Singer-songwriter Edwyn Collins once harboured a secret dream of updating the prints in Lord Lilford's Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Isles, but let this dream fall by the wayside to become a rock star. But when the former Orange Juice frontman suffered a brain haemorrhage in February 2005 (his recovery from which was documented in this year's touching BBC special Home Again ), it was music that was put to the side as Collins resumed his one-time hobby of sketching as part of his therapy.
Collins has drawn one bird a day every day since October 2005, the results of which are currently on display at Smithfield Gallery. The collection is a selection of his works, limited to British birds, continuing into this year.
It is rather remarkable to see his progress over the course of months; Collins, who was right handed, needed to learn to write and draw with his left hand after his right side was weakened by the stroke. The drawings from 2005 look like the works of a very observant child — there is an aptitude for detail, but the control has not yet been mastered. By contrast, the works from 2007 and on not only show accuracy and realism, but also begin to show the mastery of individual technique.
In his artist's statement, Collins relates the story of a bird he found in his garden as a child and nursed back to health. After the bird was set free, she would still fly back to his window and even appeared with her brood. The tale sums up the sentiment of the show: charming, inspiring, and above all, heartwarming.
Edwyn Collins: British Birdlife Until 15 November, The Smithfield Gallery, 16 West Smithfield, EC1 9HY. Free entry.
Photo by the author.