Guest blogger Stewart Sexton talks about a visit to 'Ripples from the House on the Shore'
The 7th February was a special day for me. On a visit up to Berwick-upon Tweed, I met a lifelong hero of mine. Well, almost, as my hero is no longer with us, having passed away in 1981, but today I could definitely feel his presence.
Back in the mid 70's while my school friends were idolising Billy Bremner I spent wet Saturday mornings visiting Morpeth Library to browse the bird and wildlife books. It was here I found what was to be my favourite read - 'The House on the Shore' by Dr Eric Ennion, a tale of a small bird observatory that was operated on the Northumberland coast opposite the Farne Islands.
Dr Ennion was a GP from Northants, born in 1900, the son of a country doctor. He was always interested in birds and began drawing them from an early age, eventually becoming one of our most influential bird artists.
He and his wife bought Monk's House between Seahouses and Bamburgh to run as a field studies centre for the decade between 1950 - 1960. During this time, Ennion didn’t have too much time to draw and paint, but after he left Northumberland and moved to Shalbourne in Wiltshire, he began teaching wildlife and landscape painting, producing a prolific output of work.
When I was a young lad, aged about 12, his drawing and writing had a great impact on me. I hung on to every word and gazed longingly at the illustrations. The birds leapt from the page. Ennion had a knack of capturing the real character of a bird, not any bird, but that individual he had in front of him at the time. He mostly drew them on brown or grey backgrounds and often used cardboard or old envelopes as he felt that plain white paper was a little too harsh to the eye.
So, when I visited Sunderland last autumn to see an exhibition of his work, I was thoroughly disappointed when I got there to find access an impossibility due to a damaged door after some rain ingress. Luck was on my side however, as soon after, I heard that the same exhibition would be coming to Berwick in 2016, even closer to home than Sunderland.
The Eric Ennion Exhibition ‘Ripples from the House on the Shore’ opened at the Granary Gallery in Berwick on the 6th February and runs until 17th April 2016 and I was raring to get there, to take in some original works of the great man himself. There are 46 framed pieces on show (They aren’t for sale, you can’t get them for love nor money) showing his various styles.
After you have taken in the delights of Dr Ennion, you could call in at the Granary Bistro downstairs or even take in some of the small independent shops on nearby Bridge Street.
What is it that attracts me to his art? Well its the raw clean style really. No faff, no detail, these are not plates from the Collins field guide or Ian Lewington photo-realistic with airbrushed backgrounds, no, this work just beautifully evokes a scene from the time as if you were standing next to Dr Ennion while he painted.
As a very amateur artist myself, I thought I may never paint on white paper again...
Stewart lives on the Northumberland coast and blogs about the wildlife he sees, photographs, draws and paints on his wanders along the coast. www.boulmerbirder.blogspot.com