In The studio with... Paul Bartlett

  • You have studied bird behaviour and for me I can see the affinity you have towards the birds  . How does this affect and influence your art ? 
I've always had an interest in nature and have been watching and drawing it all my life. This naturally led me to study zoology at university and eventually gain a PhD in animal behaviour. All this experience of observing animals obviously helps me to capture shapes and movements and also recognise when say a bird doesn't look right. To paint a true likeness of form and behaviour the artist must know his subject intimately. Many of the subjects I paint are birds. This is partly because they are the animals which are easiest to see. As subjects for compositions they are also hard to beat: they have a great variety of shapes and forms and many also live in large groups. Fish are also a favourite subject of mine for similar reasons. 
  • I especially love your works as you link narrative to your work via text from magazine articles about the birds or animals you are painting. It reminds me of Pablo Picasso’s works when he painted his ceramics using the shape of the ceramic to suggest a curve , a beak, an eye etc .How does the text help you with your works?
I first started using text in my work when I ran out of colours from the magazines I use. It occurred to me that the text adds an extra element to the painting, drawing the viewer deeper into the picture. I use recycled nature magazines in my collages so that the text relates to the subject. Many visitors to my exhibitions assume that I have used newspaper and then realise the relevance when they read the words. I think people like to discover things about artwork for themselves. 
  • Your works capture not only a moment but a feeling and humour within your works. The puffin print artwork has been really popular in the art gallery as it captures great humour ( another Picasso link!) as well as colour and movement. How do you decide on what to paint and what not to paint? 
I'm very fortunate as an artist in that I paint what I am inspired to from my travels through wild places and my customers like the work enough to want it displayed in their homes and offices. I therefore don't need to rely on commissions which are sometimes a compromise with someone else's creative processes. Certain subjects like puffins certainly always sell and I could probably make a good living from just painting them but it is the larger pieces in which I can really let my creative impulses flow. If I see anything in nature which I feel would make a beautiful or dramatic artwork I'll paint it.  
  • Do you use photographs as well as painting from life? 
Due to the limitations of using collage in the field all my collages are completed in the studio. I use a combination of sketches, photographs, memory and imagination to create the finished compositions. If I can observe an animal for long enough to sketch it, sometimes with the help of a telescope, I will do so. However, i also carry a camera for capturing fleeting moments or when i can't access my sketchbook like when I observe otters from my kayak.
  • Do you have an exciting plans for the year ahead? 
I have three solo shows spread throughout the year as well as the usual gallery exhibitions around the UK. I'm planning a trip to some of the national parks in the US in the summer as well as more exploration of wilder Scotland. Perhaps I may finally get out to St Kilda this year which is a part of Scotland I have yet to see.