View my prints of bird illustrations from wood engravings

About the artist

The two constant loves of my life have been wildlife and art. I have loved being outdoors since I was a child growing up on the Belfast Lough, where the activity of the seabirds Ė the screeching of the Arctic terns, the cry of oystercatchers, the scurrying of the small waders along the shore Ė was an unending source of fascination. These birds became the subject matter for my drawings from an early age.

After attending art college and a spell of working in advertising, I completed a postgrad in illustration at St Martinís in London. I then worked for many years as an illustrator, during which time I took numerous courses in printmaking. In 1992, I was asked by the The Times newspaper to illustrate a weekly column (The Feather Report) about birdlife in Britain, which I am delighted still to be doing. Initially, I illustrated the birds in scraperboard, but eventually I produced them as wood engravings. Currently, I am working mainly in wood engraving and Japanese woodblock and I also teach classes and workshops in both media.

In terms of inspiration, I am not a twitcher. I do not carry around a list of species to tick off, nor do I get particularly excited about a rare bird. For me the joy is to observe a bird, often quite an ordinary species, going about its daily business. A family of titmice being fed by their parents, the pecking order of a flock of house sparrows squabbling over food, the tiny adjustment of a kestrelís wing as it holds its position in a strong breeze, the foolhardy bravado of a red grouse as he stakes his claim to the path youíre on: these are the things that make me think Iíve really seen something that day and that I want to portray. Sometimes there is a special connection, as when the gannet eyes you up while gliding above the deck of a cross channel ferry or a friendly robin hops around hoping for a worm as you turn the garden soil. These are the moments that motivate me the most.

I also love the surroundings in which birds are found: farmland being worked, a village churchyard, the distant sea between hills, a gathering thunder cloud in midsummer, a lopsided boat at low tide. These help to add a story element to a picture, and this is the part of picture making that often gives me the most pleasure.

Light for me holds the key to drama in a landscape. I especially like the low angle of the sun at either end of a day and throughout autumn and spring, as it emphasises the form of the land.

Of course, outside is where all of this happens. There is always something to find remarkable and something to take away at the end of a day of walking in the countryside. The scenes encountered lodge in my memory and re-emerge in pictures and prints.