Drawing the Natural World
With Chris Wallbank and Nik Pollard
5 day course 9am - 5pm
During this 5-day drawing and mixed media course, painter, drawer and printmaker Chris Wallbank and painter and printmaker Nik Pollard will be teaching you how to explore the creative possibilities and challenges that arise from working as artists, observing wildlife in its habitat and the natural world.
In this drawing and mixed media course, we will explore the creative possibilities and challenges that arise from working as artists observing wildlife in its habitat and nature in the landscape. A series of tutor-led workshops will cover approaches to observing, drawing and revealing different aspects of the natural world. Whether investigating vast outdoor spaces and mega-fauna or delving into the microscopic landscapes of hedgerows, meadows, ponds and insect habitats found on our doorstep, this course will engage participants in contemplating the natural world from different perspectives.
Workshops will celebrate drawing outdoors, focusing on subjects ranging from depicting space in a landscape, wildlife from life and responding intuitively to the sensory world of flora and fauna experienced up close. These explorations will take place within Clayhill Arts’ 140 acres of varied natural habitat, providing excellent opportunities to study the birds, insects, flora and changing landscapes of a traditional farm in September. There will also be an opportunity to develop strategies for drawing some of the world’s largest and most charismatic fauna during studio-based sessions as well as a chance to work at one of the nature reserves or landscape heritage sites found locally.
As the course progresses, participants will be able to revisit the workshop theme that inspired them the most and use it as a springboard for developing their own self led projects in response to the natural surroundings of Clayhill Arts. Both one-to-one and group tuition will be provided throughout the week alongside a good provision of diverse artist examples for reference use. This course is suitable for all levels of experience; artists who wish to build on an existing portfolio, creative newcomers or
anyone interested in engaging with the natural world through observational drawing and mixed media.
Over the five days you will:
- Analyse observational techniques and approaches to experiencing different aspects of the natural world on our doorstep.
- Implement a variety of techniques and exercises for drawing nature/wildlife subjects in the field.
- Explore the locations within the Clayhill Arts’ grounds, taking in the variety of habitats and landscapes on offer.
- Apply proportional measurement to a drawing.
- Combine wildlife drawings made from observation with landscape references to imagine and create a new composition.
- Evaluate approaches to drawing and observing nature and analyse ways of adapting this to your own work/practice methods.
- Investigate visual perception and how it influences the way we observe and draw.
- Apply observational techniques to drawing moving wildlife subjects and introduce anatomy for drawing animals.
- Work within a relaxed environment amongst like-minded artists with tutor
support and peer to peer feedback
Chris leads his workshops in such a friendly way that the time just slips away. By the end you’ve had a series of really great experiences, that give you a real sense of achievement. He gently guides you through the process of drawing and mark making building confidence with every exercise.
– Steffan Jones-Hughes, Director, Oriel Davies Gallery
Chris Wallbank is a painter, drawer and printmaker. His work explores pictorial space and the experience of landscape, more often than not in wild environments where he is most at home working in response to the changing elements and rhythm of nature.
His interest in the role visual art can play in presenting themes of ecology in a new light has led him to collaborate with numerous conservation projects. These range from the long-term monitoring of breeding guillemot colonies on Skomer Island to the preservation of urban black kites across the metropolis of New Delhi. For this commitment to art and ecology, Chris has been awarded the 2020 Birdscape Galleries’ Conservation through art award.
In 2019 he was awarded both the Wales Prize and Visitors Choice Award at Wales Contemporary for his drawings of guillemot colonies. Chris has been an elected professional member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) since 2015 and currently
sits on their council with an active role in delivering the SWLA bursary programme. Chris’s tutoring experience stems from his training and commitment as a member of the faculty at the Royal Drawing School where he teaches in the Young Artists programme. He has developed a wide range of drawing courses with the school and at sites across London including the
Whitechapel Gallery, The British Museum, The Garden Museum, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery and most recently online.
Chris has also taught at the International Institute of Fine Art, New Delhi and is a regular contributor to Oriel Davies Gallery’s online education programme and the Building Craft Programme for the Prince’s Foundation as well as numerous workshops specialising in drawing nature in the field, from wild geese on the Danish Wadden Sea to neotropical wildlife in the Peruvian
Chris’s work is held in national and international collections and has been exhibited widely, including; at the Wellcome Collection, Christie’s London, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize. His solo exhibitions include Cheng-Kim Loke Gallery at WWT Slimbridge, RSPB Ynys-hir and a drawing installation exhibited throughout Sheffield Cathedral for Festival of the Mind. Past art and illustration clients have included; Peninsula Hotel Mayfair, Bloomsbury Publishing, S4C television, Strata Florida Heritage Landscape Project, J.N.C.C, Journal of Landscape Architecture and British Birds.
