Landmarks, Landscape And Language
Since the beginning of 2016 I have been inspired to re-visit and re-commit to a creative, writing project that in turn has led me to embarking on a couple of new creative projects focused on Landmarks, Landscape and Language.
Three years ago I went on a “landmark” road trip around Scotland and in particular the Highlands. I fell in love there.
Not with a person though.
I fell in love with the landscape. I fell in love with the mountains.
I started to fall in love with myself and my life again.
Fast-forward three years and it’s the start of 2016. I’d signed up for an online distant learning course my art tutor – from the Leith School of Art class I attended last term – was running and I was feeling a little nervous. Was I going to be up to the challenge? What was the standard going to be? What on earth was I going to create during this course?
Resistance was creeping in like ivy taking over a garden wall. Fears and anxieties were rushing around my mind. I was on the verge of cancelling the whole thing (creativity and resistance and/or fear love to accompany each other in my experience).
I had nothing to fear though as now that I am a few weeks into the course, I realise that the beauty of this course – a brilliant metaphor for life, too – is that we are going through our chosen project step by step. It’s unfolding as we speak and to be honest I am excited that it’s leading me to “new” and exciting places, more magical than I ever could have imagined. I also see that often the things that scare us the most, are exactly the things we want the most. That fear tells us we are on to something, something potentially amazing.
The theme of the course this term is Landmarks. In our first week we had to spend time exploring what landmarks meant to us and one of the suggested readings was an inspiring book titled Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane.
In this book, the author pulls together writings from various other books on the different language and words that other authors and writers have used to describe the British landscape.
For me, one of the inspiring authors and stories he mentioned was a woman called Nan Shepherd who wrote The Living Mountain, apparently a poetic homage to the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland.
Having rekindled a creative project that had lain a bit dormant, one that was about the Scottish landscape and my travels around it, reading Nan Shepherd’s thoughts and some of the descriptions of the landscape and mountains she frequented stirred something inside of me. Something awoke from a deep sleep and I remembered the value of my own writings about my road trip and the Highlands.
sketching at the top of knockan crag
As a result of all of this I decided to focus my art project this term on the Scottish Highlands, particularly the North West Highlands. My initial idea was to study and explore Ardmair and the view of Ben Mor Coigach, and create art based on that – however, when I went back to the Highlands earlier this month to do more research and some “live” drawing, I changed my focus. Not because Ben Mor Coigach was covered in mist the first full day I was there, but because I visited a viewpoint from where I could see for many miles in different directions on a clear, sunny morning. I came alive. I knew I had to use that view as my inspiration.
My short trip was successful and I came away with plenty of notes, sketches and photos to create a body of work. For now though I am focused on one piece for my Landmarks art course, however, in the background I will be working on creating more than that. I also have some more ideas for my wildlife drawings and I came up with a new range that excites me.