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Return to One Man's Island: Paintings and Sketches from the Isle of May

Art / Photobook
The detail and life-like quality of these studies is breathtaking

By: Keith Brockie(Author)

175 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations

Birlinn Publishing

Hardback | Oct 2012 | #202618 | ISBN-13: 9781841589749
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £24.99 $32/€27 approx

About this book

Keith Brockie's One Man's Island: Paintings and Sketches from the Isle of May (1984), immediately became one of the bestselling Scottish natural history books of all time. The combination of breathtaking wildlife images with notes and background information, captured unforgettably the beauty of nature, and in particular that of the Isle of May, a little gem of an island in the Firth of Forth. Since then Brockie has constantly returned to the Isle of May.

From April through to October of 2010 he stayed on the island, working intensively to produce an entirely new set of drawings and paintings. With his eye for colour and characteristic attention to detail he has produced a huge number of artworks, mixing depictions of the majestic peregrine and white-tailed eagle with sketches of fluffy eider ducklings and kittiwake chicks. All the natural history of the island is represented, from its delicate maritime flowers to fish, crabs and lobsters. Return to One Man's Island will be the publishing event of the year for those who loved Brockie's original Isle of May book, as well as a whole new generation of readers and lovers of wildlife painting.

"Keith Brockie's book gives me a quite unchristian feeling of envy. I would love to have his talent and the time to indulge it"
- Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

"A volume of most attractive studies, brilliant in their anatomical exactitude"
- Sunday Telegraph

"Keith Brockie [...] is likely to become one of the most important naturalist artists of the second half of the twentieth century"
- Good Book Guide

"When anyone mentions art showing wildlife, the names of James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson spring to mind. Now we can add the Scotsman Keith Brockie to the list"
- Birmingham News

"One does not have to be a nature student to enjoy this lovely book [...] it will delight all who appreciate an exceptional talent at work"
- Books in Scotland

"This book will be treasured by anyone who owns it [...] I think it is a collector's item"
- Pioneer Press (St Paul's, Minnesota)

"This book is first and foremost an artwork, and admiration mounts in contemplation of paintings and sketches of such colour and vitality"
- The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand)


"As a young artist Keith Brockie discovered the Isle of May, an island that has drawn him back many times to study its wildlife. His early career saw the production of One Man’s Island, a collection of field sketches made on the May. It was his second book and was published by HarperCollins in 1984.

This book describes Keith’s return to the island, when he spent most of the 2010 season sketching in the field. The result is a book of 175 pages crammed with wildlife art – birds, mammals, crustaceans and insects. Pretty much all the work has been achieved in the field, typically (for the vertebrates) from a distance through a telescope focused either on a tight focal point worked up in great detail – maybe as tight as a fulmar’s Fulmarus glacialis bill, the arrangement of a razorbill Alca torda chick being brooded under an adult’s wing – or a wider study subject, such as a small group of birds.

For those unfamiliar with his work, just imagine leafing through a large field sketchbook, the target intricately worked up in pencil and watercolour, the peripherals typically hinted at – but sometimes fascinating the artist sufficiently for him to describe them in more detail, and relatively few words. The breeding seabirds have much to offer the artist; they are perfect, static subjects, with endless possibilities in terms of lighting and posture. However, for me, it was the mammals that had the greatest wow factor, and I particularly enjoyed the rabbits and seals. Later chapters describe in pictures the excitement of the isolated bird observatory (lamentably ignored by many modern, info-drenched birders), witnessing migration actually happening minute by minute and the ultimate thrill of a white’s thrush Zoothera dauma in the hand.

So this book is about two of my favourite things: beautifully observed field sketches and a remote island (preferably, as here, a bird-observatory island). As a ringer and an artist, I was pretty well disposed to this book before I opened it, and I was certainly not disappointed. Mention should be made of the high-quality production and reasonable price – the publisher should be congratulated. Keith Brockie has been well established as a wildlife artist for some time; for those already acquainted with his work, this book delivers everything one might hope for and is likely to prove very popular, but it should also enthral those new to his work. I hope that it also encourages more people to visit bird observatories; like Keith, they will find them magical places."

- Alan Harris,, 17-02-2013

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Keith Brockie has worked as a full-time wildlife artist for more than twenty years. His work has been exhibited around the world and appears in many books. He is actively involved in wildlife conservation, in particular in the successful efforts to re-establish the osprey in Scotland. Six books of his artwork have been published, including Keith Brockie's Wildlife Sketchbook and Rural Portraits. He lives in Fearnan near Loch Tay, where his paintings and drawings can be seen in the Fearnan Gallery.

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