I loved interviewing the artist Sandra Vick. We met for lunch at the fabulous Restoration Yard in Dalkeith – not too shabby – I do love my job! I had admired Sandra’s work for a while and had long been intrigued to find out more about it. How she had come to her subject matter and be such an authority on birds and a master of her chosen monochromatic style.
She told me her story: she had enjoyed art at school, but influenced by her parents preconceptions, she had studied business and worked as an economics lecturer for ten years, until her father suddenly became ill and had an almost spiritual turn around at the end of his life. His legacy was to advise his children to do what you love and the money he left Sandra she spent on her art education as a mature student at Edinburgh College of art, where she achieved and MA in Fine Art alongside having her first son. She explained that as a student she had produced large colourful abstract paintings. They were based on landscape and her deep love of nature, but in the end, she felt they were not really communicating anything. People enjoyed the colours and the shapes but they meant little else.
Her landscape studies had led her to explore the John Muir coastal path and she discovered and fell in love with the native, but distinctly un-exotic birdlife to be found there. She realised that most people had not even heard of most of the birds and that their populations are worryingly falling, they are becoming endangered. She wanted people to learn to appreciate them.
‘I set out to draw them deliberately accurately – people are impressed by drawings that are technically good and so if you want to engage people then drawing accurately can help’ she explains. ‘My father in law is a volunteer with the BTO, the British Trust for ornithology. He explained to me that he recognises birds by the way they fly and their shape, in silhouette, not by their colours. So I set about depicting local bird life in simple silhouettes, to help people become familiar with them and start to recognise them’. Jen Gill, Professor of Applied Ecology at the University of East Anglia and Chair of BTO board and an expert on the Godwit, could actually identify the kind of Godwit that Sandra had depicted in one of her paintings from the shape of the silhouette.
Sandra started by creating paintings, but quickly realised that many people in her audience could not afford original paintings or prints even and she set about launching her range of ceramic mugs and printed fabric products. ‘I wanted to share my love of birds with as many people as possible’ she explains.
You get a little information card about the bird depicted in her work.
Her most popular product is the long tailed tit Barrel mug –
You can find Sandra’s product range on her website or buy at one of her many stockists all over the country – look our for her work in Orkney, Shetland, Ullapool…
They make perfect Xmas gifts!
Plans for the future include stationery – I suggested a bird lovers diary – what to look out for season by season – so helpful for beginner birders like me! My fascination for Sandra’s work is partly due to being a proud auntie to a member of staff at the BTO, Blaise Martay, I am also posting this to encourage everyone to educate themselves on the importance of our precious bird life.