My first trip abroad was for three weeks in June, to Arbroath, Scotland, with a group of (mostly) art school students from SIUC. We stayed at Hospitalfield House, the 19th century estate of Patrick Allan-Fraser built upon the 13th century foundations of a hospital for plague victims run by monks from the nearby Arbroath Abbey. Allan-Fraser created Hospitalfield as Scotland’s first school of fine arts. Sir Walter Scott stayed there several times, and based his Monksbarns in The Antiquary on Hospitalfield House.
At the time I was there, it was one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets; students rarely visited. For three weeks me and my peers lived communally and took daily trips in and around Scotland to learn about the history and the landscape. We traveled up into the highlands and climbed Ben Nevis, we drove to Loch Ness. And we spent an amazing weekend “roughing it” on the Isle of Harris (home of Harris Tweed) where the sheep outnumber people three to one.
I spent many long hours walking alone for miles along the North Sea coast between Arbroath and Montrose, and the history and scenery there affected my artwork for years to come. I returned to Hospitalfield the following year, and a year after that I was invited to live there for a year as Artist in Residence.