the form of bird and the sketch is simply a tool to develop my understanding - other times this might develop into a more sustained drawing.

Sometimes I will sketch a bird quickly and I sense that the composition will make an interesting painting, so I make further studies of the shapes, colours, details and tones of the surrounding area - even after the bird has gone. I can then use these drawings to inform studio work at a later date.

Sometimes I will sketch a bird quickly and I sense that the composition will make an interesting painting, so I make further studies of the shapes, colours, details and tones of the surrounding area - even after the bird has gone. I can then use these drawings to inform studio work at a later date.

After a few drawings in my sketch book, I was ready to make a sustained piece of work on site. I usually feel quite tense as I start this process, and am keen to work quickly whilst my subject matter is still there! However this drawing was such a pleasure to make. I was still reeling from the total wonder of sitting so close to puffins that had arrived on the island just hours before.

After a few drawings in my sketch book, I was ready to make a sustained piece of work on site. I usually feel quite tense as I start this process, and am keen to work quickly whilst my subject matter is still there! However this drawing was such a pleasure to make. I was still reeling from the total wonder of sitting so close to puffins that had arrived on the island just hours before.

My aim is to create work that is more visceral than precise, in order to capture something of my experience and a sense of place. I hope this is conveyed through my work.

 

It was an incredible privilege to be able to stay on the Isle of May for a week and I am really grateful to Leo du Feu for organising this trip and making it possible. Also thanks to Kittie Jones, Nye Hughes, Liz Myhill, Jane Smith and Chris Leakey for their sense of humour and support throughout the week. And finally to the amazing team of folk who live on the island throughout the seabird season, making us so welcome for the week.