Wausau, Wisconsin: New avian-themed artworks by 114 worldwide artists comprise the 44th annual Birds in Art exhibition, on view Saturday, September 7 through Sunday, December 1, at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.
This year’s exhibition includes artwork by 2019 Master Alan Woollett, 22 who were named Master Artists during previous Birds in Art exhibitions, and 91 artists whose work was selected by the jury. In addition to thirty-three international artists, the 2019 exhibition includes artwork created by nine Wisconsin artists and seventeen new to Birds in Art.
All-new artwork features varied interpretations of avian wonders – from animated to tranquil – via original paintings, sculptures, and graphics created within the last three years. Whether through colored pencil, oil, charcoal, bronze, or stone, artists depict the character, spirit, and habitats of birds via innovative artistic approaches. From Parker McDonald’s bronze songbirds perched atop a flute to Laurence Saunois’ oil painting featuring white peacock pigeons’ plumage fanned like Flamenco dancers, the range is vast. A trio of lappet-faced vultures strike dignified poses in an oil painting by Cathy Weiss. Endearing expressions and postures of puffins are arrayed in Woollett’s stunning colored-pencil artwork.
As the 2019 edition of the Woodson Art Museum’s flagship exhibition continues to delight and engage audiences of wide-ranging interests, it also celebrates the artistry and achievements of Woollett, a British colored-pencil artist, the first international Master Artist since 2009. The Woodson Art Museum’s 38th Master Artist, Woollett will receive the Master Wildlife Artist Medal during the Birds in Art opening festivities.
2019 Master Artist Alan Woollett
Woollett’s artwork, whether deftly drawn in graphite or colored pencil, is characterized by eye-catching and elegant compositions featuring birds in striking poses. His exquisitely detailed and sophisticated avian-themed artworks – depicting birds’ delicacy and poise – convey the joys of observing, drawing, and appreciating nature.
In announcing the 2019 Master Wildlife Artist, director Kathy Kelsey Foley said, “Alan’s mastery of the colored-pencil medium expands the high standards that define the Museum’s Master Artists. His artwork is distinct and distinctly his own. Alan brings new perspectives to the pantheon of Woodson Art Museum Masters.”
“My work has evolved over the years and I’m passionate about conveying the beauty of birds and the complexities and simplicity of these amazing creatures,” Woollett said. “Seeing my work in the Birds in Art exhibition alongside that of so many great artists never ceases to make me smile. It is really such an honor.” Fourteen Alan Woollett artworks comprise his 2019 Master Artist exhibition.
During his career, as Woollett’s choice of mediums gradually transitioned from graphite and watercolor to colored pencil, he strove to create artwork that would be selected for the Birds in Art exhibition. Determined to work harder each year to refine all aspects of his work, Woollett submitted artwork for the annual exhibition five times before he was successful in 2011 with a graphite work. “My first acceptance to Birds in Art was an incredible feeling; one I shall never forget,” Woollett said. Traveling from England to Wausau, his experiences during the opening festivities provided inspiration and fueled his motivation to improve. “When I initially scanned the galleries,” he said. “I knew I’d have to step it up even more, if I hoped to return.” Selected for inclusion in Birds in Art seven times, Woollett made the journey from England to attend the exhibition opening again twice subsequently.
“I’m still taking in the fact that my work is deemed worthy of being exhibited alongside that of such esteemed and talented artists,” Woollett said of the Woodson Art Museum’s Birds in Art artists and previously named Master Artists. “It’s such a huge honor and one that has me still pinching myself most mornings when I sit to draw in my humble little studio.”
Born in 1964 in Chatham, Kent, England, Woollett’s interest in birds was sparked during winter backyard birdwatching as a young boy. His childhood drawing pursuits and an “i-SPY Birds” book given to him by his mother ingrained an interest that was to lie dormant until many years later. After high school and training to become a carpenter, Woollett shifted course and began studying graphic design at the Kent Institute of Art and Design, now called the University for the Creative Arts. His two years as a student there “reignited my passion for art, drawing, and the natural world,” and in 1993 he received an OND, Ordinary National Diploma, in graphic design and illustration. After college, Woollett refined his skills drawing with graphite “whilst seriously harboring a desire to paint these subjects in watercolor,” he said. A local naturalist and illustrator taught him how to use a paintbrush, and he focused on honing his painting skills during the next few years as a stay-at-home parent of his two children.
