Below is an archive of some of our past art exhibitions.
Flight Paths - Babs Pease, John Hatton and Helen Denerley (27 September - 12 November 2023)
This joint exhibition presents linocuts by Babs Pease and John Hatton alongside sculptures by Helen Denerley. Both Babs and John have become masters of this printmaking technique and use it to create complex multi-coloured prints. Babs Pease lives in Clackmannanshire and draws inspiration from the beautiful landscapes framed by the Ochil Hills; she says: “Most of my artistic input comes from long rambling observational walks in the surrounding countryside”. Similarly, John Hatton's life-long interest in nature is sustained by the countryside around him in Lancashire, as well as regular trips to Northumberland and the Borders.
Bold shapes are also the key ingredients in Helen Denerley’s work. Helen makes sculptures from scrap metal, recycling objects that can often be identified in the finished artwork, such as a bicycle saddle or a car door! Best known in Scotland for her scrap metal giraffes on Leith Walk, Helen’s work is held in collections around the world. She is based in remote Aberdeenshire and surrounded by nature. She says: “Birds, in particular, have always been a big part of my life. They punctuate my year and are a constant inspiration.” She recently created a 4.5m tall Tree of Life for the charity Trees For Life at their new centre in Dundreggan. (Image: Winter Sun by Babs Pease)
Between Earth and Sky- Emily Ingrey-Counter, Nye Hughes and Simon Griffiths (2 August - 24 September 2023)
This joint exhibition presents drawings, paintings and ceramic sculptures by Emily Ingrey-Counter, Nye Hughes and Simon Griffiths. All three are specialist wildlife artists and members of SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists).
Emily and Nye are both based in Edinburgh and draw much inspiration from their local environment in the Lothians. Emily creates fresh and energetic drawings of the natural world through direct and immediate mark making. Most of her work is created outdoors capturing fleeting moments and visceral experiences of nature through her use of mixed media (pastels, ink, charcoal and paint). Nye is an artist and designer who first came to Scotland to study and never left. The main focus of his artwork is the remarkable ecology of the Scottish coast and islands and the wildlife and plants that inhabit them. In this exhibition, Nye presents watercolour paintings created on locations along the East Lothian coast, the Bass Rock and the Isle of May. Simon, a sculptor based in County Durham, captures in ceramics the wildlife that surrounds him in the north Pennines. His work is full of textures and movement that successfully evoke the presence of the animals depicted. (Image: Nesting on the Rocks by Emily Ingrey-Counter)
John Busby retrospective (7 June - 30 July 2023)
The exhibition is a retrospective of around 20 works on paper by the late John Busby, 1928-2015. Artist, author and illustrator, John Busby was a founding member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and the Artists for Nature Foundation and has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for many wildlife artists working today.
In his long career he travelled extensively and always with a sketchbook in hand to record new bird species and behaviour. The artworks in the exhibition represent the width of those travels with birds from the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, the USA, as well as Europe and the fabulous variety on his doorstep here in Scotland. In the foreword to a previous exhibition he wrote: "I try to follow this love of the live bird – its actions, its harmony and discomfort with the elements – the complete bird and not just a decorative device, and to explore the essence of each species I know. I also try to show the artist’s reaction to the pleasure of events seen in the wild and the strong element of the unexpected in nature. There is a lifetime of watching in the drawings which I think anyone with first-hand experience of birds will detect.” (Image: Red-footed Boobies Resting, Aldabra by John Busby)
Mostly Air - Chris Wallbank (7 June - 30 July 2023)
This exhibition presents new work by Chris Wallbank in the main gallery. Chris is an artist specialising in painting, drawing and printmaking and a member of SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists). He is most at home working in response to the changing elements and rhythms of nature. He believes in the role that visual art can play in presenting themes of ecology in a new light, leading him to collaborate with a wide range of conservation projects, from the long-term monitoring of breeding Guillemot colonies on Skomer Island to the preservation of urban Black Kites in New Delhi. In recognition of this, Chris was awarded the Birdscapes Conservation Through Art Award and two Wales Contemporary Awards.
