A Memorial Exhibition
John Busby is one of the most important wildlife artists of recent years. His book Drawing Birds revolutionised the way artists capture birds in the field. Busby’s deceptively simple sketches captured, with a few strokes of the pencil and watercolour wash, the essence of a bird’s movement and behaviour.
John’s friend and fellow artist Darren Woodhead wrote: “John Busby’s drawings and paintings live and breathe the magic of their subject. His gannets soar and hang, stall and drift again, riding the currents of air as lightly as the pencil glides. How beautifully his young foxes leap, their energy, rhythm and playfulness radiate from every graphite mark. How deftly the hand of the artist suggests the feathers and down of a barn owl. Behind each of these deceptively simple marks are the decades of experience of the most observant naturalist, and the very finest of artists.”
The Scottish Art Gallery has worked closely with his wife Joan to compile this exhibition to celebrate the life and work of such a talented artist. The exhibition also coincides with the launch of John’s last book ‘Lines from Nature’ published by Langford Press & available for purchase from the gallery, £38. link to The Scottish Gallery page
Foreword by Joan Busby, April 2016
When I first saw John at work, he was high on a scaffolding tower, painting his mural in the church of St Columba by the Castle in Edinburgh. In the many years that followed he was more
often high up on cliffs or hillsides drawing and painting the landscape, always looking out for birds. His life-long interest in birdwatching was a continuing pleasure to him and led to many travels and adventures. I remember watching the making of Granada TV’s film Portrait of the Wild in Shetland; He was perched in a gale on a sloping rock surrounded by numerous gannets, with the waves sweeping in not far below. “Can you move down a bit”, said the camera man!
John’s enjoyment in observing and drawing bird behaviour is evident in the books he wrote and illustrated. His ability to remember detailed moments of complex movements seemed amazing to me – such as the drawings of sea eagles linking talons in aerial mating display (Looking at Birds), and the studies of cranes preening, an endless variety of twists and turns of the neck (Land Marks and Sea Wings).
I was fortunate to accompany John to many places I might not otherwise have visited, such as the Galapagos Islands and the mountains of Bulgaria and Majorca, and here in this exhibition you can see the results of his journeys to very many countries. But my abiding memory of him is at home, sitting drawing at the kitchen table, watching through the window the birds at the feeder on the balcony just a few feet outside – blue tits, great tits, parties of long-tailed tits, the occasional handsome nuthatch, or suddenly a large woodpecker. The birds on the page were as lively as the birds on the feeder and so full of his delight at seeing them. I hope you will see and have the same delight in the pictures in this exhibition, for which my thanks go to Guy Peploe and The Scottish Gallery.