As an artist I spend 99% of my working hours, almost half of the day, alone. And the other half, as a parent, is spent -and enjoyed- with my family. So there’s not much time for socializing when you are a rather workaholic (and fatheraholic) wildlife artist like me.
That’s why last weekend’s Delta Birding Festival was a double (if not triple) pleasure. It gave me the chance to meet countless old time friends, birdwatching pals and knowledgeable colleagues, share with them my art and enjoy some high quality bird-watching and even family time, as it was a totally children-friendly event.
The DBF is the Catalan new-born equivalent to the British Birdwatching Fair, held anually in Rutland Water reserve, in South England, with tens of thousands of visitors and a birding fever in the air, I am told. Our local event was open -as we Catalans tend to be- to the Spanish and wider European public, and included first class icons of the birding universe such as Irish bird artist Killian Mullarney (co-author of the illustrations of the bible of birdwatchers, the Collins Guide), among others, like our autochtonous top global birdwatcher and editor, my dear friend Josep del Hoyo, alma mater of the Handbook of the Birds of the World and head of Lynx Editions.
The Delta Birding Festival had been audaciously conceived by Francesc Kirchner (head of Oryx, the reference naturalist shop in Barcelona) and Miquel Rafa (director of the Fundació Catalunya la Pedrera, which provided its nature centre “Món Natura Delta” as the perfect spot for such an event), and organized by them with the support of the ICO (Institut Català d’Ornitologia), with its team of top level ornithologists and enthusiastic volunteers, joined by locals from the Ebre Delta who saw the importance of the event for their area. The Natural Park also supported the Festival, and allowed and guided us, the lecturers, to discover the wildest and seldom seen core areas of the Park. What a privilege to spend time bird-watching in such a setting with such a high level company!
Through an open live illustration exhibition held on Sunday morning, the DBF gave me the chance, almost for the first time ever, to respond to the question that friends and colleagues had been asking me for more than fifteen years now, since I started digital art in 1997: “how do you manage to paint birds, animals and plants that look so real, so organic, with a digital tablet and a computer?”. From what I could see after the show, I think that, in general, everyone appreciated the answer to that question.
Beyond that ego-centric event, and the opportunity of meeting a high level, kind and focused public, having the chance to chat and socialise with a wide array of knowledgeable -often wise, almost unvariabily humble, always friendly- figures was the best part of the Festival. Learning about art and communication, Lesser Kestrels’ wintering habits and even considering future partnerships with Juanjo Negro, director of the Estación Biológica de Doñana, discussing about rewilding with Miquel Rafa and top wildlife photographer Andoni Canela, chating with generous and friendly field ornithologists like Joan Estrada, Toni Curcó or Pep Arcos, birdwatching with Oriol Clarabuch, José Luis Copete o Ricard Gutiérrez, discussing ICO’s projects with Gabriel Gargallo and Sergi Herrando, sharing experiences of wildlife-watching hides with my colleagues at Naturaprop Esteve and Xavi and our “competing” friends and high level wildlife photographers like Jordi Bas or Oscar Dominguez… a seemingly endless array of experiences and conversations.
An after dinner brief and friendly but intense discussion with Killian Mullarney about bird and wildlife art, work and ego management and future projects was, to me, the most knowledgeable and privileged input from the Festival. Together with Martí Franch -a younger, more recently “digitalised” though super-crafted computer (and organic) bird artist-, we also had the honour of introducing Killian -a classic “organic” bird artist- to the wonders of digital art applied to wildlife illustration. I think that sharing this momment with Killian and Martí was the top momment of the DBF to me.
So again, and I think that already more than thoroughfully explained why, let me say a very big THANK YOU to everyone involved in making his first Delta Bird Festival. See you next year (hopefully, too, with all those birding friends who couldn’t attend!!!)