"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust
Heeding the call of wanderlust, my family and I embarked on a journey last summer to investigate our heritage, uncover legends of history and experience the awe of gazing upon distant horizons of the world. The cobbled streets and thistled fields of Scotland beckoned us to Edinburgh's urban landscape and the mountainous expanses of the Highlands for a week-long adventure. For our winsome caravan of six, these travels bonded spouses, grandparents, parents, children, and siblings.
Across the country, the epic scale of castles, summits, and art strengthened our hearts and inspired our spirits. Modern feats of architecture and design complimented points of interest that gleamed warm with the patina of time. Emerging from the smoky grey mist of rain, aged stone and weathered metals were offset by the velvet green of lush vegetation and sun-lit glitter of the lochs and open seas. We soaked up Bronze Age to modern history and discovered Scotland’s innovative concepts in shipping, mining, and manufacturing industries. Plenty of locals conversed jovially with us about regional sights and customs, and kindly corrected our mispronunciations in their delightful Scottish brogue!
During our sojourn through Scotland’s cities and countryside, we savored new delicacies of haggis and cranachan, held tight driving roundabouts on the opposite side of the road, sipped decadent spirits, and gained a penchant for the quintessential staples of the Scottish wardrobe: wellies, a proper cap, and a kilt.
Edinburgh offered musical street performances throughout the cityscape that wove the bagpipe's drone with the bustle of streets crowded with tourists and local commuters. We happened upon the quaint haunts of famed authors J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stephenson dotted among the closes of the Royal Mile, and marveled at world-treasured paintings by Gauguin and Ingres in the halls of the National Gallery of Scotland.
Amid the patchwork countryside of moorlands and mountains, we encountered flocks of unshorn sheep freely grazing and carving footpaths into the untamed hillsides. Stopping along rambling narrow roads, we grinned widely at the majesty of shaggy Highland cattle foraging for wild delicacies in the rolling fields.
After hiking in a soaking summer rain which somehow fell sideways from the sky, we took advantage of the sun's warming break in the clouds to dip our toes in the sea just feet from free-range cattle enjoying their afternoon on the beach. These new experiences in Scotland were unlike any my family or I have had traveling across America.
As an artist, I travel to observe, experience, and document with the goal of creating new work. I arrive at a new destination filled with intention and curiosity and aspire to allow the character of a place to affect my heart. In Scotland, I experienced a spirit of home unequal to any sentiments I have felt for other places in my travels. Perhaps it was a connection to my grandmother’s ancestors, who were all Scottish for many generations. Ancestors who held strong to their Scottish identity and traditions long after emigrating, perhaps unwillingly, to Canada and then the United States. Equipped with cameras, lenses, sketchbooks, pens, and pencils, I sought to discover Scotland’s beautiful landscape and culture. Prepared in advance to know what I needed to seek out, I listened to the echoes of each place, beckoning me to hunt for new observations.
To understand the nature of an area, I savored time examining it from a distance and up close; placing my hands on crumbled stones, architectural details, and natural elements. Pressed thistles and wildflowers smuggled their way back to America in my sketchbooks for further observation and study, along with plenty of rocks and curious fragments found underfoot along the way. These treasured artifacts have become models for drawings and prints now that I am back home in my studio.
Sketches that I made on site and digital memory cards filled with photographs and video are now source material for a new body of artwork I am creating that will include original works on paper, oil paintings, and limited edition hand-pulled linocut prints. Most of these artworks will have supporting documentation of my original writing and photographs of me on location. I plan to continue working on this collection of original art inspired by Scotland over many years.
As my family continues to unravel our ancestry from Scotland now that we have returned home, we find our lives increasingly interwoven with Celtic traditions. My artwork, cooking at home, and music tastes have all incorporated influences from Scotland. My youngest son has joined a competitive pipe and drum band and we often frequent regional festivals, increasing our knowledge of Celtic traditions and community along the way.
We are nostalgic for Scotland’s enigmatic landscape: the moody clouds, damp mists tumbling over the hillsides, and the saturated colors of green fields and wet stones. Occasionally we will stop on a hike here at home in Colorado and marvel at the scenery’s striking resemblance to Scotland’s distant windswept peaks. One of the locals we met in the small village of Culross told us, “Hasten ye back,” a traditional Scottish sentiment. Not a “good-bye”, just a “return soon.” Until then, I will be creating art and my family will share our stories and love for Scotland’s landscape, culture and heritage; perhaps over freshly baked shortbread and a nice dram of Scotch whiskey.