A year of artwork at Taynish NNR
A year of artwork at Taynish National Nature Reserve
Jane Smith talks about her year as Artist in Residence.
“Our village is a cluster of houses around an Argyll sea loch. On the far side of the bay are some oak trees – quite a lot of them. There are paths through the trees and up over the hills to wonderful views of the wooded peninsula and the sea-lochs that surround it. We sometimes take this place for granted as it’s always been there. In fact it’s been there for nearly ten thousand years.
In the last 40 years since Taynish became a National Nature Reserve, more and more visitors have arrived to visit our woodland. Three years ago SNH started an Art Trail with installations through the reserve, leading to a poet’s seat. The poems and comments left there have helped us all see our woodland through the eyes of others and appreciate it more.
With this in mind, in 2016 SNH offered me the job of Artist in Residence for a year. I am a wildlife artist, and have worked and exhibited across the UK, but like many of us, have paid less attention to the familiar sights on my own doorstep. Part of my job was to run art workshops and bring new people to the woods, but I myself learned as much about Taynish as the visitors. I was then able share what I had seen with a wider audience through my artwork.
END OF WINTER Acrylic and crayon
The proximity of oak woods and sea is what makes Taynish so interesting, affording unusual views such as the combination of gannets and oak trees. I enjoy the shapes and colours of winter when the cloak of green leaves has gone, but there is also the promise of renewal, as fat oak buds lie dormant, waiting for the warmer weather.
GREAT TITS AND POLYPODY FERNS – SPRINGTIME. Hand made screen print.
Moisture-laden air from the Atlantic dumps plenty of rain on the coast here, and the Gulf Stream current ensures that the temperature never drops below freezing for long. This warm, wet atmosphere means that many mosses, lichens and ferns grow on the oak trees in this Celtic Rainforest. The micro-jungle in the branches shelters many insects – good food for all the birds which live here.
NESTING SWALLOWS – SUMMER
Handmade screen print 3/4
Swallows build their nests in the old farm buildings of Taynish House. They gather beakfuls of mud from puddles and mix it with dry grass to make their cup-shaped nests. They feed their young on the rich supply of insects produced by the reserve. If the weather is good they can raise two broods of chicks before heading south on their 6 week journey to Africa for the winter.
AUTUMN VISITORS – FIELDFARES Hand made screen print.
In October the north wind brings Scandinavian raiders to plunder the autumn berries in Taynish. Fieldfares are thrushes, but bigger and seemingly more fierce than our Song Thrush or Blackbird. These impressive birds arrive in their hordes, perhaps as did the Viking invaders of old. It only takes them a few days to strip all the Rowan trees of their berries, and then they move on.
If you are interested in seeing more of the artwork from the project visit Jane’s blog at janesmithwildlifeart.blogspot.com or follow her on Instagram.
For more information about Taynish National Nature Reserve go to nnr-scotland.org.uk or make a visit there yourself.