Gradually, he transitioned to working in colored pencil, after initially using them to add fine details to his paintings and then using them more extensively to complete his drawings. “I had always felt much more comfortable with a pencil in hand than a paintbrush,” he said.
Woollett’s first colored-pencil work to be exhibited in Birds in Art, Northern Mockingbird, was acquired by the Woodson Art Museum in 2013, which he described as “a great feeling and an honor.” The striking, abstract patterns of the paint cans in this artwork and its unexpected perspective – the view from above the bird perched atop a lid – convey what sparked Woollett’s interest and served as a catalyst for the work. Although the gray bird flitting among the rusted paint cans initially caught his eye during a Sunday afternoon walk near an abandoned-building lot, “the colors, shapes, and shadows had me hooked. I just had to draw it,” he said. “Inspiration often comes from unusual sources.”
Although birds provide Woollett with endless sources of inspiration, the “key to my motivation is seeing that fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher in bright sunlight, or the way snowfall on a simple log pile can transform it into an eye-catching abstract design,” he writes in his book Bird Art: Drawing Birds Using Graphite & Coloured Pencils, published by Search Press Limited in 2017.
Woollett’s artwork has been featured in exhibitions throughout England, including at the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art at the Gordale Garden Centre, Burton, South Wirral; seasonal exhibitions at Francis Iles Galleries in Rochester, Kent; and the United Kingdom Colored Pencil Society at Menier Gallery in London. His awards include Earth’s Beautiful Creatures Award, 2016, “Wildlife Artist of the Year,” from Mall Galleries in London, and Bird Artist of the Year, 2000, by Birdwatch Magazine.
He lives and works in Maidstone, Kent, England, with his wife, two children, two springer spaniels, and a recently adopted border collie.
For Birds in Art 2019, more than 500 artists submitted over 800 artworks for consideration by the three-person jury. The Wisconsin artists are Gary Eigenberger, Green Bay; Terrill A. Knaack, Beaver Dam; Rebecca Korth, Marshfield; S.V. Medaris, Mount Horeb; John S. Miller, Madison; Katie Ann Musolff, Fredonia; Don Rambadt, Milwaukee; Michael James Riddet, Gays Mill; and Sandra Wiesman Weiler, Marshfield.
The 2019 Birds in Art jurors were Jillian Casey, curator of collections, Stamford Museum & Nature Center, Stamford, Connecticut; Luis Purón, executive director, Rockport Center for the Arts, Rockport, Texas; and Robin Salmon, curator of sculpture and vice president of art and historical collections, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
Birds in Art: Opening Day Overview
The Museum opens at 9 am on Saturday, September 7, for a morning filled with an array of opportunities to interact with more than 70 Birds in Art artists who flock to the Museum from throughout the world for the exhibition’s debut. Be an early bird, visiting 9 am-Noon, while artists are in the galleries and on the grounds. Make Birds in Art your first stop of Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend. [Note: The Museum remains open until 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 7, and is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, September 8.]
Saturday, September 7
9 am – Noon, arrive when the Museum opens at 9 a.m. to be among the first to mingle with and get catalogues and posters signed by dozens of worldwide artists.
9:30 – 10:30 am, “The Finer Points,” Alan Woollett, the Museum’s 2019 Master Artist, shares his journey from coloring outside the lines to defining them. Learn about his creative process and the paths from his studio in England to his participation in Birds in Art.
10:45 am – Noon, During Artists in Action, artists demonstrate their work in various mediums in the sculpture garden.
Upcoming Artist Residency Programs
Throughout the fall, artists undertake residencies focusing on varied mediums and techniques. Catherine McClung leads programs, October 17-20, focused on watercolor painting and incorporating gold and silver leaf into artworks. A grant from the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation supports the Catherine McClung residency, which occurs in tandem with the Wisconsin Science Festival.
During “Produced in Produce and Worked with Wire,” November 5-10, sculptor Tom Hill guides hundreds of students as they create wire and mixed-media sculpture made from natural and manmade materials. Support for the Tom Hill residency comes from the Community Arts Grant Program of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, with funds provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board, a state agency; the Community Foundation; and the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation.
Avian-themed Programs for All Ages
Museum programs for all ages will bring to life themes, artistic styles, and techniques from Birds in Art 2019 and the Museum’s collection exhibitions. All ages explore avian-themed activities in Art Park, the Museum’s interactive family gallery in the lower level.