The title of the exhibition, taken from Ursula K. Le Guin’s poem, alludes to its overarching theme of birds, being feathered, light and ‘mostly air’. The drawings, paintings and animations focus on the avifauna of Scotland, especially in East Lothian where Chris has lived since 2020. Everything on show, from oversized scroll drawings to delicate watercolours, is created from life, whilst rejoicing in watching birds and the sense of wilderness such encounters affirm. Fleeting glimpses, ephemeral moments, fading landscapes and the lightness of brush on paper, the work is mostly air. (Image: Spotted and Caught by Chris Wallbank)
Into the Wild - Liz Myhill and Lucy Newton (19 April - 4 June 2023)
This exhibition brings together the work of Liz Myhill and Lucy Newton. Both artists share a passion for the diversity of the natural world in Scotland. They both immerse themselves in nature, painting outdoors from life, to better capture their subject, but also that particular moment. Their work is full of energy and invention, in turn gentle or raw, detailed or suggestive. They also share a predilection for watercolours as a medium, which they deploy in a contemporary and personal way, often mixing in other media (crayons, charcoal, etc.).
Liz Myhill has a deep-rooted connection to her native Isle of Skye and the Highlands and Islands. She studied at Duncan and Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and has worked as a professional artist since, exhibiting widely across the UK. She was The Swarovski Optik & Birdwatch Magazine Artist of the Year 2021 and was shortlisted for the Highland Art Prize in 2022. She has been an elected member of the RSW (Royal Society of painters in Watercolours) since 2017.
Lucy Newton spends most of her time observing and painting from life outdoors. She was born and brought up in West Lothian and studied at Edinburgh College of Art and initially worked as a freelance illustrator, for the Sunday Herald in particular. She now focuses primarily on her own artwork drawing inspiration from the natural world. She exhibits widely across Scotland. (Image: Curlew by Lucy Newton)
Lisa Hooper, SWLA (1 March - 16 April 2023)
Lisa lives and works in West Galloway and takes inspiration from the birds and wildlife she sees close to home and on frequent visits to Orkney and Shetland. In this exhibition, she presents a new body of prints, mostly woodcuts and linocuts as well as some etchings.
Lisa’s artistic practice was transformed after attending a printmaking course almost three decades ago. Since then, printmaking has become her primary medium. She values the focus that printmaking encourages and she has developed a distinctive style, producing colourful, bold compositions sometimes flirting with abstraction. Lisa is an elected member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA). She exhibits widely in the UK and has published two books, First Impressions and Printing Wildlife with Langford Press, as well as contributing to many publications by Mascot Media such as The Artful Hare and Wings over Water. SOC members may also remember the poster she was commissioned to produce for The South Scotland Golden Eagle Project in 2020, and the cover she created for the 2019 Dumfries and Galloway Bird Report. Lisa’s exhibition at Waterston House is accompanied by glass sculptures by Graham Muir. (Image: Noss Gannets, Shetland by Lisa Hooper)
Scottish Nature Photography Awards Exhibition (18 January - 26 February 2023)
We are proud to host the 11th edition of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards which is touring to the SOC, in Aberlady, for its final stop. The exhibition presents the winning entries in this annual photography competition. Launched in 2012, the competition is open to all, professionals and amateurs of all ages and from anywhere in the world, and provides a platform to celebrate Scotland as a key destination for nature photography.
All the photographs in the exhibition were taken in Scotland by photographers and filmmakers from around the world. The exhibition presents the top 3 entries in different categories including: Scottish Wildlife Portrait, Scottish Wildlife Behaviour, Scottish Landscape, Natural Abstract, etc. It also includes a screening of the top 3 Scottish Nature Video Awards for short films about nature shot in Scotland.
