Artists of Orkney: Bryce Wilson

Bryce Wilson was born and grew up in Stromness, and was one of the post war generation who left Orkney to study down south. Amongst his contemporaries at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen were painter Sylvia Wishart, sculptor Ian Scott, and none other than Ola Gorie. What these three have in common – apart from being lifelong friends – is that they all returned to Orkney soon after their studies. Their decision to make their lives here, rather than disappearing to the bright city lights, enriched the community they came from immeasurably.


Bryce is Orkney’s renaissance man. The council's Museums Officer for decades, he was also chair of the Pier Arts Centre Trust for seven years, and is a prolific author and editor, tirelessly recording, interpreting and promoting the islands’ past and present. As if that isn’t enough achievement, he is also a distinctive artist, producing both stand-alone works and illustrations for books of his own and other people’s writing. His most characteristic style involves the formation of images – often of Stromness streetscapes or figures from Orkney folklore – from a myriad of tiny marks, with volume and movement being suggested by absence as much as presence.

Some of the ways Bryce has contributed to Orkney are recorded in his recently published memoir, An Orcadian Odyssey. True to character, he is modest about his own input, and continually shines the light on others. But what others! Bryce has met and conversed with – and now memorialises – a host of fascinating individuals, from historians like William PL Thomson and John Gunn, to writers like Margaret Atwood and Naomi Mitchison, and a whole host of remarkable characters from Marjorie Linklater to Chris Bonington.



An Orcadian Odyssey is illustrated profusely with photos as well as paintings and drawings by Bryce, and by other artists mentioned in the text such as Barbara Rae and Ian Macinnes. It was published just before Christmas by a new venture, Orkneyology Press, run by Bryce’s fellow Stromnessians, Tom and Rhonda Muir. Reading it is like an evening’s conversation with the wittiest, wisest Orcadian story teller you could ever meet.

All images courtesy of Bryce Wilson and from where you can also buy An Orcadian Odyssey.


Discover our Orkney Collection here, inspired by the islands and artists of Orkney.

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