I’ve been lucky to paint in many wonderful places and living in Scotland there are beautiful landscapes close to home, and indeed from my studio window. Yet the lure of overseas is difficult to resist – I love the grandeur and wildlife of Yellowstone; the diversity and richness of tropical Costa Rica; and the approachable birds, iguanas and giant tortoises of the enchanted Galapagos. However, if I was to single out one place it would be the austere emptiness of the high arctic territory of Svalbard – mountains, glaciers, ice floes and tundra, and the wildlife might just eat you.
I was always watching birds as a kid and so it was no surprise that when I put paintbrush or pencil to paper a bird or animal would appear. As my knowledge of wildlife increased my work became more authentic, backed up by personal observations. When I started painting full-time much of my work was devoted to illustrating bird books and magazine articles but most of my artwork now relates to my own encounters with wildlife in the field.
My preferred medium when working in the field is watercolour as it is quick and portable. I like to keep my field kit as portable and as simple as possible, and people are often surprised at the small array of colours that I carry – just 6 or 7. I often work on my lap or on the floor, particularly when travelling to far flung places – a lot easier than carrying easel!
I like to ‘enter their world’ so for me a vital piece of my equipment is a spotting scope – this allows me to watch wild animals without disturbing them. In Costa Rica everyone tried it – how else can you sketch a sloth high in tree! Give it a go!