Kim Atkinson RCA

About the artist

We learnt about nature with our parents. They farmed on Bardsey Island for six years, 1963-9. When we reached school age we had lessons with Mum in the mornings, and roamed freely the rest of the time. We did Nature Study and kept a diary. Mum and Dad worked ever so hard – for us it was a rich childhood, a beautiful windswept place.

The instinct to roam, and to feel at home as close to the ground as possible, has never left me. Drawing and painting things found there is my way of dwelling on them, of seeing more fully, of incorporating my experience and memory.

It was lovely then to be able to spend a number of years at Art College (Falmouth, Cheltenham, Royal College of Art) where I was encouraged to explore ideas and media, sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography, and to meet other students. I discovered that it might be possible to combine a love of drawing, of printmaking, with a fascination for nature. While studying in London at the RCA for my Natural History Illustration M.A, I decided that going back to Bardsey would be a good way to try to draw birds in habitats other than the zoo. It was a fortunate decision because I met my future husband and so began a second spell of life on the island that I loved so much.

Greg Poole came to live there for a season during that time. He became our friend and a wonderful inspiration, in his approach to drawing birds and his knowledge of them, having worked at bird observatories. I can really say that it was through Greg and his commitment to wildlife as subject for imagery that I came to trust in that, difficult as I found it, for my own artwork.

Since those first years on the island, came opportunities to join the membership of the Society of Wildlife Artists, to exhibit annually and even more fortunately to take part in projects and bursaries such as the Underwater Painting bursary in conjunction with the Wildlife Trusts.

In 1992 I was invited to join the Artists for Nature Foundation expedition to the Biebrja in Poland, and subsequent projects in India, Ireland, Spain, France, Poland, Peru – and equally wonderfully, to work alongside many artists over the years, which is such a privilege.

We now live on the far end of Pen Llyn, with three acres of fields which we graze with a small flock of ewes. We shut some fields up for hay, or at least to grow and flower. We have many species of insects there as a result, and increasingly it provides subjects for painting and printmaking. As does the garden, and the nearby cliffs.

I make paintings on paper, card and board primed with gesso, and relish the challenge of working out on headland or cliff, whilst trying to make work which is not a sketch to be used later in the studio (though I do that too) but to make something outside and which is wholly driven by the time, place and weather.