As a curator I’m pretty nosey! I love a poke around an artist’s studio, and relish a glimpse at a sketchbook, and peep in a toolbox. I’ve always been intrigued by process – the how, where and why a piece of artwork has been created – the story of it’s journey.
So imagine my intrigue, as I help unload Paul Bartlett’s artwork from his campervan one windy morning. Nestled amongst his artwork, there’s a surfboard, a trail bike, and his companion for the weekend, Corrie the dog. My curiosity is very keen!
Inside we unwrap the frames and he tells me about the ‘how’. Paul reveals a series of mixed media pieces, which use collage and papier mache together with acrylics to create beautiful wildlife portraits. They are stunning, quirky, characterful and made from old RSPB magazines. Torn, not cut! Selectively mixing ripped portions from his huge stash of publications with wallpaper paste he initially blocks out his subject before colouring. His signature backgrounds comprise hundreds of slivers of magazine text. At first glance it looks random, the pieces placed in a flurry of energy. It’s anything but. Closer inspection reveals a considered and delicate approach, which engages the viewer in the detail of the aptly chosen snippets of text. This commitment to detail leads me to the where…
Paul is a self-taught artist with a PhD in animal behaviour. It’s no surprise he has a passion for nature and wild environments, and this is intrinsic to the work he creates. His pieces are conceived outdoors, the result of field trips and exploring remote places. He recounts a trip where so at one with his subject, a puffin ran off with his pencil! Their cheeky character clearly resonates in the finished pieces, which are brought to life in his garden studio in Tayport on the East coast of Scotland. Described as his “happy place”, you’ll find Paul there most mornings, after the school run, dog walk, with tea in hand, ready to rip!
Thus, his distinctive & unique style has awarded him many accolades. Previously an elected member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) he won “Artist of the Year” in 2006 and the Langford Press award in 2012 at their annual exhibition at London’s Mall Galleries. He has twice been a category winner and overall runner-up in the David Shepherd “Wildlife Artist of the Year” competition in 2009 and 2010 and winner of the ‘British Birds’ category for the “BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year” in 2009.
But more than that, it has afforded Paul a lifestyle; combining many of his passions, which he has successfully woven into his true vocation. In addition to exploring by land and sea he also flies voluntarily for the SCRAPbook project which aims to map the coastal litter of Scotland with a view to then clearing it up.
Immersed in his subject, he has become a master of his process. An ecological mindfulness runs throughout. Conservation and sustainability are the core of the RSPB message. There is a holistic nod to our environment in the cyclical way Paul’s raw material has been read, then recycled in further comment on the fragility of wildlife and our Earth. Any excess paper mache Paul shapes into bricks for his stove. Nothing is wasted. Paul’s story is one of integrity.
His work is fresh, superbly executed and conceptually embodies his outlook and values. It’s also very beautiful!
And that is how this wonderful artwork came to be!
A selection of Paul’s original work and prints are on show at Found this spring. For any further info please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Flushed from Cover, Framed original, £395
Scratch, Ltd edition print, Un-framed £80
Great Tit, Framed original, £350
Follow the Line, Framed original, £1250