By Linda McDonald-Brown
How boring and quiet a garden would be, if it wasn’t for the varieties of birds that visited. Birds bring joy and pleasure to nearly everyone, especially the housebound and elderly. For Paul Collin however, local artist and bird conservationist, birds not only give him pleasure they are his bread and butter and he has travelled all over the world studying and painting them.
A passion for painting began when Paul was a child, and as an adult, he would paint whenever his work allowed him the time. It wasn’t until 1975 though that he began to paint birds seriously and held his first exhibition at a small gallery in the village of Moretonhampstead in Devon in 1976.
In 1984 Paul re-located to Scotland and started working for the RSPB; however he was keen to concentrate on his painting full time and took early retirement from his position as Senior Site Manager for Galloway Reserves. It was a risk but one well worth taking. Right from the onset, his paintings found a market and with each painting sold, his reputation and local following grew. A background in conservation and years of studying different types of birds here and abroad had given him a good understanding and eye for bird plumage and detail, a skill that gave his pictures authenticity and a sense of realness.
Paul paints and experiments in various mediums depending on the type of bird and affect he is trying to achieve. Watercolours tend to be used for smaller delicate birds as well as for quick sketches, whilst oils are ideal for larger birds. Although Paul will paint all types of birds, he admits that Waxwings, Long Tailed Tits and Ducks are his favourite.
Most days if the weather is reasonable, he can be found with sketch pad in hand wandering the woods and fields around Dumfries and Galloway. Inspiration for a painting usually comes from a scene he witnesses out in the field, and he will make a quick sketch whilst it’s fresh in his mind. Once home, he will play for hours with the shape and composition of the picture until he is happy, referring to photos and reference books for technical confirmation if necessary. “Once I have started a picture” he tells me “I am totally focused until it is finished”. Completed paintings can take anything from a day to a week and once finished Paul will handcraft the frames himself to complement the colours in the painting.
Although Paul’s paintings are a reflection of his own unique style, it is a style that is influenced in part by renowned artists Lars Johansson and Robert Batemen. However there is always room for improvement and Paul hopes to continue improving and perfecting his craft.
Paul readily admits that more work needs to be put into the marketing of his pictures, and this year he is hoping to attend more exhibitions and possibly get a website up and running. He is also in discussion with local hotels that are keen to hang some of his work. Prices for these beautiful paintings start at around £180 up to £580.
Currently his work of around 40 pictures can be seen at Tollbooth Art Gallery in Kirkcudbright. The exhibition entitled Appreciation of Birds ends on the 19th of June.