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Pelicans in Puerto Ayora © David Pollock
24/11/2023 Art and literature

‘Galápagos Sketchbook’: An interview with David Pollock

British artist David Pollock is supporting GCT by donating the profits from his new book, Galápagos Sketchbook, which is filled with beautiful watercolour illustrations and sketches of the Archipelago’s unique wildlife.

Tom O'Hara

Communications Manager

David’s book is a replica of the sketchbook that he has carried with him everywhere for the past three decades, and features species including giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas. Earlier this month we attended a launch event for the book at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and we caught up with David afterwards to ask him a few questions…

David Pollock 'Galapagos Sketchbook' launch at the Ecuadorian Embassy, London
David speaking at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London © Tom O'Hara / GCT

Firstly, could you explain a little bit about how the book came about?

I always take a sketchbook with me on my travels. Nearly always A5 landscape, because I like the proportions and size, always the heaviest possible watercolour paper to minimise cockling, and always hardbound rather than ringbound. It is important not to tear out the ‘failures’… one learns from them! I have about 40 books on the shelf now.

Alexander Fyjis-Walker of Pallas Athene saw the Galapagos volume some years ago and suggested publication. Then came Covid, which delayed the process. But now it’s here, we have, at last, what I think is a very well crafted book.

David Pollock at work in his studio © David Pollock
David at work in his studio © David Pollock
David Pollock - Galapagos Sketchbook

Galápagos Sketchbook

Hardback – 154 x 214 mm – 96 pages

Forty three double page full-colour spreads. Notes on fauna and afterword by Mick Rooney RA.

Shop now

Were there any particular highlights or experiences during your time in Galapagos that really stand out in your memory? Or any sketches in the book that you are particularly fond of?

Highlights of the trip are almost too numerous… Perhaps the nesting waved albatross with its giant chick, unperturbed by our presence, a mere couple of metres away; the young sea lion that ‘trained’ me, while I was snorkelling, to pick up a dead fish from the seabed; the marine iguanas, gloriously Mephistophelean and a joy to draw; the pelicans and sea lions mobbing the fish market in Puerto Ayora; and of course the glorious boobies.

 

How do you think that drawing or painting on your travels differs from simply taking photographs?

Drawing is different from photography in that it is about careful observation over a relatively long period of time and then bringing out the essentials of a subject. Mick Rooney RA makes this point in his Appreciation in the book.

The process is a sort of instinctive editing by the artist which, if done well and combined with a bit of skill in mark making, can arguably reveal more truth than a photo. And because of the time and effort taken in making the image, it acts more effectively than any snap as a visual mnemonic recalling the day it was made.

Sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs
Sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs © David Pollock

David Pollock has reconnected with the noble art of the topographical illustrator - the type of draughtsman and draughtsmanship that accompanied Darwin on his expeditions.

Mick Rooney RA

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of travelling to Galapagos with a sketchbook in hand, or any tips for anyone drawing the wildlife of Galapagos at home?

My advice to would-be sketchers, in Galapagos or otherwise, is to choose a book as described above and take the minimum of other gear… a couple of small boxes of half-pans with colours chosen for the likely subjects, a brush or two (normally use the largest you can properly control), likewise soft pencils and a couple of fine-liner pens of different nib widths. Also a plastic 250cc bottle of water, the bottom half of another similar bottle, and a palette.

And take your camera… don’t be afraid of using reference photos to back up initial on-site pencil sketches and to help when you work up the pictures later.

 

Why did you decide to donate the profits from the book to Galapagos Conservation Trust? And what do you think the role of the arts is in conserving and protecting the natural world?

I decided to support Galapagos Conservation Trust simply because they are a UK-based charity with an exceptional reputation for their work in the Archipelago…and Galapagos needs such support.

The role of the arts in supporting conservation is an interesting question…I guess the main threads are:

  • They can attract and hold an audience that might not otherwise be engaged by conservation.
  • They can dramatise reality to good effect, bringing imagination to bear. They can represent situations and events that might threaten but have not yet occurred.
  • They can represent events or species of which it is difficult to take photographs (because they are in inaccessible environments for example).
  • They can attract and maintain funding for conservation measures.

(The arts) can dramatise reality to good effect, bringing imagination to bear. They can represent situations and events that might threaten but have not yet occurred.

Galapágos Sketchbook is available now from Pallas Athene.

David is kindly donating all profits from the book to Galapagos Conservation Trust.

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