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Wednesday morning, I sat chatting over coffee to Mary-Anne Bartlett (founder of Art Safari and Suffolk SketchFest) and Vivienne McGuinness (Artist in residence) at Art Safari’s riverside office.

We admired Vivienne’s sketches of the Oyster Catchers and their chicks from the nest across the way.

Mary-Anne recalled her presentation with Claudia Myatt which they gave to the River Deben Association, in lockdown over zoom. They sketched live and RDA members often stopped them to talk about it afterwards. She said “those who care for wildlife can be inspired to capture it and how those who love to capture the moment through sketching, can in turn be inspired to care for wildlife.”

I went on to ask them why they think the river Deben inspires such a great engagement for artists. The short answer: everything!

There is a liveliness to Deben. The liveliest of all areas being the Quay, where we have our office and art studio. There is an energy here, forever changing with the tides and weather. As the clouds come over, the colours change. As the toppers and kayakers take to the water, the movement transforms.

Art Safari hosts a festival on the Quay every year celebrating our river. Through sketching with professional artist tutors, you learn to capture the energy of the area. The tutors take you out of the flow to observe the beauty.

What’s great about this event is it offers insight into the secret of the river, only our local artists seem to know.

Mary-Anne spoke of the importance of encouraging engagement with the river. “Suffolk Sketchfest is the ultimate way to sit down, look, and learn to care for the river. Sketching is a wonderful way to find a sense of place in our environment. Through it we can mindfully feel a part of it.”

Through the expert tutors Art Safari has brought together, we have a wealth of insight into “capturing the essence,” as wildlife artist John Busby described. Suffolk Sketchfest is a great opportunity for using other’s vision into our local area of outstanding natural beauty and meeting likeminded individuals who care for wildlife or capturing it.

Suffolk Sketchfest 2022 is taking place 5,6 and 7 August, with over 50 events hosted from the Tide Mill up to Kyson Point. Our tutors include Mary-Anne Bartlett, Claudia Myatt, Mark Boyd, Ian Sedge, Lorna Hamilton, Maxine Relton and others.

Sketchfest is open to adults and young people who would like to draw and sketch from nature. As practised outdoor artists, your SketchFest tutors are well versed in seizing the moment and capturing scenes. They will show you and help you with several different subjects, from birds and wildlife to landscape and riverscapes, from modern buildings to the historic Tide Mill, from boats to people.

Have a look at our itinerary for Suffolk Sketchfest 2022: and book your place.

Peta Orme