Alan Woollett is absolutely one of the greatest master bird artists of our time. In this interview, he shares with us some of his deeper thoughts and feelings as we learn more about Alan the man himself. He also has some very valuable advice to offer other aspiring artists. In his spectacular coloured pencil artworks, Alan successfully captures the majestic, graceful splendour that is unique to birds making them a particularly challenging subject to most artists. When viewing Alan’s work its clearly evident that he has incredible anatomical knowledge and technical skill, as well as outstanding control of the coloured pencil medium.
Going far beyond that fact (although amazing in itself) not only can we admire a very beautiful picture of an incredibly well-drawn bird, in every artwork Alan creates he also shares with us his deep soul-connection to the subject. He invites us into his world, to share the same appreciation he has for these incredibly spectacular feathered creatures. In his artworks, Alan’s love and admiration for birds becomes his soul made visible.
Interview with Alan Woollett by Cindy Wider
Q: Please tell us your preferred art name year of birth and Country of origin
A: Alan Woollett, born in 1964 (so old!!) born in Chatham, Kent, England now living in Maidstone, Kent.
Inspired by a Guitar-playing Hippy Art Teacher
Q: Alan could you tell us when you first realised that you enjoyed creating art as a child and you were supported in your decision, if so by who?
A: I had always enjoyed drawing from around the age of 4, anything and everything were my favourite subjects, but ideally with lots of explosions and drama. I remember at school my enthusiasm for drawing coupled with quite a keen accuracy for detail was noticed by several of my teachers and always mentioned to my parents at parent evenings. At secondary school art became my favourite subject and the only one I really excelled at. An inspirational guitar-playing hippy of an art teacher also helped and made me think how brilliant it would be to design album sleeves as a job (yes it was that long ago!)
Q: What journey have you been on as an artist. For example when did you first begin to create art as an adult? Did you study at all and if so where?
A: As an adult I was quiet on the art front for a few years and I chose to take an apprenticeship and earn a wage, get a car, girls, beer etc, but in the early 1980s I started sketching again and drawing pictures of film stars and rock stars for work colleagues and friends. I also began experimenting with photography as a hobby and developing and printing my own photographs. Some of these would go on to be used as references for my drawing. I also began getting interested in the possibility of attending art college to study graphic design and illustration. Attending college was an amazing experience and opened me up to more creative ways of thinking and to other mediums as well.
Many Intimate and Fleeting Moments with Birds
Q: Alan, can you tell us about some of your artworks and what they mean to you.
A: The “Female Shoveler” was an image I felt compelled to draw as it really struck a chord with me. So many times have I been birding over the years and experienced intimate one to one moments with birds; the brief fleeting moments when you and wildlife are on the same plane. Then it’s gone, nothing more than a memory.
The “Male Sparrowhawk” is one of my favourite birds and one that plays second fiddle to the much larger female. I have had numerous encounters with these silent assassins over the years. This artwork is based on an encounter I experienced about a year or so ago, on a damp winters morning while at one of my favourite birding spots on the North Kent Marshes.
The “Eagle Owl”…what can I say? The eyes have it in this one. A gorgeous bird and a pleasure to draw. This one was drawn from a captive bird, but it’s a species that has recently returned to the British Isles in small numbers in the wild.
About the artwork “Scarlet Ibis” I remember the first time I saw these amazing birds in texas and was amazed at how red they really are! The drawing is the result of many hours working on a pleasing composition as I already knew it needed to be a long and thin format – in the style of a field guide plate. This is one of my personal favourites as these birds have been a favourite of mine since childhood.
Hooked on Birds Since Childhood
Q: What is the primary motivation for why you create art?
A: Good question. My primary motivation is simply to get across the beauty of the natural world as I see it. I’ve always found texture fascinating and have been hooked on birds since childhood. Combining them into a job really is the icing on the cake!
Q: What goes through your mind while you draw/paint, is there a calm silence, do you listen to music or do you experience doubt, fear or any emotions at all?
A: I’m usually found listening to BBC radio 4 most days interspersed with a mix of rock and punk/new wave music. I’m not one to work in silence through choice.
I think doubt is something that can trouble most artists from time to time. I find if doubt lasts more than a day then the drawing or idea is binned. This in itself I find cathartic and generally leads to a better drawing arising from the ashes. I must say I have never felt any fear whilst working.
The Best Advice is Don’t Get Stressed Out by Lack of Time
Q: How do you make time to include art in your life, do you have any suggestions to help others manage their creative lives?
A: When our first child came along my days suddenly got a lot shorter as the stay at home parent, but overtime the hours slowly come back. Nowadays I try to work for a few hours every day, 7 days a week. My advice is to not get stressed out by a lack of time to be creative it never helps!
Q: Is Drawing and creating artworks your only profession or main business. If not, what else do you do for work?
A: Yes, it has been my main source of income for several years now. I also teach workshops and have students visit me for drawing tuition.
Don’t Rush! Experiment and Work Out What’s Best for You
Q: Do you have any special unique advice or skills to share with other artists who are learning to create artworks at this very high standard that you are working at?
A: The best advice I can give is to just be patient. Having a drawer full of materials and a big bag of enthusiasm are simply not enough. Start with the basics. Most artists didn’t just wake up with these skills. For every drawing I complete there’s probably one that went into the bin. Basically…don’t rush! Practice, experiment and work out what suits you.
Multi Award-winning Artist
Q: Alan please tell us about any significant awards you have won or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life.
A: I have won many awards over the years including the ‘2019 Master Artist’ at the 44th annual ‘Birds In Art’ exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in the USA which is one of the premier international exhibitions of bird artwork and attracts entrants from around the world. I have also been awarded the ‘Birdwatch Magazine Bird Artist of the Year in 1999’, the recipient of the ‘Wildlife Art Society’ – gold silver and bronze medals from 1997-2004. I was awarded the ‘David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year’ – category winner in 2016 and Birds in Art Exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum USA in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
I have appeared both inside and on the cover of Coloured Pencil Magazine and Colour (Ann Kullberg’s colour pencil magazine) Artists and the Illustrators Magazine in 2017.
Inspired by Many Great Artists
Q: What major and significant goals and influences do you have for your art if any?
A: I don’t have any particular goals other than to keep improving and producing art that moves me and hopefully portray the natural world as best I can. I aim to continue to inspire others by teaching and encouraging them to create art. In terms of inspiration; artists such as Robert Bateman, Lars Jonsson, C.F. Tunnicliffe and Eric Ennion are all inspirational wildlife artists along with many more such as Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, David Hockney and so many more.
Book Published by Search Press Titled: “Bird Art”
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to tell me about your art journey so far?
A: It’s been a long journey and one I never imagined I would be taking. To have got to this point has not been easy, there’s been many hours of frustration and disillusionment along the way. A personal high point has been the publication of my book ‘Bird Art: Drawing Birds Using Graphite and Coloured Pencils.’ I always get a smile when visiting book shops and seeing it in stock!
To see more from Alan Woollett check out her work at the link below
- Website: under development available soon
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Alan Woollett Art
- Twitter: alan wg woollett