Busby, John sketching by Firth of Forth

John Busby (1928 – 2015) painter, sculptor, wildlife illustrator and teacher, was born in Bradford and was educated at Ilkley Grammar School. His father, Eric Busby, helped to run the family firm of Busby’s department store in Bradford, and on retirement created the Goosewell Gallery in Menston, which helped launch the careers of many artists in the 1970’s.  John was a contemporary and close friend to another Ilkley artist, Derek Hyatt, who also died in 2015.

John Busby began to study and draw nature, particularly birds, from an early age, assisted by Walter Flesher, a gamekeeper on Ilkley Moor, close to his home;  at age 17, John was a founder member of the Wharfedale Naturalists’ Society.

After National Service in the RAF, he studied at Leeds College of Art (1948-52) then at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) (1952-4). John was awarded a Post-Graduate & Major Travel Scholarship (France & Italy), and on return joined the ECA Painting School staff under Sir William Gillies and taught there from 1956 to 1988. Some of his first published bird drawings appeared in the The Dalesman magazine in the summer of 1948, and the magazine published more of his artwork over the years.

He became a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and is also a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour, Royal Society of Arts, and Society of Scottish Artists. He  travelled widely in pursuit of wildlife, including the Falklands and Galapagos Islands, and was Artist in residence in Orkney during the summer of 1978.

From 1960 he exhibited widely, with solo shows at The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, the Goosewell Gallery, Menston in 1970, and a retrospective exhibition at Cartwright Hall, Bradford, in 1999.  The Royal Scottish Academy, and Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, mounted retrospective and memorial exhibitions of his work in June 2016.

BUSBY, cover-for-Scottish-Gallery-Exhib

Catalogue for The Scottish Gallery memorial exhibition 2016, showing an example of John Busby’s work

He illustrated over 30 books, notably ‘The Living Birds of Eric Ennion’, published by Gollancz, London, 1982, and ‘Birds in Mallorca’ written and illustrated by him, published by Christopher Helm in 1988.  His book, ‘Drawing Birds’ for the RSPB was revised for a new edition in 2004, although a more comprehensive book of his paintings and drawings, titled ‘Land Marks & Sea Wings’, was published in 2005. John also produced illustrations for ‘Wild Horses’,  a collection of forty poems by Kenneth Steven; published by St. Andrew Press.  His book, Lines from Nature, was published posthumously in January 2016 by Langford Press .

Land Marks and Sea Wings

‘Land Marks and Sea Wings’ by John Busby, published in 2005.

The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, in Wisconsin, USA, named John Busby as its 2009 Master Wildlife Artist.

Examples of his work at held at the Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Wakefield Art Gallery, and the Scottish Arts Council.

There is a memorial website about the artist at http://www.johnbusbyartist.co.uk/

You can also read an extract from John Busby’s book, Drawing Birds, where he writes about his approach to art, at http://www.notjusthockney.info/busby-john-my-art/

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