The judging panel nominated 3 overall winners: Darren Cole received the top award for Ice and Fire, the Junior Scottish Nature Photographer Award went to Kaitlin Clark (age 11) for Peregrine Playtime and the Student top prize went to Murronrose Dunn for a portfolio of images entitled Passing Time. (Image: Piercing Gaze by Zan Blaszczyk)
Keith Brockie (16 November 2022 - 15 January 2023)
Our Christmas exhibition is a celebration of Scottish wildlife by watercolour maestro and naturalist Keith Brockie. For close to 40 years, Keith has studied and painted the wildlife of Scotland. He has always been more than an observer of nature and his natural history interests include the ringing of birds and the monitoring of birds of Prey, in particular the growing Osprey population in Perthshire. His work reflects his acute knowledge of animals but also his deep care for them. In this exhibition Keith presents new watercolours, recording close encounters with wildlife from the hills of Perthshire to the East Lothian coast, including tawny owls, ospreys, waders and seabirds. (Image: Incubating Fulmar, Isle of May Light by Keith Brockie)
Northern Flights: A View from Shetland - Howard Towll and Paul Bloomer (28 September - 13 November 2022)
This joint exhibition presents the work of two artists who have made Shetland their home and whose work is deeply informed by their environment. They both draw much inspiration from the wilderness of the islands, the wildlife, the constantly changing weather and light. Both also share a talent for printmaking, woodcuts and etchings in particular, and these form the core of this exhibition.
Howard Towll, originally from Edinburgh, has lived and worked on Shetland for 30 years. A self-taught artist, Howard studied ecology and also works as a ranger for Shetland Amenity Trust. His art practice is based on observational drawing and painting, as well as studio-based printmaking. Paul Bloomer was born and brought up in the heavily industrialised Black Country of the West Midlands and his work as an artist was initially informed by this industrial landscape imbued with a strong autobiographical narrative. Moving to Shetland 20 years ago changed his work dramatically. Printmaking encourages both artists to add a more personal interpretation to their observations of the natural world, with the results ranging from the decorative to the spiritual. (Image: Rain Geese by Howard Towll)
What it's Like to be a Bird - Catherine Rayner (4 August - 25 September 2022)
Catherine Rayner is an award-winning author and illustrator based in Edinburgh. She has written over 20 books for children, while illustrating other well-known authors including Julia Donaldson and Michael Morpurgo. In 2021, Catherine illustrated Tim Birkhead’s words for a book aimed at a young audience, What it’s Like to be a Bird. The core of this exhibition relates to this project. The exhibition at the SOC is an opportunity to see the original paintings that were used in the book while offering Catherine a chance to explore the subject on a different scale: “When I am working on a book, I often make large paintings of the subjects or characters in the story, because working exclusively within the size of a page can feel restrictive. In addition, knowing that this exhibition was in the diary opened the possibility that each page might exist outside of the book”. Some of the paintings on show are the original illustrations from the book while others are inspired by the words of Tim Birkhead and Catherine’s new found fascination for the spellbinding world of birds. (Image: Macaw Parrots by Catherine Rayner)
Birds, Botany and John Clare - Carry Akroyd (8 June - 31 July 2022)
Established wildlife artist Carry Akroyd has long admired the poetry of John Clare (1793 – 1864). The core of this exhibition in the gallery is a suite of 16 hand-drawn lithographs that incorporate extracts from his poems, while the full text of the poems will be displayed alongside the prints. Although so much of the rural landscape familiar to Clare has changed, his observations and concerns still speak to us two hundred years on. Carry Akroyd lives in Northamptonshire and draws inspiration from the farmed landscape around her where wildlife survives mostly on the edges. Her work, as a painter and printmaker, is characterised by a bold palette and a strong sense of composition. (Image: Swifts by Carry Akryod)
Nature, Prints and Poetry - Society of Wood Engravers (8 June - 31 July 2022)
