Shoreditch wildlife illustration exhibition shows rock icon Edwyn Collins’ recovery from stroke

DELICATE, fragile and from simple to intricate Edwyn Collins’ lovingly observed studies of birds demonstrate the retrieval of illustration skills by one of Britain’s best loved artistic talents following a devastating illness.

Shoreditch’s Idea Generation gallery is hosting Nature Punk, the largest exhibition to date of Collins’ works, bringing together a huge body of work demonstrating his love of drawing, nature and his Scottish homeland.

Widely regarded as one of Britain’s great music talents he has been honoured with an Ivor Novello Award and is cited as an influence by many of today’s most successful bands.

However, Collins considers himself first and foremost to be an illustrator. His studies of native Scottish bird life and other creatures are also a great testament to the patience and perseverance of a person living through a recovery process. His well documented double brain haemorrhage in 2005 robbed him of the most basic of motor skills but through six years of rehabilitation, largely through art and drawing itself, Collins has regained some, if not all, of these skills. Following on from an exhibition in 2008 of similar works this new collection displays Collins’ returning artistic talent as the eclipse of his illness diminishes.

The exhibition will show an exclusive look at the full body of work from the early simple line drawings to his most recent pieces, brimming with colour and the majesty of the birds themselves.

Collins’ drawings are almost all dated and show a humbling progression. Still without the use of his right arm following his illness Collins has used the quiet contemplation of drawing to slowly retrain his body and retrieve the abilities he previously possessed.

This exhibition includes many of Collins’ most intricate and technically proficient works of the last six years, many of which have not yet been seen by the public.

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He is also creating several large scale versions of his studies especially for the Idea Generation show.

He said: “Drawing is natural, relaxing, instinctive. In music, I’m always striving for something. It’s my passion, but its hard work. Drawing is also my passion, but is simpler for me. It’s a pleasure”

Collins’ only salaried employment was as an illustrator for Glasgow Parks Department at age 19 where he designed booklets to accompany walks through the parks highlighting the natural treasures.

His wife and manger Grace Maxwell said: “Edwyn’s duties as an illustrator for Glasgow Parks would occasionally involve guiding school parties around nature trails.

“He told me that the kids, taking in his un-teacherly appearance, asked him: ‘Sir, are you a punk?’, ‘Yes, children. I’m Nature Punk!’”

The call of rock ‘n’ roll would pull Collins away from illustration in the 80s when his band Orange Juice enjoyed a number eight hit single with Rip It Up in 1985.

Although the band soon disbanded he continued with a solo career and his track A Girl Like You was a success on both sides of the Atlantic in 1994.

Collins’ seventh album Losing Sleep, the first to be recorded since his illness was released by Heavenly Records in


Edwyn Collins: Nature Punk is on at the Idea Generation in Chance Street until Sunday, March 6. Entry is free.

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