Nik Pollard is a painter and printmaker based in Bristol. He has been a professional member of the Society of Wildlife Artists [SWLA] since 1997, graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1998 and in recent years has received the Swarovski Bird Artist of the Year award  and the RSPB award in 2019.
His work is generated from sustained, direct observation with paintings and drawings often resolved in the field. A period of dedicated study at single or related locations is a necessary part of his process. Drawing from all the senses, he investigates the rhythms and characteristics of a location and its ecology, resulting in a sense of time and place.
Working with a range of mediums, he focuses on the essential aspects of what it is that have drawn him to the subject. Searching for a balance between figuration and abstraction he enjoys exploring the ambiguity and serendipity of mark-making. When working in the studio he often turns to printmaking in order to pursue an idea further, substituting the thrill of the first-hand direct response with the magic of printmaking and the exploration of materials and processes that cannot easily be replicated outdoors.
Nik has been involved and has helped develop a number of SWLA projects.
I see art education as a perfect opportunity to help people re-engage with nature and believes that art has a role in promoting conservation stories.
This course will run from 9:30 - 5:30
This is a largely tutor-led day, introducing participants to a range of subjects concerned with drawing wildlife in its habitat and other aspects of nature in the landscape. The session will be fast-paced with a range of activities, giving participants the opportunity to explore and discuss different approaches to observing, noticing and drawing nature subjects in the field. Participants will have the opportunity to expand these approaches during self-led projects over day 2 and further tutorial-based guidance.
Begin to develop your own project and use Workshop themes as starting points. Examples of themes include "aspects of the Explore book for documenting nature" and "expanding the field of view landscape drawings with a nature and wildlife focus". The rest of the day will be self-led project work, including evaluating approaches to drawing and observing nature covered so far as well as analysing ways of adapting this to your own work and practice methods.
The group will visit a Wildlife or heritage site. This will be an opportunity to put into practice approaches developed over the last few days in a new environment. We will finalise this day and the course overall, with a group lunch back at Clayhill Arts.
This is a full day, working in two locations. The morning will introduce ways of being creative with the knowledge obtained from observational drawing and look at the difficulties of resolving artwork outdoors and the challenges of scale. It will comprise of group and 1/1 tuition. The afternoon will offer the chance for participants to explore these themes further whilst on location. The two half days will contrast in focus from the micro to the macro landscape.
This is a full day of developing independent work. Participants will be able to structure their own time between the studio and Clayhill environments.
We have a fantastic accommodation offer onsite, and would recommend staying here for the fully immersive Clayhill experience. All our accommodation is reserved for the students for the duration of the course and you will have a bedroom of your own. Our rooms have been converted from a series of old cattle sheds and from an old milking parlour and retain characterful features such as exposed wooden roof timbers and stone walls. Each bedroom has its own tea and coffee making facilities and outdoor seating area.
We also have an onsite laundry should you need to use these facilities during your stay with us. WIFI is available throughout the complex, heating and hot water is supplied by biomass technology, electricity by solar technology and all of the water around the site is fed by a natural spring.
Accommodation is offered at £80/night. If you would like to make your stay here more comfortable, you can also buy single additional nights before or after the course. (Please note any additional nights will not be catered, we are happy to recommend some local places to eat).
All courses at Clayhill Arts are fully catered, and our locally-sourced food is included in the price of your course ticket. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided. To read more about our food offering, follow this link. About our catering
This course is suitable for all levels of experience; artists who wish to build on an existing portfolio, creative newcomers and anyone interested in engaging with the natural world through observational drawing and mixed media. Moderate level of fitness for walking and carrying materials short distances at a time – not strenuous.
Warm clothing for drawing outdoors for long periods of time, usually this means warmer clothing than normally required due to sitting still outdoors for long periods. Sun protection – because it can also get hot and exposed! Wet Weather gear. Suitable walking shoes – boots or trainers especially for excursions to nature reserves. An umbrella can be useful for protecting drawings from rain as well as a large plastic bag.
Yes! We provide refreshments throughout the day and a home-cooked lunch which is freshly prepared in our Granary kitchen. Lunch is served around our communal dining table, offering you a great chance to get to know everyone on the course and share in the making processes you have been developing throughout the day. Please advise us of any dietary requirements before arrival.
Yes! All of our bedrooms here at Clayhill are en-suite so you will have your own private space to retreat to and relax in after spending your day in the meditative space of the Studio. We provide you with your own towels and bathroom products for use throughout your stay and you can enjoy the extensive grounds well into the evening. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.
We have also set up a payment plan so that you can spread the cost of the sessions over the next 4 months. You will find the option for doing this as you enter the checkout page.
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Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.
The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.
As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics. It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.
As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met.
We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.
Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.
Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring
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