When I worked as an Animator and Designer in Soho on shows such as Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee, I would often pop over on my lunch break to the annual Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries to see the incredible artwork created by some of the most talented wildlife artists in the world. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would one day have something hanging on the walls!
This year, the Society of Wildlife Artists presents its 60th Annual Exhibition, The Natural Eye 2023, showcasing the very best of art inspired by the natural world. I have always had a keen interest in wildlife and so I was immensely proud to be part of this wonderful exhibition in the company of artists I have admired for many years. Inspired by a trip to Italy in July, I began to create a short animation based upon my sightings on my trip. I had enjoyed watching Honey Buzzards, Golden Orioles and in particular, a Short-Toed Eagle. Each morning I would walk to a particular gorge to find the eagle perched on a rock waiting for the hillside to be bathed in sunshine, so that it might have a good chance of catching a basking snake.
I had not planned to create any artwork from my trip, but I love how organically the project began to take shape. Using sounds I recorded in the field, I was able to create a snapshot of the view I saw when looking up at the hillside with my bins. I began to draw birds as a young boy, copying birds such as Red Kites and Swallows out of the bird books around the house. I actually found a few of these drawing recently as I was helping my mum clear out the loft. I even found my very own copy of Life on Earth signed to me by David Attenborough. I was of course too shy to ask for his signature at the time ( Mum did it!), but luckily I was able to work with him in the future for the BBC. I was very lucky to have parents who loved the natural world. Not only would they take me on holidays where there was a good chance of seeing Woodchat Shrikes and Bee-Orchids, they also worked as a team, creating artwork for the RSPB. Mum would draw the plant life, Dad would draw the birds.
I learnt so much working as an animator on many well known Children’s TV shows. I then began to start to focus on work that had the natural world at it’s core. I worked with David Attenborough on an iPad storytelling app, I created animation for the Documentary ‘The Last song of the Nightingale’, animations for Leica, the BTO and illustrations for books like Red 67 and in to the Red. I began to make personal projects using recorded sound to bring to life. Firecrest’s on Tooting Common and Redstarts at Thursley . More recently I have been cramming as many birds and animals in to projects promoting mindfulness and connecting with nature for ‘Yoga with Adriene’.
I wasn’t sure if the SWLA would be open to animation for their exhibition. It turns out that my work is the first animation to be accepted and that is something I’m very proud of. I use the medium in the same way as you might use a paintbrush or pencil. I am enthralled by the nature I see and I want to capture it and share it with others. The benefit of having recorded sound adds another descriptive layer that really helps take you back to the field. The moment you heard the call, or heard the leaves rustle. It makes it such an immersive experience.
The SWLA Natural Eye exhibition runs from the 2nd Nov until the 11th Nov. Please do drop by the galleries if you are in town and don’t forget to pop on those headphones: www.mallgalleries.org
Follow Will Rose over on his Instagram @wilbo_rose where he will soon be sharing his Italy piece.