• Night Out @ the Woodson & Classical Thursdays – Each Thursday evening during Birds in Art, the Museum remains open until 7:30 pm. Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra ensembles provide music – at 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm – to enhance gallery strolls. Several Thursday evenings also include presentations, demonstrations, or hands-on art making, too.
• Speakers & Presentations:
Wisconsin Owls, Saturday, September 28, 1-2 p.m. – Learn more about our state’s twelve owl species from University of Wisconsin Arboretum naturalist and educator Sylvia Marek as she highlights the adaptations, behaviors, and characteristics of some of the Badger State’s most beloved birds.
Bird Conservation in Your Own Backyard, Saturday, October 26, 1-2 p.m. – Join Department of Natural Resources section chief and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative committee member Craig Thompson as he shares information and resources for achievable steps you can take on behalf of Wisconsin avian inhabitants.
Birds in Myth, Poetry & Art, Saturday, November 16. 1-2 p.m. – Whether portrayed as winged messengers of the gods or foreboding creatures of mystery, birds were prominent players in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Join guest speaker Pat Freres Stinger for an exploration of avian appearances in classical myths, writings, and artwork.
• During Art Park Open Studio on the first Saturday of each month, 1-3 p.m., all ages drop in for hands-on art making inspired by artwork on view in the galleries.
• SPARK! programs for individuals with memory loss and an accompanying friend or family member on the second Thursday of each month, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, offer social interaction in the galleries, followed by a hands-on art activity; call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register. Programming for adults with memory loss is generously supported by Abbie Spire in memory of Dr. Lyman J. Spire.
• Art Beyond Sight, on Saturday, November 16, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, is designed for individuals with low vision or blindness. Participants join Museum educators for a multisensory exploration of the galleries followed by hands-on art making. Call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register.
• During Toddler Tuesdays on the third Tuesday of each month, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, little ones, 18 months-4 years, and accompanying adults drop in to sample art making and interactive play in Art Park.
• Art Babies, Art Time for Tots, Art 4 You, and Art Kids programs offered latter each month; check the online events calendar and call the Museum at 715-845-7010 for specific dates and to register.
For more information and registration details, check the online events calendar in late August.
2019 Birds in Art Artists
Eric van der Aa
Sue deLearie Adair
Fran A.H. Alvarado
Ray C. Brown, Jr.
James M. Clow
Mark A. Collins
Anne Senechal Faust
Jennifer L. Hoffman
Ralph Grady James
Terrill A. Knaack
Elwin van der Kolk
Jhenna Quinn Lewis
Erin Rose Marquez
Walter T. Matia
Timothy David Mayhew
John S. Miller
Katie Ann Musolff
Elizabeth Anne Nicholls
John C. Pitcher
Michael James Riddet
John T. Sharp
Frederick J. Szatkowski
Chirag V. Thumbar
Barry W. Van Dusen
Sandra Wiesman Weiler
A 134-page full-color, illustrated “Birds in Art”catalogue featuring every artwork along with artists’ statements and an essay about Woollett will be available for purchase in September. Pre-order catalogues now at https://www.lywam.org/catalogues/. Three posters also are available for purchase; the posters feature artwork by Jim Turanchik, Day Is Done, 2018, acrylic on canvas; Ray C. Brown Jr., Mourning Song, 2018, charcoal on Fabriano paper; Eric van der Aa, Bearded Reedlings, 2019, watercolor on Terschelling paper.
Each year, 60 Birds in Art artworks are selected for a subsequent tour to locations throughout the country. The 2019 Birds in Art tour venues are: Wichita Falls Museum of Art, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas, January 17 – February 22, 2020; Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, March 23 – May 15, 2020; Wendell Gilley Museum, Southwest Harbor, Maine, June 20 – September 8, 2020.
Birds in Art® is an international juried exhibition organized annually by the Woodson Art Museum. Presenting sponsorship support for Birds in Art comes from Aspirus, Inc. and Aspirus Arise. Additional educational support comes from Jack Koltes. Birds in Art media support comes from Wisconsin Public Radio. Marketing supported in part by City of Wausau Room Tax funds. Exhibitions and programs are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the Thomas Hill artist residency comes from the Community Arts Grant Program of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, with funds provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board, a state agency; the Community Foundation; and the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. A grant from the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation supports the Catherine McClung artist residency.