This small exhibition, organised with the support of the Society of Wood Engravers, presents wood engravings by 13 artists, alongside the poems that inspired them. Wood engraving was traditionally used to illustrate books, with Thomas Bewick developing the use of this technique in the late 18th century. Today, it continues to be used by artists who value the fine detail and wide tonal range it offers. Rooted in the illustration of books and natural history subjects, wood engravings are a fitting companion for poetry. Both share a similar intensity: like a poem’s few stanzas, a wood engraving encapsulates a whole world despite its often diminutive size. (Image: Wren by Kay A Brown)
Joint exhibition - Kittie Jones and Wynona Legg (27 April - 5 June 2022)
Kittie Jones and Wynona Legg, both members of the Society of Wildlife Artists, share an expressive approach to their work. Drawing primarily from life in the field, they aim to capture the movements of animals and the constant changes that characterise the natural world. Their joint exhibition also highlights their respective responses to the constraints of the past two years: while Kittie found wilderness in the city, Wynona used online webcams to observe animals across the globe. (Image: Eider Group by Kittie Jones)
Under the Skin - James and Ed Harrison (3 March - 24 April 2022)
'Under the Skin' presents the work of two artists and brothers, James and Ed Harrison. They create interactive screenprints to support the conservation of endangered animals. Each print focuses on a vulnerable species and is developed in association with a charity involved in its conservation. The aim is to raise funds, as well as awareness, and 20% of the proceeds from the sale of the prints go to the charity partner. The prints are hand-made screenprints with layers of colour that result in bold and joyous designs. However, the seriousness of their message is delivered with a punch: when a UV light is shone on the print, the skeleton of the animal is revealed. Visitors to Waterston House will be handed UV torches with which to enjoy and ponder a series of around 20 of these interactive prints. This exhibition will take place in the corridor, concurrently with the exhibition 'Facing West' by Jane Smith presented in the Gallery. (Image: Great Hammerhead Shark by James & Ed Harrison)
Facing West - Jane Smith (3 March - 24 April 2022)
A new collection of screenprints by Jane Smith inspired by the West coast of Scotland will be on display in the gallery, concurrently with the 'Under the Skin' exhibition in the corridor. The landscape of the West coast is heavily indented by sea lochs and even on the mountain-tops one is never far from the coast. The pervasive presence of the sea has an impact on both the landscape and wildlife and even garden goldfinches must negotiate the sea breeze. Jane’s work aims to capture the way birds, and animals in general, belong in their environment from a biological as well as aesthetic point of view. (Image: Hebridean Summer by Jane Smith)
To the Waters and the Wild - British Tapestry Group (13 January - 27 February 2022)
This exhibition of tapestry presents work by the Scottish members of the British Tapestry Group (BTG) inspired by the natural world. BTG aims to promote woven tapestry as a contemporary artform. It provides a platform for weavers to connect, develop their work and exhibit. Weaving tapestry requires a significant investment in time, energy and skill. The resulting work is arresting, all the more so as this medium is relatively rarely shown. The exhibition also reveals the variety of approaches, both figurative and abstract, that the medium of tapestry encompasses.
The title of the exhibition, a verse from a WB Yeats poem, evokes the escape to be found in the natural world. If this was sometimes curtailed over the past couple of years, we have all learned to value it even more. Like many of us, the artists rediscovered their immediate environment, the local wood, the beach, the bird songs, and found inspiration there, or they looked inwards for memories of encounters with the wild further afield. The result is a small survey of tapestry today and a woven tribute to Nature. (Image: Winter Morning, Loch Brora by Joan Baxter)
The exhibition is accompanied by sculptures by Chris Hindley. A new exhibitor at Waterston House, Chris takes his inspiration from his own observations of wildlife as well as early decoys and folk art from North America.
