In early 2013, Derek Robertson was invited by Scottish Natural Heritage to be artist-in-residence at Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve to celebrate Year of Natural Scotland 2013. Derek began sketching the wildlife and landscape around the reserve and researching the history, geomorphology and biology of the site. He quickly began to make plans for developing art projects that would continue through the following year and beyond. These projects included local and national exhibitions as well as individual work from Tentsmuir exhibited in shows across the country and overseas. The project attracted considerable interest in the press and was featured on local and national TV and led to features on BBC Countryfile, BBC News, STV News, BBC Radio Scotland, Real Radio, Radio Tay and numerous articles in the local and national press. A major feature was published in the SNH magazine “The Nature of Scotland”. Derek has already given over 25 talks about the residency including a prestigious presentation for Creative Scotland – and more talks are booked over the coming year. Incidental to the residency were a number of wildlife observations made in the course of fieldwork which were of real conservation interest: Derek discovered that the wet dune slacks were an important wintering site for woodcock, carried out a tape-callback survey of water rails which provided the first reserve count for the species and proved breeding, and conducted a survey of breeding woodcock for a national project by the BTO.
A feature of the artist residency project is an on-line exhibition trail which links to images of artwork created at Tentsmuir through this website, together with trail-camera video of wildlife at Tentsmuir filmed by Derek, through QR codes accessed on a physical trail around the reserve. Derek has also contributed to a series of outreach projects at Tentsmuir including Family Fun Day (mural event), Red Squirrel Day (clay modelling), Virtual Art Trail Launch (sketching demo and class) and events at other SNH reserves including Art on The May (collaborative event with musicians, crafts and artists on the Isle of May NNR) and Art Masterclass (sketching wildlife at Tayvallich NNR).
The children’s events, in particular, were devised in collaboration with reserve wardens and environmental practitioners to discuss themes developed in a series of art-science collaborations that took place through the year. The mural project was used as an opportunity to develop themes on ecological webs and the Red Squirrel day sculpting event was produced in collaboration with the Red Squirrel officer, Sophie Eastwood to explore ideas of habitat suitability, evolutionary niches and adaptation.
Visit the gallery and project pages on the site to see how the various projects and the artwork have developed. Derek’s website at www.derekrobertson.com shows his paintings of wildlife and countryside while his website at www.creativepastures.com represents his poetic narrative paintings and installations.