Close to Home - Darren Woodhead (11 November 2021 - 9 January 2022)
Darren Woodhead’s new solo show “Close to Home” is an ode to the natural world and a reflection on the anchor it has been for the artist over the past months. As Darren explains: “Although the world has changed, my need to observe, document and record through watercolour has not. Even more so now, it is my escape, my sense of serenity and belonging. Many of the paintings have stemmed from observing birds in the garden or from “one man on his bike” trips in the field. Here, I could immerse myself in the changing seasons and the parallel natural world, and feel the ultimate connection to my subject, close to home.” (Image: Great Spotted Woodpecker by Darren Woodhead)
Wild Moments - Lorna Hamilton, Melanie Mascarenhas and Adele Pound (30 September - 7 November 2021)
The artists in this exhibition, Lorna Hamilton, Melanie Mascarenhas and Adele Pound, won a bursary on the Sea Bird Drawing Course. This bursary, awarded by the Society of Wildlife Artists annually, offers wildlife artists an opportunity to further develop their work. The Sea Bird Drawing Course was created by John Busby and takes place in various locations around East Lothian each summer. Adele, Lorna and Melanie share the ambition to capture a whole world in their work. They are quite experimental and use unusual ways of portraying wildlife such as graphic stories. (Image: Sanderliiiing by Adele Pound)
Painted Wings - Helga Chart, Claire Harkess and Derek Robertson (5 August - 26 September 2021)
"Painted Wings" brings together the work of Helga Chart, Claire Harkess and Derek Robertson, three established Scottish artists recognised in particular for their mastery of watercolour media. All three are elected members of RSW (The Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour). While their work is rooted in the observation of nature, it invariably captures other things: a moment in time, a sense of place, a deeper concern for the world and our place in it. (Image: Wee Gannets by Claire Harkess)
Song Lines by Val O'Regan (29 July - 1 August 2021)
In 2020 the SOC collaborated with the National Library of Scotland to digitise the Club’s sound archive as part of a large Lottery-funded project, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage. An important aspect of the project was the appointment of artist in residence Val O’Regan. Val was based at Benmore Botanic Garden where she organised workshops for children and adults to create artworks inspired by the recordings of birds in the archive, as well as developing her own work in response. A selection of the artworks created by Val during the residency are displayed at Waterston House. Documenting the experience of listening to the sounds through drawing, photography and found objects, Val used collage and the cyanotype technique to bring all these strands together. Images were cut, layered, fragmented to better represent these disparate inputs. Val’s work captures wonderfully these multiple sources of inspiration: the sounds, the birds, her environment at the time, and manages the seemingly impossible task of rendering this experience visually. (Image: Flight of Curiosity by Val O'Regan)
Wonder Wander - Andrea Geile (3 June - 26 September 2021)
This is the first extensive display of outdoor sculptures in our garden. For this exhibition award-winning sculptor Andrea Geile created a new body of work inspired by the coastal landscape and wildlife. These large sculptures, made using Corten steel and casting techniques in Andrea's Edinburgh studio, will grace our garden throughout the summer. (Image: Flit and Away by Andrea Geile)
Insectarium - Society of Scottish Artists (3 June - 25 July 2021)
This exhibition presents artworks created by members of the Society of Scottish Artists in response to the conflicting feelings that Insects inspire in us. Beautiful or repulsive, dangerous or inspiring, Insects are above all essential to life on earth, and certainly our own. "Insectarium" offers a collection of artworks that reflect our complex feelings towards these crucial creatures in a wide range of media: sculptures, paintings, prints and small installations.
The exhibition is organised jointly with the Society of Scottish Artists, a not-for-profit organisation run by artists for artists, whose primary function is to support its membership to organise, present and promote exhibitions and events, as well as offering a platform for discussion and sharing. (Image: Small Phoenix by Noelle Odling)
Joint Exhibition by John Threlfall, Esther Tyson and Simon Griffiths (29 April - 30 May 2021)
This exhibition brings together pastel drawings by John Threlfall and oil paintings by Esther Tyson with ceramics sculptures by Simon Griffiths. These artists take their inspiration from the close observation of animals in the wild.
For this exhibition, John Threlfall and Esther Tyson focus on wildlife in the North East of Scotland and the Cairngorms respectively while Simon Griffiths takes his inspiration from the countryside around him in County Durham. (Image: Greenshank by John Threlfall)
Joint Exhibition by Robert Greenhalf, Matt Underwood & Anthony Theakston (15 October 2020 - 10 January 2021)
This joint exhibition presents paintings and prints by Robert Greenhalf and Matt Underwood alongside sculptures by Anthony Theakston. (Image: Thistle and Linnets by Matt Underwood)
Coastal Birds by Emily Ingrey-Counter, Helen Kennedy and Liz Myhill (1 August - 27 September 2020)
This group exhibition brings together work by Emily Ingrey-Counter, Helen Kennedy and Liz Myhill. These three artists have worked along-side each other for some time. They won the same SWLA bursary in 2018 to attend the renowned Sea Bird Drawing Course, an important personal development course for wildlife artists created by John Busby. They have since met regularly to go on working trips drawing birds and wildlife. The work in this exhibition is the result of such trips to the Isle of May, St Abbs Head and the RSPB Mersehead Reserve, as well as work developed independently closer to home. (Image: Guillemot Rock by Liz Myhill)
Kindred Spirits by Carol Barrett, Graham Catlow, Frances Richardson, Carol Read and Richard Ballantyne (22 February - 22 March 2020)
This group exhibition, focusing on African wildlife, brings together work by Carol Barrett, Graham Catlow and Frances Richardson alongside sculptures by Carol Read and Richard Ballantyne. The title of the exhibition, ‘Kindred Spirits’, refers to the strong bond that the artists feel for the animals they depict. All three painters are also connected with Edinburgh Zoo, either as former artists in residence or former member of staff.
The work in the exhibition encompasses watercolours, pastels, lithographs, ceramics and aims to convey the awe felt by the artists for majestic animals facing great environmental pressures. (Image: Endangered Mask by Carol Barrett)
Scottish Nature Photography Awards Exhibition (18 January - 19 February 2020)
The Scottish Nature Photography Awards is a touring exhibition which presents winning entries from the 9th Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year competition. The SOC hope that this exhibition will encourage more people to look closely at our exceptional natural environment and to consider taking part in this competition in future. The competition was launched in 2010 and is open to all. It aims to provide a platform to celebrate Scotland as a destination for nature photography and to acknowledge the excellent photographic work undertaken here. All the photographs in the exhibition were taken in Scotland by professional and amateur photographers from around the world. One of the key objectives of the competition is to promote emerging talent by inviting entries from students of photography and from young photographers under 18. (Image: Red Grouse by Carol Dilger)
New Work - Darren Woodhead (22 November 2019 - 15 January 2020)
New Work, an exhibition by Darren Woodhead, highlights the work he has created over the past two years. Working along the coast and river, and in the fields of East Lothian (his home ground), Darren observes the birds, insects and landscapes of the countryside. As ever, Darren works 'en plein air' directly in watercolour. Rain may stipple the paint or ice rosettes form within the colour, it only adds to the life that Darren seeks to capture. Walking through the exhibition, you will recognise a sparrow resting in the sun and even hear a trill of curlews in the distance. (Image: Kingfisher in Alder Shadows by Darren Woodhead)
Contrast by Max Angus, Paul Bartlett, John Foker and John Hatton (12 October - 19 November 2019)
Contrast, a group exhibition by Max Angus, Paul Bartlett, John Foker and John Hatton highlightiing their contrasting approaches to the subject of nature and wildlife. Paul Bartlett and John Foker’s work draws attention to the construction of their images. In these, the subject seems to fleetingly emerge from the background. By contrast, Max Angus and John Hatton, both printmakers, favour a muted palette and precise lines creating an impression of calm and balance in these images. (Image: Arriving at the May by Paul Bartlett)
Interpretations by Helen Denerley, Greg Poole, Lara Scouller and Nik Pollard (31 August - 9 October 2019)
'Interpretations' brings together four artists with a very personal take on the natural world. They aim to interpret and distil their subject while retaining its essential truth. They achieve this through the dedicated study of nature and the process of making itself, letting their chosen media lead them in this exploration. The show will offer a mix of dynamic, expressive and celebratory interpretations of our natural world and include: metal sculptures by Helen Denerley, bold woodcuts by Greg Poole, pastels by Lara Scouller and drawings, paintings and prints by Nik Pollard. (Image: Emperor Dragonfly by Nik Pollard)
KYST (Coast) by Ben Woodhams (6 July - 26 August 2019)
KYST is a solo exhibition by SWLA member, Ben Woodhams, a British artist living in Denmark, on the island of Bornholm. The exhibition is the result of an ambitious project undertaken by the artist over the course of last year. Every Friday in 2018, Ben walked a section of the coastline of Bornholm, making a record of the journey through sketching and painting. Walking from dawn to dusk, Ben was presented with constant change: the changing weather, the passing seasons, the arrival of migratory birds and tourists. As a slow and quiet observer, Ben recorded the passage of time and its effect on nature and people. The exhibition reflects the meditative nature of the project and is accompanied by a book. (Image: Looking South from Bolshavn by Ben Woodhams)